Siri’s getting a “proactive” overhaul for iOS 9 that will make the intelligent assistant a whole lot more intelligent–and simultaneously combat growing market share from rival Google Now while engraining Siri into your car. At Apple’s WWDC conference in California today (which Fast Company is liveblogging), Apple senior vice president of software engineering Craig Federighi announced sweeping changes to Siri geared around predicting user behavior and making voice response even quicker.
The new version of Siri will respond to voice commands 40% faster, and will duplicate Google Photo’s recently unveiled functionality to search photos with natural language queries such as “Show photos from Utah last August.” Plugging in headphones will now bring up an intelligent “Now Playing” lock screen whose content will be tailored to individual locations such as home or the gym.
Most importantly, swiping to the left of the home screen for search will now bring up Siri auto-suggestions based on communication patterns, app usage activity tagged to the time of day (work apps during work hours and leisure apps when at home), and one-tap links to nearby locations, along with breaking news. This means Siri’s algorithms will effectively become the gatekeeper to much of the iPhone experience.
Big news for developers as well: Apple says they are opening up a new search API for increased integration with Siri, as well as deep-linking from third-party apps inside Siri’s search results. As Fast Company’s Harry McCracken noted, “If you want to nominate apps which could become existential threats to the iPhone, Google’s Google Now would be a leading candidate. These updates are making Siri more Google Now-ish.” The changes also make Siri much easier to use in a car, an important market for iOS devices. Apple is currently building partnerships with many major automakers as part of their CarPlay program.