Apple’s iOS 10 release is all about unlocking and opening up the iPhone. Until now, Apple kept core platform features such as Siri, Messages, Phone, and Contacts locked down. Unless you inked an unbelievable OS-level partnership (think Wolfram, Siri, Facebook, or Twitter, etc.) you were out of luck in terms of getting a system-wide integration.
Apple began the process of opening up the OS years ago through share sheets and followed it up with app extensions and custom keyboards. But these were all experienced within specific applications or use-cases. Apple’s changed all this with iOS 10.
In typical Apple fashion, they’ve started with a controlled release for specific use cases. Rather than enable all applications to integrate with Siri from the get-go, they’ve started with key situations that will ensure a controlled and successful experience. Users who enable Siri’s hands-free mode can do things like order a Lyft, send a message on any platform, or make a phone call without ever touching their phone. I’d expect all major applications to embrace this immediately. Some people may claim that Apple’s too late to the game, but that’s frankly besides the point.
Every time Apple has released a more convenient way for iPhone users to do something – whether they’re early or late to the game – users have embraced it. Think of the Today/Notification panel, Control Center, Cut and Paste, and Dictation. In every case, users adjust. A year or two from now, no one will even remember what life was like without apps that integrate with Siri.
I’m excited to see what happens when Apple lets other types of applications get access to Siri in the future. Imagine if you could control Spotify or Sonos without touching your phone, or if you could add to-do items to Wunderlist or Clear. The possibilities are endless for quick, one-off commands.
Apple has also opened up messaging significantly. For example, you can now set custom default message apps per user so Siri won’t try to text your friend in another country. More importantly, Apple opened up the ability for other applications to integrate into iMessage. On the surface, this might look like Apple’s version of chat bots, but they’ve taken a very different, privacy first approach.
On most platforms, bots essentially get unlimited access to the data in your chat. This allows the bot to interact with what you’re saying, but also raises the concern that a third party is essentially able to track everything you say with your friends. With Apple’s implementation, third parties can add (and update) content in your iMessages, but these apps cannot access or read anything that you write in the iMessage outside of their application. This approach is the first I’ve seen to put privacy ahead of functionality and I’m curious to see if this limits functionality for developers or empowers users to use these bots.