Siri Shortcuts, available with the release of iOS 12, are Apple’s next advance in the quest to create a more robust product assistant across all of their product line.
Most of us are familiar with Siri, Apple’s voice assistant that utilizes voice queries and a natural-language user interface to answer questions and perform any variety of actions. Siri is built into every device they sell, and with iOS 12 she’s about to get a lot more capable, thanks to Siri Shortcuts.
In a nutshell, Siri Shortcuts are designed to help consumers streamline the things they do often. They will transform how many people utilize their smart devices, and businesses that are prepared can also reap benefits from this feature.
For example, if someone loves your pizza, they can create a shortcut to do a series of actions like launch your app, order a large Veggie Delight, pay for it, and alert them when the delivery driver is 5 minutes away. The shortcut can even be designed to be activated by a custom voice command (e.g. “Hey Siri, order me a pizza”) — and then started by using Siri on their iPhone, their Watch, their kitchen Homepod, their Apple TV remote while sitting on the couch, or by talking to their CarPlay dash while driving home!
With iOS 12, there will be two types of Siri Shortcuts: automatically generated “suggestions” and custom shortcuts. Suggestions will be based on actual app usage, and the custom shortcuts the user creates themselves via a new Shortcuts app from Apple, or more simply, via buttons the developer builds within the app.
Siri Shortcuts: Suggestions
When someone performs a task with an app in a consistent pattern, and that app has been developed to inform Siri of those actions, Siri will take note of the pattern and generate a suggestion. If the activity occurs at the same time every day, say for example, starting a yoga routine, or searching a recipes app, a shortcut will appear on the home screen at that time with the activity ready to go. iPhone users will be delighted that their favorite apps are so thoughtful, or in the case of a newly installed app, it may quickly become their favorite. Siri suggestions are a wide open new beachhead upon which a business can differentiate itself from the rest.
Custom Siri Shortcuts: Simple
Apps can also be built or updated to display an “Add to Siri” button that will add the action just taken to a user’s custom Siri Shortcuts list. From there they can assign a voice command to repeat that action.
Imagine two workout apps: one that is not Add-to-Siri enabled, and one that is. Contrast how these apps will be used every day: In the first app, the person must find that app on their home screen and launch it. Then they have to navigate to the screen that starts the workout, possibly first navigating through the types of workouts the app offers. Finally they can tap the Start button.
In the second app (once the person agrees to the shortcut), the person says into their iPhone or even AirPods, “Hey Siri, start my workout.” That’s it. The app launches and the shortcut starts the pre-defined workout.
Which of these two apps is likely to be more successful? Assuming comparable features, the one that makes it easier for a consumer to get right into their workout. Such ease is valued by users in professional as well as personal settings, so it’s a win-win if you develop your app in a way that makes it simple for users to create a Siri shortcut.
Custom Siri Shortcuts: Advanced
While a shortcut to access features of one app is exciting, Apple also intends to make it possible for people to automate tasks within and between apps, allowing for extended multi-app workflows, launched with one voice command. Consumers will be able to create these more advanced automations via a new app from Apple, called Shortcuts, that will be available from the app store when iOS 12 is released.
Here’s how such a shortcut might work. Let’s say your company offers an app that adds fun effects to your customer’s pictures and allows them to order full size posters of them. The app has a “Glam” mode that identifies a face in the image and adds glitter, a backlight, and a tiara to the snapped photo.
Let’s say a user (“Sally”) has your app and is out having fun with her friends. Then boom, there’s a perfect scene to glam up. So she quickly takes a picture with the camera app, fully intending to create a poster to give her friend for her room. But adding the effects and creating the poster would take time away from the fun, so she saves it for later, and then forgets.
Now if the app had been created in a way that enabled her to create a workflow shortcut, she could have created one (we’ll call it “Glam time!”), to automate a whole series of actions. When she tells Siri “Hey Siri, Glam time!”, the following could then happen:
- Camera app opens
- Sally snaps her friend in the perfect pose
- The newly saved photo is sent to your app
- Your app applies the glam effects and shows Sally the preview
- Sally loves it, and taps the “Create Poster” option
- Your app creates and sends the order
- Done — with just a quick voice command and two taps
As creating a custom workflow will require a certain amount of savvyness, we anticipate Apple’s Shortcuts app will have a gallery of pre-built workflows. Developers and business owners will want to work together to ensure their apps are well represented in this gallery to enable greater usage of their apps/tools.
We’re excited to think about the opportunities that Siri Shortcuts can offer to businesses. Apps that take advantage of this new functionality will have the chance to become the default choice for users in any of a variety of business and personal arenas. Please get in touch if you’d like to discuss how to add this functionality to your app.