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Apple expands Siri to work with third-party apps

All third-party developers will be able to integrate Siri into their apps so you can ask Apple's voice assistant to do much more than just answer simple questions.

Siri will now be able to support any third-party iOS app.

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Siri will soon be able to let you control a much wider range of apps via your voice.

At its Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday, Apple revealed that it will open up Siri to play ball with any third-party mobile app.

Apple is launching a Siri software development kit that developers can use to integrate the voice assistant with their own apps. Depending on which developers take the bait, you'll potentially be able to play a tune from Spotify, order a pizza through the Domino's app or buy a book through Barnes & Noble, all by speaking to Siri.

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Instead of just answering your questions -- or sometimes not answering them -- Siri will be better able to directly take care of specific tasks for you across a large lineup of services. You can say things like "WeChat Nancy that I'll be five minutes late," and the WeChat app will handle your message. You'll be able to send payments, search for photos, hail a car ride and do more with the right supported app. The new SDK will open up a much wider world for Siri, for app developers and for users.

Voice assistants have been catching on, offering a hands-free and more natural way to ask questions, find information and manage our busy lives. But now they're moving beyond just replying to simple questions and tracking down information. Through such voice-activated speakers as Amazon's Echo, you can order a pizza, hail a car ride, or have your dinner delivered. Though Siri was one of the first voice assistants, Apple now finds itself having to catch up to the competition.

Siri is also turning into a bit of a mind reader. When you utter a command or ask a question of Siri, you may not always know exactly how you want to phrase it. Using a feature called QuickType, Siri will try to predict what you want to say next. Siri also knows what you're doing and where you are. As such, it can help answer emails or messages from other people. For example, if someone asks where you are, Siri can suggest your location and even include directions.

Currently, only Apple's built-in apps and a small number of third-party services such as Yelp work with Siri. Asking the voice assistant to "call me an Uber ride," for example, brings back a list of search results on how to request an Uber ride.

Microsoft and Facebook have created "bots" you can chat with to do things like order flowers. Though its Echo device, Amazon's Alexa voice assistant has become a popular way to control things in your home, play music and even order food through voice commands.

Reporting its first decline in iPhone sales last quarter, Apple needs to come up with more innovative features both for its phones and its iOS mobile operating system. Voice assistants may not be the top reason people buy a smartphone. But beefing up Siri to better manage your life and take care of specific tasks via just your voice could persuade more consumers to opt for an iPhone.

The new and improved Siri will appear in iOS 10 come September. It's also found its way to Apple's newest Mac operating system, dubbed MacOS Sierra.