Apple has introduced a new feature for its virtual assistant. “Hey Siri, give me the news!” will now prompt Siri to play a short audio podcast of the day’s big news stories.
The feature has been trialed amongst US-based users running the latest iOS betas, but has now expanded to regular users in the US, the UK, and Australia. You’ll just need iOS 11.2.2 to try it out. The “podcasts” in question aren’t actually listed in the Podcasts app, seemingly created specifically for this service, though the feature won’t work properly if you’ve deleted Podcasts from your home screen.
From what we’ve seen, the audio tends to be a short recap of the headlines, just a few minutes long, but that varies a little based on the source. Users will be able to choose their favorite news source from a small selection, which in the US currently includes NPR, Fox News, CNN, or the Washington Post. UK users can choose between BBC, Sky News, or LBC coverage; Australia gets ABC, SBS, and Seven Network.
It’s designed as a way to get a news update when you can’t look at the display, and as such will only kick into action when using the hands-free “Hey Siri” prompt, or while wearing headphones or using CarPlay. If you ask Siri about the news while actively using the device, it will load up the latest headlines in the News app, or in Safari for users who have deleted News.
This is clearly a feature that has been designed for Apple’s upcoming HomePod smart speaker, a device with integrated Siri support but no screen to show information. It looks to compete with similar “daily briefing” functions seen in rival smart speakers like Amazon Echo. We may see the feature tweaked further before HomePod’s release, as Apple seems to be using iOS as a testing ground to ensure it gets the functionality spot-on.