As someone who enjoys testing new gadgets, I’ve been very tempted at times to purchase and try both the Amazon Echo and Google Home voice assistant speakers. Rumors of an Apple version have convinced me to hold off, however, and it’s possible once again that we may soon see Apple’s take on the category.
Amazon Echo and Google Home both offer features that I’d like, but there are things I do with Siri on my iPhone and Apple Watch that only a Siri Speaker would offer. Here’s my Siri Speaker wishlist:
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For starters, I hope we actually see the so-called Siri Speaker introduced at WWDC next month. Reliable supply chain analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities wrote last week that there’s a greater than 50% chance we’ll see the Siri Speaker announced at WWDC, but that leaves a lot of room for no such announcement.
Siri Speaker is also said to be manufactured by Inventec, which is currently the sole manufacturer for Apple AirPods … which are still backordered by six weeks after roughly six months on the market.
If the so-called Siri Speaker is ready to be shown on stage but not ready to ship, Apple could always preview it alongside an expanded SiriKit with more capabilities for developers than Siri offers today and release it later in the year. There’s no existing Siri Speaker to take sales from and in turn Apple could potentially spoil a few Amazon Echo and Google Home purchases.
One message you often hear ahead of WWDC is that it’s not a hardware event, however, so should that be a clue that we won’t see Siri Speaker next month? Maybe, but Apple has used WWDC to introduce hardware in the past (Retina MacBook Pro, Mac Pro preview, older iPhones before the fall launch shift).
Just guessing in the dark, I would imagine it is more likely that we’ll see Siri Speaker previewed and not released for WWDC, but I hope I’m surprised and Siri Speaker is something we can purchase soon after Apple’s keynote next month.
Based on Ming-Chi Kuo’s latest research note, it sounds like Siri Speaker will use audio quality as a key selling point thanks to seven tweeters and a subwoofer. Amazon Echo makes for an OK music speaker, but it’s not pitched as a hi-fi speaker by any means. Siri Speaker could take a more premium position in the market by boasting better audio quality while using Apple Music as a service made for it.
This line of thinking makes me question the name we assign the rumored voice assistant speaker: Siri Speaker. If Apple markets the device as a hi-fi wireless speaker for streaming Apple Music more like what Sonos offers that just happens to feature Siri, is it really a Siri Speaker or might Apple go with something more general like say Apple Speaker?
At any rate, I personally hope Siri Speaker offers integration with existing Sonos speakers. Apple Music integrates with Sonos speakers with a controller app on iOS and macOS, but there’s no Siri integration. Compare that to Amazon Echo which will work with Spotify for easy multi-room playback through Sonos speakers.
‘Siri, play My New Music Mix on the living room and office speakers.’ I would be all in if this could work with Siri Speaker and Sonos speakers. I think it’s possible given that Apple Music and Sonos already work together and Apple recently started selling Sonos speakers in Apple Stores, but I suppose it’s also possible that Siri-controlled multi-room Apple Music playback could be limited to multiple Siri Speakers. We’ll see…
Siri Speaker will be a shared device used in shared spaces so voice profiles will be essential to a great experience.
Take Reminders for example. If I say ‘Siri, remind me to call mom on Sunday’ I’ll want it to go to my Reminders list based on my voice. If my wife says the same command, ideally the entry would be added to her Reminders list.
Going back to the music focus, even using a command like ‘Siri, play My Favorites Mix on Apple Music’ would ideally work for more than one user.
User profiles could be used as a fallback, too, if voice identification doesn’t work 100% of the time. A command like ‘Hey Siri, it’s Zac, add shrimp pasta to my recipes Note’ could work.
In terms of what Siri could do on a speaker without a display (assuming Siri Speaker is voice-only), try activating Siri on your iPhone from headphones. Siri becomes more verbose than when activated from the Home button since it doesn’t know if you’re eyes-free or not.
I really want a Siri Speaker to be my always-listening, always-present HomeKit controller for the smart accessories around my house too.
My wife and I share our HomeKit profile so we can both use the Home app and Siri on our devices to control lights, temperature, and more. Having a Siri Speaker in the living room could instantly share the same access easily with our guests.
I think talking to a Siri Speaker is more natural and much easier than sharing access through the Home app with a guest who may or may not even have an iPhone, not to mention the learning curve of using the Home app. Have a babysitter over for the night or family visiting from out of town? Just tell them to talk to the Siri Speaker naturally to control HomeKit accessories.
Optionally, you could have a mode that only allows known voices to control accessories. Voices that aren’t recognized could be prevented from controlling any HomeKit devices.
Siri Speaker could also be one more option for a HomeKit hub. HomeKit currently relies on an Apple TV or iPad running iOS 10 to be present for remote access and automation, but Siri Speaker could be a solution as well.
Siri Speaker with a great music experience, multi-user support, and easy HomeKit control is exactly what I want. Others hope Siri Speaker might be a more comprehensive product that includes networking features and more.
I would guess based on the rumors that the audio focus is all Apple will use to make its product standout from Amazon Echo and Google Home, but I do believe there could be an opportunity for more Siri-enabled products. If audio is the focus and Siri is just along for the ride, you can apply the same formula to standalone routers, home security cameras, and more.
Just like how we’re already starting to see thermostats with Alexa built-in, we could potentially see a range of AirPort routers and future HomeKit devices from Apple with Siri built-in. Again, based on the rumors today, I would guess that a Siri Speaker is the only thing coming out of the product pipeline anytime soon. But if the product is a hit, it could make room for future variations.
So far Apple has expressed that it views Siri on the iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch, and Apple TV as all you need from a voice assistant. The benefit of this approach is that Siri goes where you go versus being tied down to a room, but I still remain curious about the benefits of an always-present, always-listening version of Siri for the home and family too.