It’s time for Apple to start improving Siri before it’s too late.
The fledgling voice recognition service – the butt of late night talk-show jokes and featured prominently in Apple TV ads – works well for setting up a meeting and reminding you to pick up milk when you leave work. But there are some other things that it just doesn’t do as well. Or at all.
And we keep craving more functionality beyond meetings, spoken text messages, and snarky quips.
Read on for our 10 things to improve Siri below.
1. Read email messages
Siri can read incoming text messages but not incoming email messages. We want her to read both; Siri’s inability to deal with longer message is a glaring oversight. Android users can download the free Vlingo app and have your email messages read aloud to you.
2. Read us a book
Are you an intelligent avatar or just a cheap Apple trick? Siri can tell you a random story – one actually goes on for several paragraphs – but Siri cannot read an iBook. (Even the Amazon Kindle has an option to read books in an awkward robotic voice.) Bonus points here for reading entire Web pages.
3. Answer complex questions
As well as talking about the weather and other basic stuff, Siri can answer basic math and science questions. This feature is a bit clunky, though: when you ask a question like “how far is the sun from the earth?” you will see a Wolfram Alpha page with the answer. We want her to act like a pocket researcher, minus the retainer fee. Complex questions like “what was the chief export of China in 1988″ should be easy for her to answer. And, no Google search suggestions!
4. Work with Facebook
What? Siri does not work with Facebook? That’s another glaring omission. The virtual assistant should be able to post your spoken status update as text to any social network you choose. And, while Siri is handling that task, Siri should be able to alert you to wall postings and messages as well.
5. Full dictation
Siri can dictate an entire text message for you, and 99% of what you say is typed perfectly. She even understands the “ways” and “weighs” of what you say by analysing the context. Yet, Siri is not exactly ready for full dictation. You can’t have her type up a 10-page Word document, by why not? The service is not well-integrated with document management apps like Docs-to-Go either.
6. Photo editing
Here’s another way to improve Siri: make her do photo editing. Some of these tasks are tough enough on the small screen of an iPhone 4S. Using nothing but voice commands, we’d like to be able to re-size a batch of photos to the same resolution, apply a grayscale effect, or just save them to the cloud.
7. Open apps – and close them nicely
Siri is not able to open apps, but Apple is remiss in leaving this feature out. We should be able to say “Angry Birds” and start playing the game in seconds. And, when we’re done, we should be able to say “close app” or “go home” to move on to the next task.
8. Take a video
We also want Siri to respond better to commands, especially those that involve the camera app. For example, why can’t we say “shoot a video” and have Siri start recording? If Apple added this feature, we can imagine all new office gags recording the guy from accounting sleeping at his desk. Or, at a family picnic, what about asking Siri to count to ten before snapping a few photos?
9. Manage the battery
Siri lacks any ability to help you squeeze more life out of your phone. A smart virtual assistant would let us know when the battery is getting low, or would offer to dim the screen, turn off GPS, or remind us that we left Bluetooth on and disable those services automatically.
10. Have more fun
Siri does tell one or two jokes, and Siri responds well to obscure sci-fi references. Yet, Apple has a goldmine here in terms of entertaining us on a long bus ride. We want Siri to be even more intelligent. She could offer reviews of movies when we ask about showtimes, or let us know about major news events, or even play a favorite (aka, most played) song at bedtime.