Siri on iOS 7 full review
Siri was the headline feature of the iPhone 4S and Apple has been slowly refining the speaking personal assistant over the last two years.
Siri is finally out of beta and has some new tricks up his (or her) sleeve in iOS 7. As well as a new, higher-quality voice, Siri is more helpful than ever although there’s still some way to go before most people will prefer speaking to their iPhones instead of tapping on their screens.
New features in Siri
Siri is now better integrated into iOS and you first notice this when you long-press the Home button and see the new Siri interface fade into view over the top of whichever app you’re using. On an iPad, Siri takes over the entire screen just as on an iPhone, displaying larger text and images than before.
We’re not too keen on the new waveform which indicates Siri can hear you but, overall, the new design is much clearer than in iOS 6.
More importantly, Siri can now search Bing, Wikipedia and Twitter (but not Facebook) so its web searches tend to come back with more relevant information. You can, for example, ask what a friend is up to and Siri will display recent tweets as long as their Twitter account name is included in their contact card on your phone.
Taking things a step further, you can even say, “Find tweets with the hashtag London”. And if you want to post something on Twitter or Facebook, you can simply ask Siri to do it. “Post to Facebook ‘I’m having a curry tonight’” or “Write on my wall ‘I can’t believe it’s not butter’”. Similarly, “Tweet ‘It’s looking like a fine day today hashtag sunny” will produce a tweet with a hashtag. It’s clever stuff.
You’ll also notice your iPhone offers much more hands-free control now, which is useful in the car. As well as making phonecalls and sending messages you can ask Siri to read out recent voicemails, emails and messages. After a message, Siri will ask if you want to reply. Siri can also list missed calls.
If Siri can’t pronounce a contact’s name properly, just say “That’s not how you pronounce Tomaszewski” and Siri will offer alternative pronunciations for you to choose between.
A useful feature for some people is Siri’s new-found ability is to change settings. Now, without using your hands, you can turn on Bluetooth, increase the screen brightness and even enable Airplane mode. Siri will double-check you meant to do this, since it also prevents you using the assistant until you turn off Airplane mode.
Apple has also made minor improvements, such as the ability to set a timer to the nearest second, rather than minute.
Siri voice quality
Siri in iOS 7 also gets a vocal upgrade. The new voices are higher quality and sound less robotic than before. Some countries will have the luxury of choosing between male and female voices, but the UK remains stuck with only the male voice.
Don’t worry if Siri sounds muffled and nasal when you first upgrade to iOS 7. Apparently the high-quality Siri voice files are downloaded via Wi-Fi after the update. What you may hear initially is the low-quality voice.
Although Siri can speak many languages, it expects you to speak that language (and even with a particular accent, such as Canadian English) so you can’t set Siri to Spanish and speak to it in English.
Even with the advances in software and noise-cancelling microphones, Siri still struggles to understand what you’re saying in a noisy environment, be that a busy restaurant or a car travelling at motorway speeds.
When all is quiet, we found Siri got practically every word right. It was by no means perfect, and Siri still doesn’t explain why some functions don’t work. For example, if you have Location Services disabled (either globally or just for Siri) it will merely tell you “Jim, I don’t seem to be able to get your current location”.
What it should say is that you need to enable location services if you want Siri to be able to give you information about local weather, cinema listings and more.
Siri’s capabilities are dictated by your locale, too. In the US, Siri works with OpenTable and Yelp so it can find and make restaurant reservations. If you live in the UK, you’ll hear an apology from Siri that it can’t reserve a table.
Siri’s sporting knowledge is overwhelmingly oriented to the US, which is great if you want to know the baseball, football or ice hockey results. British iOS users can ask about the football results, but you can forget about cricket, golf or Formula 1: Siri just presents the results of a web search.
The new Siri in iOS 7 is a marked improvement on the beta version in iOS 5 and 6. Not only is the voice better-sounding, but you can also control common settings without needing your hands.
The bad news is that Siri still relies on your internet connection, and can be frustratingly slow to respond at times. It’s then that you resolve never to use Siri again and use your hands to get the job done faster.
You still have to long-press the Home button to wake Siri, which almost defeats the purpose of having a hands-free virtual assistant. It’s a real shame there’s no option to enable Siri by saying a keyword. It’s also disappointing that Apple’s Siri Eyes Free mode has been so poorly received by car manufacturers (Vauxhall’s new Adam is the only model we know of that supports it in the UK).
However, when it comes to firing off quick messages and making phone calls in the car, Siri is brilliant. As long as it isn’t noisy, that is.