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iOS 8 changes we'd like to see: The OS and Home screen

Dan Frakes | June 2, 2014
WWDC is almost here, which means we're likely to see a preview of iOS 8, the next iteration of Apple's mobile OS. Over the past few weeks, we've been publishing lists--with a little help from our Twitter followers--of the features and changes we'd like to see in iOS 8, covering Notification Center, Mail, Calendar and Reminders, Photos and Camera, [<a

Siri enhancements

Apple's virtual assistant and voice-recognition feature has been the butt of many jokes since its debut, but it can be impressively effective and exceptionally useful. And if you use the related dictation feature, you know how convenient that can be, too.

One hitch, however, is that the usefulness of these features depends on having a good mobile-data connection, which not everyone regularly enjoys. (And even if you normally have a good connection, there are times — for example, when driving or when in an area with inferior coverage — when you won't have that solid link.) In OS X, you can enable enhanced dictation, which downloads a bunch of data that allows OS X to perform its dictation magic without a network connection. We'd like to see Apple do the same with Siri on iOS — or at least to the extent that it's technically feasible. If you've got some extra space on your iPhone or iPad, you might be willing to give some of it up for a more-reliable Siri.

We also agree with our friend Federico Viticci at MacStories, who points out that Google's Voice Search and Microsoft's Cortana offer features Siri should emulate. For example, Google's feature lets you see in real time how your words are being transcribed, so you can make changes immediately, rather than having to complete the command and then wait for Siri's response to see if you were correctly understood. And Cortana offers "silent" options for both entering commands and for viewing Cortana's responses — useful features that make Cortana usable in places and situations in which you'd never think of using Siri.

But making Siri more reliable won't make it any more capable, as Siri is currently limited to those commands and capabilities Apple itself has provided. So we hope that Apple opens up and provides an API for third-party developers to take advantage of Siri. Wouldn't it be great if you could have Siri add tasks directly to Things or Clear or OmniFocus? Or send a message using WhatsApp instead of Messages? Or add a note to Vesper? Or start a new Google Hangout with Jack, Paige, and Audrey? This feels like such an obvious feature that we can't imagine it's not in the pipe. (Then again, we've been saying that about third-party apps on the Apple TV for years now.)

One minor Siri tweak we'd like to see is for Siri to learn our preferences. After asking ten or 15 times which email address to use for Jimmy Smith, or which Sarah to send a text to, you'd think Siri would at least be able to say say "Sending to Sarah K. Is that correct?"

 

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