In even more “Android did it first” news, Apple has announced that Siri for iPhones will support speech recognition on the device, which the latest Google pixels have supported since the “next generation” assistant landed with Pixel 4, even though Apple makes its offline recognition the default setting in the name of users’ privacy. On top of that, however, Siri will also support offline commands for basic features – you know, like Google’s page before the assistant even existed.
Prior to this, Siri supported a very, very limited handful of offline controls for playback, pause next / previous track and repeat. Even more confusing, iPhones have had their very own set of voice-based device controls that have worked offline since iOS 1
According to Apple’s change log for iOS 15, Siri will be able to process offline requests that deal with timers and alarms, phone, messaging, sharing, app launch, settings and audio playback control. The assistant supports a similar set of simple offline commands to open apps, play content, add events, turn on your flashlight or Bluetooth, set alarms and make calls – among a handful of other similar actions.
Relevant details from the iOS 15 change log.
Siri also takes up Google Assistant-style context for certain commands in a vein with continuous call (Google: 2018) and on-screen assistant parsing (Google: 2019), so you can make requests easier and natural.
The processing on the device does not just mean support without a network; It also means that Siri will work faster and launch the apps you request, or perform actions faster, probably without waiting for the relatively “long” back and forth required to upload your parsing command, and then dragging down the action.
A word cloud of offline command options.
It remains to be seen whether all supported iPhones will have voice support disconnected, or whether the feature may be limited to certain models. Google had to limit which devices got their offline voice recognition, presumably on the basis of performance, given that it is otherwise exposed to port functions back to older devices. Although there is currently no evidence in either way, given the difficulty of running the models required for voice recognition, I would not be surprised if there were some devices that missed it – although Apple’s hardware is quite powerful, and even with older devices. Getting iOS 15 may be up to the task. We’ll have to wait and see.
Offline speech recognition is also the default setting.
We can have fun with who did what first – and it’s usually Android / Google, although Apple sometimes does better – but Siri’s performance has been a point of contention for iDevice owners for some time, and additions like these help enhance the experience. However, the Google Assistant is not better at everything.