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That feature, called a “Web Answer,” is being tested in the U.S. right now.
Here’s what the feature does and how you can starting using it today.
If you’ve used Siri at all in the past, you probably know that the digital assistant isn’t the best when it comes to answering specific questions.
Sometimes, Siri will actually give you a direct answer. Many other times, the digital assistant will simply say “here’s what I found on the web” and give you a list of webpages. That’s not all that useful.
But recently, Apple rolled out something called Web Answers to Spotlight Search on iOS, as was first spotted by Reddit users. We can also confirm that the feature has been added to Siri at the time of writing in the U.S.
The feature essentially uses Siri intelligence to crawl various websites to find relevant information. Siri or Spotlight will then give you a straight answer based on that information.
- For example, ask Siri “how long does it take for a check to clear.” Instead of giving you a vague list of web research results, Siri gives you a straight answer based on a piece from The Balance.
- Or you can type “why do cats meow” into iOS’s Spotlight search. You should see a response from the ASPCA’s website. (Notably, if you ask Siri the same question, the assistant will read you the response directly.)
These Web Answers are, of course, very similar to Google’s Knowledge Graphs. And they’re an objectively useful addition to a digital assistant that has recently lagged behind its competitors.
As mentioned earlier, the feature only appears to be available on iOS and in the U.S. But it may be worth trying it out in the future, since Apple could launch it in other regions soon.
Notably, it looks like Apple is rolling out this small but clever feature silently and in the background. That may mean that Apple is quietly testing the feature for a broader rollout. Alternatively, we could be in the midst of the rollout already.
Either way, it’s just one part of a broader push to boost the digital assistant. Apple has made a handful of moves to boost its Siri division, from high-profile hiring to in-depth machine learning research.
But the interesting thing is that Apple appears to have made this change server-side, rather than including it in an iOS update.
That could lend credence to the idea that Apple is developing something like a “SiriOS,” allowing the company to make improvements and changes to its digital assistant separately from its hardware operating systems.
In any case, Siri is getting smarter. And that bodes well both for Apple and for its users.