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SIRI Shortcuts in iOS 12 - A Game Changer | Tech Talks

Apple recently pushed out the final stable release of iOS 12 to all of the eligible devices in the Apple ecosystem. Apple labels iOS 12 as a performance-focused release, but there are still many interesting user-facing features present.

I have covered the best features of iOS 12 in a separate article. YOU CAN READ IT HERE FOR MORE DETAILS!

One of the most amazing features, IMHO, is the SIRI Shortcuts. Though many android fanboys and tech critics have criticised Apple of still not doing enough when launching SIRI shortcuts, I personally feel it is a very powerful and well thought out feature - something only Apple can do.

SIRI Shortcuts ios 12
Source: Apple

In this article, I will share my thoughts on why I believe SIRI shortcuts lays the foundation of an all-powerful SIRI assistant of the future.

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Despite being first to the whole digital assistant race, SIRI has been lagging behind in the Digital Assistant Marathon. Almost all competitors (even Microsft's lesser-known Cortana) have edged out SIRI in some way or the other, despite starting late.

The frontrunner of this marathon, the Google Assistant, is soo good right now that SIRI just feels annoying and frustrating.

Even Hard-core Apple fanboys will agree that Google Assistant is way more helpful as a Digital assistant. Now, one might argue that Google is way ahead because of the sheer amount of data it has. Since it practically owns the internet, thanks to its unanimously used search engine, it can get access to any kind of data it wants. 

Moreover, Google services like Gmail, Google Photos, Google Maps are used by almost everyone around the world, be it an iPhone user or an Android user. This again gives Google access to all of your personal preferences and data which it uses to predict your next behaviour and proactively suggest actions for it.

Though it feels really great when a software program can know beforehand what you want to ask or do, it is quite a scary thought as well.

What makes us human is the uncertainty of our thoughts and behaviour. But when a machine/software begins to accurately predict what we are thinking or planning to do, the privacy and secrecy of our thoughts become vulnerable. 

Imagine you have a real personal secretary that helps you with your work at the office. What if she comes to your home as well and participates in your family discussions, hears every personal talk you share with your spouse or kids. 

Would you like that?

Its what almost all digital assistants do these days!

And this is what sets Apple's SIRI apart from the other Digital Assistants. Apple prides on the fact that it takes the privacy of its users very seriously. It does not collect personalised data from its users. That is the reason why SIRI has struggled to keep up with other assistants like Google Assistant in being more helpful to its users.

But not anymore...thanks to SIRI Shortcuts!

Why does the iPhone XR exist?

SIRI Shortcuts

Google assistants, for a long time now, has been really great at predicting what you might want to do next. From suggesting to eat at a restaurant to reminding to pay the mobile bills, Google assistant seems to know everything.

But why is that? How does it know so much?

Google knows so much about you because it collects so much data about you. From where you go to what you eat, what you search on the internet, what you watch on youtube, what time you wake up - it records every data about you and creates a character map of you. It even reads your emails in Gmail to remind you of pending bills or upcoming travel plans.

Though such suggestions may seem useful time to time, knowing the fact that one company knows so much about you can send shivers down the spine of anyone. But it hards to deny the fact that it definitely is helpful in more cases than not.

This is something SIRI has lacked till now. But with SIRI shortcuts, this is going to be a thing of the past.

So is Apple too now collecting personal data like Google?
Of course not. Maintaining privacy is a feature Apple touts in its every keynote. It's something that sets them apart from every other internet company in the world.

So how is Apple going to do this?

Allow me to explain. SIRI shortcuts is based on a very popular iOS app - Workflow. It allowed users to create specific actions that could be started by a press of a button. For example, you could start Google Maps and navigate to your home from your current location with just a press of a button.

Apple bought the workflow app startup and integrated the functionality deep into iOS with SIRI support. So now any SIRI shortcut (or workflow) that you create can be mapped to a phrase, which when said to SIRI, will invoke the corresponding actions.

Apple has even exposed this as an API to the developers. So developers, wanting to give the users added functionality via SIRI can use this.

Let me give an example to explain it better. 

Swiggy is a very popular food ordering app in India. It has recently been updated for iOS 12, with support for SIRI Shortcuts.

Siri shortcuts ios 12

It allows me to set a phrase for asking SIRI about my Order Status. So, I have currently set my phrase as "WHERE IS MY FOOD" !.

siri shortcuts ios 12

Now, whenever I order something from Swiggy, I don't need to open the app again and again to check the current status of my order or the location of the delivery man.

I can just invoke SIRI and say - "WHERE IS MY FOOD".
siri shortcuts ios 12

And SIRI now knows that this phrase is associated with the Swiggy app and it calls the app in the background which shares the current status of my order. This is then shown to me right on the SIRI screen. It even shows the map with the current location of the delivery man right in the SIRI UI.

This works with many other apps as well. If you have booked flight tickets or train tickets, you can set a phrase to know the flight/train status via SIRI.

Final Thoughts

So now, SIRI knows more about you. It knows what to answer when you ask it something.

Yes, it doesn't know as much as Google Assistant, but it knows what you want it to know. And that too is not shared to Apple servers. it is kept locally on the device and handled by the amazingly powerful custom-designed Apple processors.

With SIRI Shortcuts, SIRI can now be the personal assistant it should be, along with maintaining your privacy.

Apple really seems to have thought this really well, like always. SIRI Shortcuts is a definite winner and will pave the way for a more powerful SIRI in future.

What do you think? Do you agree with my thoughts?

Let me know in the comments below.

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I am an ardent Techie and a Free Thinker. I love to explore new topics and technologies, and share my knowledge and views with the world.
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