Hey Siri, it's time for iPhone to open up!

By: Marawan Alwaraki, April 14, 2016

Siri


Siri has been around for almost five years now. She started as a personal assistant that can tell you if you need an umbrella, now she's.. well, a personal assistant that can tell you if you need an umbrella.

Ok, that was mean. Surely Siri does get better with every major iOS update. She (or now even he) can speak multiple languages, control your house with HomeKit and do a whole lot more than she could five years ago. There is however one problem with Siri which lead me to sharing this post. It's a problem that strongly reflects Apple's closed ecosystem, a problem that Google Now does not suffer from: lack of third party app integration.

Here's a simple example:

Try saying, "Hey Siri, send a Whatsapp to Tim." Siri will either open Whatsapp, or cluelessly search Bing for your result.

When you compare that to Google Now, Android's personal assistant, Siri's weakness becomes increasingly noticeable. Saying "Ok Google, send a Whatsapp to Tim saying I'll be there in 5 minutes" will do exactly that. A Whatsapp message will be sent to Tim's phone letting him know you'll be there in 5 minutes.



Here's where it gets annoying. Apple already lets you send messages to people using Siri, as long as it's only using Apple's messages app. Want to use Siri to save a note? Sure, as long as you're using Apple's notes app. What about if I want to save them to Evernote? Nope, sorry. Want to reply to Email that's in the iOS Mail app using Siri? Ok, why not! What about if the email is in the Gmail app? Siri can't help you with that.

As a matter of fact, Steve Wozniak (Apple's co-founder) called for this several years ago.



There are many scenarios where an open Siri can really help customers. A lot of people prefer using alternatives to Apple's apps. Unfortunately, Apple's restrictions on iOS are like a double edged sword.

3D Touch


It's not just Siri that's limited by Apple's closed approach. The whole iPhone is. But let's focus on another big example: 3D Touch.

Source: iDownloadBlog
Apple announced 3D Touch with the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus in September. 3D Touch offers a new interaction with your screen where you can forcefully push down on the screen and the phone detects the amount of pressure placed on the screen to perform different actions. We got app shortcuts on the home screen, as well as peek and pop. They're all pretty cool use cases of 3D Touch, but they certainly aren't taking 3D Touch to its full potential.

You know who took 3D Touch to its full potential? Cydia developers. Cydia was flooded with new ways of using 3D Touch. One that I found really interesting was a tweak that lets users force touch a folder to get quick access to the apps inside it. I can't even list all the 3D Touch enhancement tweaks that were released on Cydia this year, but I'll link to an article on iDownloadBlog showing some of the best ones.

Touch ID


I'll give you one more example of a feature in iPhone that is definitely not being taken to its full potential, not even close. That feature is Touch ID, Apple's fingerprint sensor that was introduced with the iPhone 5S.

At first, all you could do is use it to unlock your phone. Then you could use it to make payments, and finally it can be used by third party apps to lock certain parts of the app out (or the whole app) until the user places their finger on the home button. So, Touch ID was certainly improved over the years. But that's the problem. It took years for something as simple as using your finger to unlock an app to be made available by Apple. On the other hand, cydia developers released tweaks allowing you to lock third party apps in the same year that Touch ID was announced.

You can't even password protect photos, and Touch ID has been available for almost four years!



Conclusion


So when you look at three of the biggest features in iOS: Siri, 3D Touch & Touch ID it becomes clear that Apple simply isn't taking iPhone to its full potential, forcing users to make their phones less secure by jailbreaking them. With rumours that iOS 10 will be impossible to jailbreak, this means that users will be forced to live under Apple's restrictions.

The only time restrictions like this are fine is if Apple was competitively releasing new features and updates that take advantage of the iPhone's hardware. But Apple isn't. And it's time to open up. Google's Android is as open as open can be, and it manages to remain secure.

Swift went open source, and iOS 8 gave us hope that Apple's mobile operating system will continue opening up. I'm not really sure what the point of iOS 9 was, but I would really hope to see a much more open iOS 10.

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