iOS 7: Siri + Voice Control
Soon after Apple debuted the completely redesigned iOS 7 on June 10, 2013, it became obvious that the iOS user experience has changed enough to merit a public re-introduction—a forward-looking discussion of the updated user interface and integrated apps. Over the next week, our series on iOS 7 will look at every key section of Apple’s new operating system, starting with setting up iOS devices, the new Lock Screen and Home Screen, then continuing through other major UI elements and built-in apps. For a broad look at all of iOS 7’s changes from iOS 6, check out our big picture look at iOS 7, published on June 10, as well as our articles on iOS 7 setup, the Home Screen, and Lock Screen. Note that some features and graphics may change before iOS 7’s final release.
Following its iPhone 4S/iOS 5 introduction and subsequent expansion in iOS 6, Siri has received another overhaul for iOS 7. The third-generation Siri brings even more capabilities, as well as a completely new design, and voice options. Instead of sliding up from the bottom of the screen, Siri now takes over the entire display when activated. It displays the phrase “What can I help you with?” at the top, and a classic Voice Control-style waveform along the bottom (see Voice Control, below), with a “?” icon in the bottom right corner. Tapping the icon reveals prompts of different commands you can use. If you don’t say anything, Siri will cycle through a number of different phrases you can ask.
The iOS 7 version of Siri recognizes a number of new commands. It can search Twitter for tweets on certain topics or from specific users, and enable your voice to toggle features such as Bluetooth and Airplane Mode.
You can also adjust settings such as brightness, using only your voice. At this point, Siri doesn’t recognize specific increments, but rather, simple “up” and “down” statements.
Apple has partnered with Wikipedia and Bing to enhance Siri search results. Ask about a topic, and Siri may respond with the related Wikipedia article. Additionally, Microsoft’s search engine is now the tool used to search the web, replacing Google. Rather than having to pull up the information by opening Safari, web listings can be accessed directly within Siri; you can even follow many links to other articles without leaving Siri’s interface.
Siri can be toggled on or off in the Settings app; if it’s disabled, the prior-generation iOS voice recognition interface Voice Control pops up instead. The language, voice gender, and voice feedback are also adjustable, as is what Siri calls you. Apple has refined the voices to sound more natural.
As Apple’s first-generation voice recognition feature for iOS devices, Voice Control has been included in iPhones and iPod touches for years, and remained a (mostly hidden) option even after the introduction of Siri. On Siri-capable devices, the feature is only accessible when Siri is explicitly turned off, and doesn’t rely on Apple servers for processing or responding to voice commands—a handy feature when you lack cellular or Wi-Fi connectivity. However, Voice Control doesn’t automatically turn on whenever you lose a network connection; instead, you’ll be shown a “Siri not available” screen and told to connect to the Internet.
When Voice Control is active, you can use voice commands for music and calling features, such as playback, phone dialing, and FaceTime calling, text options for which roll up from the bottom of the screen. It’s essentially the same feature set that’s been around for years now, but also features the new Siri-style look, albeit in a different color scheme. Note that the original version of Voice Control was where Apple debuted the sine wave voice-monitoring graphic, so its appearance in Siri is actually a bit retro, rather than totally new.
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