Apple released an update to its iOS Podcasts app yesterday and included several new features, including one biggie: support for Siri. After updating Podcasts, you’ll be able to say something like, “Play Podcast NPR” and, if you subscribe to the NPR podcast, it should begin playing automatically.
For those who use Apple’s virtual assistant quite a bit (say, while driving), having a way to launch specific podcasts or episodes is a welcome addition. It might have been included if the app was bundled into iOS, but Apple made the decision a while back to put Podcasts in the App Store.
You see, I’m thrilled that Podcasts now has support for Siri. But I can’t help but look at all of the other App Store apps I use — many not by Apple — and see big Siri-sized holes. For instance, I don’t keep any music on my phone because I’m a Spotify subscriber. Support for Siri to launch a particular song or playlist in Spotify would be great.
What else could use Siri? Launching a radio station in Pandora. Opening a movie or TV show in Netflix. Opening a website in Chrome. The list could go on and on.
Voice commands would make sense for a number of apps in the App Store, and now that Apple has added this capability to the Podcasts app, I have a feeling Siri support will be opening up to app developers before too long.
Wouldn’t that require an update to iOS, you ask? Not exactly. When you issue a voice command, Siri connects to a remote server with your query and then gets instructions on how to respond. I tried to use the “Play Podcast” command before updating the Podcasts app and found that Siri did indeed recognize what I was trying to do, but would not execute until the app had been updated.
It appears that Apple could remotely add support for other apps to use Siri commands; after that, it would be up to the app to build in an understanding of those commands. Based on the work Apple did with the Podcasts app, it doesn’t look like iOS would need to be updated for third-party apps to gain Siri support.
WWDC is next month. There was already a good bit to be excited about, with iOS 8 expected and the potential for new hardware. But now we have something else to watch for: a Siri SDK.