What we are thinking about

At VoiceLabs we have immersed ourselves in the world of Voice-first applications. The market is early and evolving daily, and to evolve the world it is critical for Amazon, Apple, Google (and maybe Microsoft) to get the details right.

We, like most of the nerd-world:

My co-founder, Alex Linares, and I were brainstorming today when we compared our iPhones and uncovered that:

All iPhone 6’s require your phone to be plugged in to ask ‘Hey Siri’

iPhone 6 needs to be plugged in for Siri always on

iPhone 6 needs to be plugged in for Siri always on

Okay, okay, this might not seem like a big deal, but here is why it is. One of the most delightful advantages of Voice-first interfaces is they are ‘always on,’ i.e. you shouldn’t have to press a button or open up an app to start using it. That is one reason the Amazon Echo is innovative and has been a sleeper hit for Amazon.

Once consumers get trained to expect Voice applications to be at their beck and call, they will reject any interface that requires them to fiddle with their phone or device. I started using ‘Hey Siri’ with my iPhone in the car, and it works decently well.

With iPhone 6, let’s say I am in the car and my iPhone is in the middle console (PSA: EYES ON THE ROAD, don’t text and drive.). I want to call someone, or ask for directions, or find a restaurant close by.

With iPhone 6’s, I have to pull to the side of the road, find a car charger, plug it in, then say ‘Hey Siri’ 

This slight friction point matters, because with Voice-first interfaces, the entry needs to be seamless.

Having Siri ‘always on’ is battery draining, and battery life for the iPhone is a BIG DEAL.

It felt like we could finally use a phone for a full day untethered, and then Pokemon Go had to arrive and totally crush our battery saving soul. I’m sorry, but if Pikachu causes me to miss a critical work call, I call it having my priorities straight.

I am hoping a friend from Apple is reading this and can explain what’s up, and there is a good chance this requirement will be gone once they find a more power efficient way to enable always-on Siri, but requiring the iPhone 6’s to be tethered will meaningfully hamper Siri adoption, or dramatically cause consumers to buy new iPhones. Apple hopes for the latter.

At the very least, Step 1 of me sitting in my car will be to plug in my iPhone.