Apple is bringing Siri to third-party devices, but it’s not what you think. Rather than let Android smartphone owners use its digital assistant, Apple is bringing Siri to smart home devices.
Siri is coming to smart home devices
Apple hasn’t spent much stage time discussing this feature.
Actually, the WWDC21 keynote mentioned this in passing and Apple’s press releases, product pages and developer documentation aren’t helping either. From what we could gather, however, it looks like developers of devices that are compatible with Apple’s HomeKit protocol can bring Siri to their smart home appliances.
So, what’s the catch?
Well, the user will need to have a HomePod speaker for this to work.
That’s because a compatible device simply relays voice requests to Siri—Apple’s documentation states that this feature requires a HomePod or HomePod mini speaker with HomePod software 15.0 or later and a compatible HomeKit accessory.
As a result, you’ll be able to ask Siri to, say, set a reminder from a compatible HomeKit device even if your HomePod cannot hear you (but, again, you must own one for this to work).
Apple illustrated this feature by showing Siri being used to control a smart thermostat. Some HomeKit developers have already confirmed supporting this functionality. Ecobee’s SmartThermostat, for instance, will get Hey Siri support with a firmware update later this year.
When’s this feature arriving?
This feature is arriving publicly when iOS 15 gets out of beta and releases in the fall.
At launch, Siri on third-party devices will support the Personal Requests and Intercom features, as well as timers and alarms. Plus, developers who would like to implement Siri functionality for their devices must be a part of Apple’s MFi program for HomeKit accessories.
Siri also supports voice commands for controlling HomeKit devices at specific times, like “Hey Siri, turn off my bedroom lights at 7pm” or “Hey Siri, turn off all the lights when I leave.”
Siri on other Apple platforms has received some love, too.
Other Siri changes across Apple OS platforms
Other Siri changes across Apple platforms include the following items:
Siri message announcements
The ability for Siri to announce incoming texts and iMessages first appeared in iOS 13.2 that released publicly in October 2019. With iOS 15, this feature now works with third-party apps, like Uber Eat for example. Also, Siri can announce incoming messages in CarPlay. On top of that, Siri can now announce notifications and reminders on your AirPods.
The biggest annoyance with Siri is its reliance on the Apple cloud for speech-to-text processing and getting answers. On iOS 15, Siri speech recognition is performed directly on the device (similar to the Dictation feature in supported languages), meaning Siri can now understand your request without an Internet connection.
And while some answers will require Siri to interact with web sources, many Siri requests can now be processed without an internet connection. These include, of course, simple things such as launching apps, setting timers and alarms, changing settings, controlling music and so forth.
Oh, and Apple’s natural-sounding Siri voices are now available in more languages.
Labeling Apple Watch timers
watchOS 8 brings multiple timers to the Apple Watch. With Siri, each timer can be given a specific label, voice-free, like “Cooking Timer”.
Running shortcuts on the Mac
macOS 12 brings the Shortcuts app from iOS to macOS, and you can use Siri for Mac to run your favorite shortcuts hands-free.
New piracy controls
iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 include new privacy controls in the Siri settings.
You can ask Siri to share what’s on your screen during a FaceTime call. Siri now understands onscreen context, letting you say things like “Message them I’m on my way” when looking at a contact in the Contacts app. Siri now maintains context between requests. And Siri on your wrist can get you spoken translations (“How do you say hello in Japanese?”) in watchOS 8.
Last but not least, iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 include new privacy controls in the Siri settings.