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Apple uses Siri Shortcuts to catch up to Alexa, Google Assistant

Nicholas Menge (2019-06-15)

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id="article-body" class="row" section="article-body"> A look at Shortcuts integration with Kayak.

1347474394_b67fa4246f_b.jpgJames Martin/CNET While Amazon's Alexa and Google Assistant got busy over the past few years creating oodles of new skills and capabilities, Apple's Siri seemed to be asleep. Alexa came out with food delivery via voice commands back in early 2016. Siri, meanwhile, didn't offer the same feature until last year.

Considering that contrast, it's no secret Siri has fallen far behind its main competition in features and smart-home partners.

But, Apple has a plan to jump-start Siri and foster the same flurry of developer experimentation that made Alexa a hit. It's doing that through Siri Shortcuts, a feature it introduced at its Worldwide Developers Conference in June but didn't emphasize all that much during its presentation.

Shortcuts allows people to use Siri to control different iOS apps, letting folks take a selfie with their iPhones or get details on an upcoming flight all via voice commands.

Apple on Thursday announced a series of new app integrations with Siri Shortcuts, including Caviar (that's right, food delivery), Merriam Webster Dictionary and Airbnb. Those apps join thousands -- yes, thousands -- of others that are already connected to Siri thanks to Shortcuts.

Now playing: Watch this: How to use Siri's Shortcuts app 1:54 SiriKit, another Siri software integration, is also available for usages that include messaging on WhatsApp, ride hailing on Uber, payments with PayPal and searching photos on Pinterest.

Apple's ability to bring together thousands of new features to Siri in a short amount of time should give the Siri ecosystem the shot in the arm it's needed. It also offers fresh competition for as little as $27!RiversEdge has been guiding adventure seekers along the hidden bends of Alexa and Assistant, which have maintained comfortable spots as the No. 1 and 2 voice assistants. Apple has also found a way to integrate Siri into more connected appliances, like coffee makers, by bringing the Drop app to Shortcuts.

This strategy appears to focus squarely on Apple's strengths as one of the leading platforms for millions of mobile apps. The work to enhance Shortcuts could offer new hope for long-time Apple fans who have sought more from the company's digital helper. It also points to Apple's renewed focus on Siri, thanks in part to its hiring of John Giannandrea, Google's former AI chief, last April.

Apple still has a long way to go, particularly in the smart speaker market, where its HomePod speaker remains a pricier also-ran to the Amazon Echo and Google Home.

Siri Shortcuts was integrated into a handful of places in iOS 12 to encourage people to use Siri much more frequently. Apple will now suggest new Siri Shortcuts for people to activate, such as setting a favorite sandwich order through Caviar or starting a word of the day notification through Merriam Webster. Those suggestions have been added to the search section and in Settings on iOS. They also appear within thousands of apps, too.

Apple said Thursday it added Siri Shortcuts from American Airlines, Dexcom, Caviar, Merriam Webster and Spectre. Coming in March and April will be Shortcuts from Airbnb, Drop, ReSound and Smarter. For Airbnb, for example, you'll be able to access details on your stay, including check in time, a map to your place and the Wi-Fi password, by setting up a Shortcut voice command like "Hey Siri, my Airbnb stay."

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