Chief amongst the sea of iOS 12 announcements at WWDC earlier this week was the reveal that Siri would be opening up to third-party apps thanks to a new function called Shortcuts. In fact, we thought this new Shortcuts feature was one of the five most important reveals of the WWDC keynote – it’s a way for any app to plug into the voice assistant’s smarts, using custom phrases to trigger actions.
This alone is a step in the right direction for Siri, but one vital tidbit only became clear later: a “play media intent” function revealed to developers this week shows that Siri will finally be able to understand media playback commands from apps like Spotify. Currently, Siri is great for controlling Apple Music but useless for any third-party streaming services.
Apple’s HomePod smart speaker suffers particularly from this limitation, was many reviewers complaining that the device forces users into a “walled garden” of Apple services. Though Spotify and others won’t be integrated to the same level as Apple Music, its developers will be able to create their own integrations with Siri, which will be able to pause, play, skip, and so on directly from an iPhone, iPad, or HomePod.
It’s still a fairly limited system, as building off the Shortcuts feature means that users will have to define particular playlists or artists they want to be able to trigger ahead of time. In this early stage, you won’t be able to ask Siri to play an artist you’ve not played before, for example – but it gives the developers the chance to make things work, and all playback controls will operate as expected.
This is a significant change of approach for Apple; a move that TechCrunch describes as a “peace offering” to rival streaming services. Here’s hoping it’s a first small step toward Apple fully embracing third-party media services in future.