Apple held its annual pre-Holiday product launch event today and had a lot to say about the new Watch 3, Apple TV and iPhone X. But, Siri was noticeably silent. There were only two appearances by Siri. One was a reference that it will be accessible by a side button on iPhone 8 and iPhone X. This is a similar approach offered by Samsung for Bixby on its Samsung Galaxy S8 product line. The second was to say that Apple Watch now has a speaker and users will be able to hear Siri’s responses.
Even when the calling feature for the new Watch 3 was demonstrated, it wasn’t activated by voice. The call was made using touch input. That demonstration did show off the near-field microphone capabilities of Apple Watch as Craig Federighi talked to a colleague that was on a paddle board drifting along in a lake and speaking solely through her cellular connected Watch. Good demonstration, but not a highlight of voice interaction.
Siri Doesn’t Sell Hardware Anymore
When Siri was first launched, it was a big part of the iPhone 4s announcement. A voice assistant embedded into a smartphone was a clear differentiator in 2010. In 2017, voice interaction is table stakes for smartphone manufacturers. Several phones even offer multiple voice assistant options. Samsung and HTC are just two examples. That is not to say that voice can no longer be a differentiator. It can be, but Siri’s capabilities are constrained enough today that it no longer stands out and in many cases clearly trails competing products.
No HomePod News Either
Those Apple observers looking for more news about the forthcoming HomePod were also left disappointed. HomePod is a hardware device that Apple would surely like to sell during the Holiday season, but if there was nothing new since the June announcement then there was no reason to mention it today. Besides, HomePod is already expected to be in short supply and there is the little issue that Siri doesn’t have any big advancements to offer the smart speaker market. The listening experience may be first rate on HomePod, but Siri won’t match the competition for some time in terms of breadth of capabilities.
Apple’s Voice Story Remains in the Near-Field
Apple does have a story for voice assistant aficionados. AirPods offer excellent Siri connectivity and now Watch 3 does as well; plus they both work together. Apple has the only complete portfolio of personal area network (PAN) devices that all support voice interaction. When you consider mobile computing and voice, Apple is building a formidable product set. The key will be to enhance Siri capabilities to match what Apple is doing in the hardware arena.
It is possible that we will see another Apple event in October or February around Siri and voice based on previous Apple behavior. However, it doesn’t seem likely. The Voicebot team isn’t expecting anything significant on the Siri front until WWDC in June 2018.