USA TODAY International Edition
Hey Siri, why can’t I use you on more apps?
Many big names missing in action
MANHATTAN BEACH, CALIF. Last summer, Apple was busy advertising its latest move to beef up Siri, the personal digital assistant for the iPhone, iPad and Mac computers.
For the first time, Apple said, developers would be able to add Siri to our favorite apps, thus promising a brighter future for the heavily used, but often maligned, voice computing tool.
“Siri,” Apple said in September, when the latest IOS mobile operating system was released, “works with your favorite apps from the App Store.”
But fast forward to today, and it turns out few app makers have taken the bait. Of the top 50 most downloaded apps in Apple’s App Store, only a handful currently work with Siri, a USA TODAY analysis found. They are ride- hailing apps Uber and Lyft, Whatsapp, Pinterest, Twitter and Yelp.
Missing in action: Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Google Maps, Spotify, Netflix and many others. Apple says Siri also works with YouTube, but it wasn’t cooperating this week. Outside the top 50, Apple says Siri works with LinkedIn, Skype, PayPal and Venmo.
What happened? Developers for the most part chose not to sign onto what’s called SiriKit to integrate the assistant into the app because Apple only let Siri be used in six categories ( since adjusted to nine), and “that knocked almost everyone out,” says Bret Kinsella, publisher of the Voicebot. ai website, which covers artificial intelligence and voice computing. “It was just too restrictive.”
Steven Sinofsky, a board partner with investment firm Andreessen Horowitz, said Siri didn’t see much “noticeable takeup” from developers due to its “overall reputation. It could also be that voice control is still too much of a gimmick, especially when your phone is attached to you,” he wrote in a recent Medium post.
Apple declined to offer comment for this story.
But Amazon’s voice- activated Echo speaker hasn’t had such problems. The line has become one of Amazon’s best- selling items, with 10 million units to date, growing to 20 million by the end of the year, Forrester Research says.
The growth of Alexa and ambitious advance of rival Google Assistant on Android phones and the Google Home speaker has further put a dent into Siri’s reputation. Despite its early advantage ( it was the first widely used digital assistant of its kind when it launched in 2011) and ubiquity ( on more than 1 billion iPhones), it long has been the butt of jokes after it failed to improve to the degree users expect- ed. Its rivals have moved in, taking the valuable time and attention of users. Siri had an average 41.4 million monthly active users in the U. S. in May, according to a survey of 20,000 people by Verto Analytics. That’s down 15% from the same period a year ago, when Siri had 48 million, Verto estimates. At the same time, Alexa, starting from a far lower base, saw its usage increase 225%, from 0.8 million users to 2.6 million. Siri still has a big lead over its rivals, thanks to adoption by iPhone. That has given it a head start in loyalty, too: According to a survey conducted by SurveyMonkey Audience for USA TODAY, when asked which voice assistant users couldn’t live without, Siri won hands down. Apple says Siri is used by 375 million folks monthly worldwide and processes some 2 billion requests weekly. But Siri is struggling as other assistants get smarter. Comparing the responses of Google, Amazon and Siri, Google far outpaced both Apple and Amazon in terms of answers it was able to deliver in audio, a testament to the vast database Google can tap. Apple’s rivals have also gotten developers on board where Apple hasn’t.