Around this time last year, Apple announced the current version of iOS, version 5.0. During the announcement, Apple revealed that iOS 5 came packed with over 200 new features, such as Newsstand, Twitter integration and Notification Center, among many, many others.
Later that year, Apple revisited the iOS 5 announcement from WWDC at the iPhone 4S announcement. One of the bigger rumors leading up to the unusual October announcement was the artificially intelligence (AI) assistant service that Apple was allegedly going to announce. Having acquired Siri, a standalone AI assistant app, the year before, it was pretty apparent the service would eventually make its way to being a native function of the operating system.
And, just as we all predicted, Siri was announced at Apple's unusual October announcement. And it effortlessly stole the show.
However, I was not convinced Siri would ever be something I would want to use. CIO's Al Sacco took the words right out of my mouth in October last year, "Sorry Siri, I just don't want to converse with my iPhone." Talking to your phone is no less awkward than talking on a Bluetooth headset in public.
I wasn't wooed by Siri. To me, it just came off as gimmicky. Maybe it was the fact that Apple simply acquired what used to be a standalone application that was available to the public and incorporated it in their operating system as a native feature, passing it off as new and revolutionary. Aside from having an attitude, being rather snarky at times and automating a few steps for users, its functions don't stretch far beyond those of the voice applications of Android.
To date, I can still count the number of times I have (seriously) used Siri on my fingers. Maybe it overflows to my toes now. I don't know exactly. (That's not counting the number of times I have fired up Siri just to curse at her for some laughs or to show off her parlor tricks to those with iPhone 4s. But even that grew stale after a few months.) I do, however, find myself using the dictation feature, which has been incorporated in the keyboard, from time to time. But considering Siri doesn't take took kindly to my slight drawl, I prefer typing via soft keyboard if at all possible.
This week, though, Apple kicked this week off with a bang … or something like that. The WWDC keynote started promptly at 1:00 PM Eastern on Monday afternoon with a lot of loud music and snazzy slides. Some new, updated MacBooks were announced, and the next generation MacBook Pro was made official (and can be yours for as little as $2,199 before taxes). Towards the end of the keynote, Apple's Scott Forstall also announced iOS 6 and highlighted a few of its 200 new features. One of those new features was an updated Siri, which will be available on the new iPad come this fall.
What's so special about this updated Siri, you ask?
Before, you could ask Siri for restaurants in the area, even by specific cuisine or type, and Siri would give you recommendations. Now Siri offers ratings (via Yelp) and allows you to book a reservation at a restaurant through OpenTable, all without leaving the application you're currently in. They also added sports information, which pulls data from Yahoo's seemingly endless knowledge of sports. Need to know the score to last night's football game you couldn't stay awake through? No problem. Ask Siri. Want to know if LeBron James is taller than Kobe Bryant? Ask Siri.
Apple also brought more functionality to Siri's movie look-up feature. Not only can you now look up show times and local theaters, you can retrieve ratings via Rotten Tomatoes, right from within Siri.
Best of all, is the ability to tweet, hands-free. This was a much-requested feature when Apple released the first beta version of Siri, and while I don't expect to use hands-free tweeting all the time, it does make tweeting without taking my eyes off the road much easier. (Not that I would ever tweet while driving, of course.) That's where Eyes Free comes in. Within the next year, Siri will be incorporated in at least nine car manufacturers' (Jaguar, BMW, GM, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, Land Rover, Chrysler, Audi and Honda) vehicles through a button on the steering wheel.
Update: I can't believe I forgot to include it, but the one new feature I have found myself using since I installed the beta is the ability to launch applications using Siri. Say, "Open Safari" and Safari will immediately open. Quite useful if I say so myself.
I admit, none of this makes Siri any less gimmicky. This is simply the natural evolution of the service. Siri is still awkward to use and talking to my phone isn't getting any more … normal. But the addition of useful features may actually have me switching my stance on Siri, in due time. I'm not a heavy sports fanatic, I can't imagine hands-free tweeting will come in handy too often, and there are hundreds of applications that can give me local restaurant recommendations and allow me to book reservations.
But Siri is growing up, and rather quickly, too. And, gimmicky or not, I may find myself using it more and more. Checking scores without having to delve into a sports app or getting all local movie times without having to search through various theaters and currently playing movies can shave a few minutes off of a search. It's not revolutionary or awe-inspiring. But it's certainly becoming more and more useful.
What say you, ladies and gents? Do you find yourself using Siri more and more? Will you once you get the new features from iOS 6? I've been using iOS 6 for two days now, and I've found myself using Siri a couple times, without thinking. Do you think you will, too?