The Vision Pro headset, Macs, new operating systems, dozens of changes and new features in all the operating systems of its products: in the more than two-hour keynote which opened WWDC last June 5, Apple presented many of those innovations that many have certainly gone into the background. As the end of “Hey Siri”: with iOS 17 to activate the voice assistant, just say “Siri”, and there will be no need to repeat it every time if the conversation continues.
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by our correspondent Bruno Ruffilli
A bit of history
Siri was born in an American startup linked to Stanford University. Apple acquired it in 2010 and launched the voice assistant on October 4, 2011 with iOS5: it was Tim Cook’s first keynote as CEO, and Steve Jobs would die the next day. “Hey Siri”, however, only arrives in 2014, to allow users to interact with Apple’s voice assistant without pressing a key or touching the screen: Finally, you can activate Siri while driving, exercising, or using your device in situations where your hands are not available. Very useful for use in the car with Carplay, “Hey Siri” has been integrated into the Mac operating system since 2016. Yet a simple key combination would have been enough, since those who are working on the computer most likely have their hands on a keyboard or can do it without difficulty. It’s also on Apple headphones, Apple Watch, and the Apple TV remote.
Training Siri to activate with a two-word utterance is easier than triggering with just one, and leaves less room for error. And yet, from the beginning Amazon allowed Alexa users to activate the assistant using “Hey Alexa” or just “Alexa”, and even Microsoft only supported “Cortana” as a password before shutting down its voice assistant on iOS and Android in 2021. Google Assistant still keeps “Hey Google” or “OK Google” instead of “Google”. In Italy it would not be necessary, but in English “to google” is a verb, and obviously means to search on the web; the use is therefore very common, e the assistant would be activated unintentionally too often.
With Apple’s new approach, users will be able to simply say the word “Siri” to activate the voice assistant. What’s more: by eliminating the need to repeat “Hey Siri” with each request, it will be possible to establish a more fluid and natural dialogue with voice assistant. More so than Alexa, for example, which still requires activation for each question, even if it’s part of the same conversation.
And for those used to saying “Hey Siri”, no problem: it will still be possible to activate Apple’s assistant in the usual way, or by pressing the home button.
But iOS 17, the new operating system for iPhone, has many other interesting innovations. The app Telephone, for example, it has been updated with Contact Posters: you can customize the way you look during incoming calls and choose from photo or Memoji effects, font styles and colors. Live Voicemail allows the user to see the real-time transcript of voice messages as they are left on voicemail and to reply while the message is being recorded. Calls identified as operator spam will not appear as live voicemail, but will be rejected instantly.
FaceTime introduced new features, including support for voice and video messages. This means that when a user calls someone who is not available, they can leave a message to view or listen to later. There are also Call Reactions, with hearts, balloons, fireworks, laser beams, and rain.
With an update for Apple TV 4K, FaceTime is now available on the big screen at home as well. With Continuity, users can initiate a video call directly from Apple TV or initiate a call on iPhone and then transfer to Apple TV to see friends and family on TV. The Auto-Framing feature keeps you center stage even as you move around the room.
In the app Messages come the stickers for the emoji and the ability to create Live Stickers from your photos. You can also add effects to Live Stickers to animate them, and a new keyboard drawer groups all your stickers in one place.
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It seems more useful to us Check In, a function that allows you to notify friends and relatives that you have arrived safely at your destination. With AirDrop it’s easy to share a file in seconds, and iOS 17 AirDrop offers even more ways to share. NameDrop allows you to share contact information by simply touching your iPhone to that of the other person or between iPhone and Apple Watch.
New in iOS 17 is StandBy, which displays information at a glance on the full-width screen while the iPhone is charging and positioned horizontally. You can choose from a huge selection of clock styles, favorite photos or widgets, including Smart Slacks that display the right widgets at the right time.
Journal brings back the old habit of keeping a diary. But it does so by exploiting all the digital technology of the iPhone: using machine learning on the device, it offers personalized suggestions such as writing cues to stimulate inspiration. Suggestions are intelligently selected based on your recent activity, including photos, people and places. Journal protects your privacy with the ability to block the app, on-device data processing, and end-to-end encryption.
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We’ve already covered other things coming with iOS in detail, such as updates to Accessibility features, from Assistive Access to Live Speech, Personal Voice and Point and Speak. New autocorrect, which should finally be more flexible smarter. We also point out:
- Safari introduces additional security measures for private browsing sessions.
- You can share passwords and passkeys with a group of trusted contacts using iCloud Keychain.
- The Health app offers new features for mental well-being.
- Maps now offers offline maps and information about US park trails and electric car charging point availability.
- Each AirTag can be shared with up to five other people via the Find My app.
- Apple Music introduce le Collaborative Playlists e SharePlay in auto.
- Sharing content using AirPlay is even easier and will even work with select TVs in hotels.
- Powerful new features like Adaptive Audio, Custom Volume, and Conversation Tracking are coming to AirPods.
- The Home app offers the ability to view up to 30 days of activity history for your door locks, garage door, alarm systems, and contact sensors.
- Reminder Shopping List automatically groups items into categories to make shopping easier.
- Visual Search is now available in paused video frames.
- Siri can be activated by simply saying “Siri”.
- In Photos, the People album uses on-device machine learning to recognize more photos of your favorite subjects, including cats and dogs.
- Privacy protection updates include the extension of the Communications Security feature beyond the Messages app and a new feature, Sensitive Content Warning.
Availability and compatibility
The first beta of iOS 17 is now available for developers. A public beta for everyone it will be available this summer. But beware: the minimum requirement to install the update is to have a iPhone XR or laterso iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X, which were compatible with iOS 16, will be excluded. Some new features may require a newer device.