Can Siri’s Voicemail Transcription Help Apple Pull Ahead?

Apple is reportedly testing a feature that would involve Siri answering calls and transcribing voicemails, and then sending them to you into text messages. Could this help Apple get ahead of its competitors and ultimately dominate voice search?apple-siri

Last week, CNN Money asked the four major digital assistants – Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, Google Now and Amazon’s Alexa – a series of questions as if interviewing them for jobs. While Siri was deemed “the best at understanding natural language,” the predictive Google Now was ultimately deemed the winner. However, CNN also acknowledged that with the widespread use projected for Windows 10, not to mention the fact that it’s compatible with multiple companies’ devices, Cortana may be the most widely-used in the next five years.

The voicemail feature is rumored to be a part of the iOS 10 mobile operating system, which will be released next year. Antonio Casanova, director at SEO for Starcom Worldwide, thinks the voicemail transcription feature could help Apple pull ahead of its competitors. Google’s version of the feature has garnered complaints for inaccuracy, though the search giant reported a few weeks back that transcription errors were down 49 percent.

However, Casanova considers Apple stronger on the app front, which he thinks will be the key to voice search’s future.

“One key step that will be necessary for voice-based actions to be fully adopted is the ability to push and pull information across different apps – search mail, engine or text messages; enter text on a note or email; ask an app to perform a certain function – and I see Apple ahead of the game on that front now,” Casanova says. “In general, as communication between apps, including search engine to app flow, improves, I believe people will spend more and more time on their apps, seamlessly jumping from one to another.”

He adds that a more widespread voicemail transcription can increase adoption for other voice-based actions, such as search and texting, particularly among smartphones’ older users.

On the other hand, Michael Dowd, chief technologist at GroupM Next, doesn’t think the potential feature will have much of an impact on voice search.

“I think it might be a showpiece to compare [Siri] to Google, but I don’t know that this is putting them ahead in the game, unless there’s a concurrent increase in the accuracy of Siri,” Dowd says. “It’s great that Apple is doing this, but I’m a little worried about an Apple Maps situation where they put a lot of developing time in trying to maintain parity with Google and it ended up backfiring terribly.

“Killer apps for voice recognition are there somewhere. We already have speech-to-text messaging; those things aren’t as well-used as the companies would like them to be,” he adds. “I think it’s all about accuracy and seamlessness, and with very few exceptions, it’s going to be hard to get people to exchange quality for novelty.”

Dowd believes that despite CNN‘s decision to “hire” Google Now, Alexa has the most potential to change the voice search game. Though its digital assistant is less sophisticated than the others, Amazon does the best job of showcasing what a connected home can look like, in his opinion.

While he thinks Cortana is great technology, Dowd points out that voice searches and voice commands are better suited for mobile devices. Alexa, which activated in the background every time he spoke its name, is part of a speaker, which is more palatable than a desktop for tasks like controlling lights, alarms and music.

“I like [Cortana] but I don’t currently walk around my house talking to the PC. I have become accustomed to wherever I am in the house, being able to say something, and set alarms and timers,” Dowd says. “The idea of ambient talking is relatively new and I think Amazon has products that best define that.”

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