The next version of Apple Watch’s software will let you talk to Siri via your smartwatch in order to interact with third-party applications, according to new developer documentation from Apple released on Tuesday. This will let you do things like order an Uber, send a message through a chat application, make a payment, and more.
The feature is one of a handful of enhancements expected to arrive in the upcoming operating system, watchOS 3.2, which will also introduce a “Theater Mode” option.
This lets you mute the sound on your watch and will disable the watch’s ability to wake the screen when you raise your wrist. In other words, it’s a way to not annoy others when watching a movie, play or other performance in a darkened room when you’re asked to silence your devices.
But more interesting is the addition of SiriKit for third-party apps.
Being able to use your apps via a wrist just by speaking will be a big step forward in terms of voice-based computing, and something that could even make Apple Watch seem more appealing to those who haven’t yet seen the need for smart wristwear. Consumer apathy has led to declining smartwatch sales, and an industry that’s left taking stock of the true market potential for wearables now that the hype has worn off.
So far, third-party Apple Watch apps have largely failed to impress. Limited by the small screen, there’s not much they can offer in the first place. And if someone wants to really use an app, after all, their iPhone is usually nearby.
Instead, the Apple Watch has excelled at being an “alerts” device. It’s best for things like handling incoming calls and texts…and, okay, maybe Pokémon sightings. It also works well as a passive means of data collection, like a step counter or workout tracker, for example. But when it comes to apps, wearers would rather use their bigger-screened, more functional devices.
With the new SiriKit integration, apps may be able to forge a comeback on the platform. Imagine being able to say, “Siri, get me an Uber” to your watch, while leaving your iPhone in your pocket or purse. Then, as the car arrives, your watch notifies you with a notification and haptic feedback.
Of course, you could already do things like order an Uber via Apple Watch before today, but you’d have to tap around on the small screen to make that happen. Siri could make the process much more seamless.
SiriKit was already available on iPhone and iPad in iOS 10, but Apple Watch may be the most useful platform for the functionality.
According to Apple’s release notes on watchOS 3.2, not all apps will be able to take advantage of Siri integration, however. Instead, it will only be available to those in select domains, including messaging, payments, ride booking, workouts, calling and searching photos.
A new build of watchOS wasn’t among Apple’s suite of beta releases yesterday, when the company rolled out updated versions of iOS, macOS and tvOS to its developer community. However, Apple did publish the watchOS 3.2 “What’s New” guide, which indicates a beta build is soon coming.