Apple’s iOS Update Puts Siri On More Equal Footing Against Amazon’s Alexa

As the Age of The Voice Assistant rises, Siri is getting smarter about bill paying, scheduling ride-hails, and even the connected car.

Amazon’s Alexa has grown in popularity partly by the e-commerce platform’s existing reach among consumers, but also because of its sophisticated artificial intelligence.

Alexa’s appearance of clarity and its ability to understand has often been favorably compared to Apple’s voice-activated assistant, Siri, in pieces like Walt Mossberg’s critical assessment on Recode last fall. Meanwhile, Google Assistant and even Microsoft’s Cortana have only added to Siri’s competition over the past year.

But Apple’s full rollout of its iOS 10.3 update has Siri getting a significant enhancement that could put it at more equal footing with its advancing rivals.

Among the new features in the iOS update for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch:

  • Support for paying and checking bills via payment apps
  • Support for scheduling with ride-booking apps
  • Support for checking car fuel, lock status, turning on lights, and activating horn with automaker apps

Other changes that iOS users will find with the software update, include support for searching for “parked car” in Apple Apples. In addition, AppApple is offering hourly weather updates within Maps using 3D Touch.

Apple iOS 10.3 also takes the rise of the Internet of Things into account. Since Apple’s iPhone 7 has removed the traditional headphone jack and required users to listen and talk through wireless AirPods (or buying an adapter for a physical tether), the Cupertino company has pushed forward with Bluetooth-powered Internet of Things devices, which also include the Apple Watch.

With iOS 10.3’s connected car tools, Apple’s pursuit of IoT is stepping up. Here too, with Amazon’s Echo (the device that houses Alexa) and Google Home, the battle for being the main path between consumers’ houses, workplaces, and on-the-go environment is only beginning.

As useful as its new iOS features may be, everyone from tech pundits to average consumers will be paying close attention to how much better Siri is as an assistant that can connect consumers to the right information.

Location technology the center of “intelligence agents” like Siri and the commerce that they can drive. For example, as Forrester analyst Jennifer Wise has noted, intelligent agents will filter out and vet out decisions that consumers have previously shown no interest in.

“People like the fact that [Intelligence Agents] help subdue the (unavoidable) digital cacophony they face,” Wise said. “Specifically, today’s IAs tap into calendars, email accounts, browsing behaviors, playlists, purchases, and media histories in order to create a complete view of what matters to a given individual.”

Ultimately, the insights that devices and apps contain about their users will produce increasing amounts of  “a low-friction, highly customized experience” that benefits users by making tasks quicker and more easy to complete, and sending reminders and info on location-specific appointments like flight or dinner reservations in advance based on emails and calendar items.

Whether the focus is on artificial intelligence, voice recognition, the hardware associated with the device itself, brands will have to quickly evolve how deeply to integrate with these tools.

In the end, brands shouldn’t look at Siri, Alexa, Cortana, and others as mere messaging tools; these intelligent agents are going to be a key part — or a significant hurdle — when it comes to managing the evolution of marketing from discovery to loyalty.

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.