The recent Apple iOS update offers a feature that enables users to ask Siri to play audio news. This feature is similar to Flash Briefings that are popular with Amazon Alexa users. When you say, “Hey Siri, play the news,” you immediately get a news brief in audio format. Users can choose a default news source from providers NPR, Washington Post, Fox News and CNN. Even if you set your default for one news outlet, you can access the others by saying, “Hey Siri, play the news from [NEWS ORGANIZATION].”
It is not clear to me if there is a time limit or target time for these news briefings. NPR and Fox News both had 3-4 minute news briefings but Washington Post had one that lasted nearly seven minutes. It appears that the news organizations have discretion and the content is coming from a media feed. Flash Briefings on Alexa are variable and have a length limit of 10 minutes.
All of the Siri news content appears to be recorded audio. It is also not clear whether text-to-speech options will be available in the future. Alexa Flash Briefings can support both recorded audio and text-to-speech content read in Alexa’s voice. Another drawback today is that Flash Briefings can be chained together so you can here several in a row with only one spoken startup command. Siri news appears to be one-off. And, of course, four news options doesn’t compare favorably to 4,005 Flash Briefings available through Alexa today.
A Small Step in Making Siri Better
Siri can help users perform a number of functions on an iPhone, but it has not previously had hands free access to third-party audio content. Apple claims to have 375 million monthly active Siri users worldwide. That is a big audience for a voice assistant, but Apple will need to offer a wider array of features through Siri to better compete with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. The Siri-initiated news briefing is a small step, but it’s definitely in the right direction. You should expect to see Apple offer new developer tools to support this feature in 2018 at the annual Worldwide Developer Conference in June or sooner.