Siri learns to read incoming iMessages in iOS 13

She'll also sound more human.

Ry Crist Senior Editor / Reviews - Labs
Originally hailing from Troy, Ohio, Ry Crist is a writer, a text-based adventure connoisseur, a lover of terrible movies and an enthusiastic yet mediocre cook. A CNET editor since 2013, Ry's beats include smart home tech, lighting, appliances, broadband and home networking.
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  • 10 years product testing experience with the CNET Home team
Ry Crist
3 min read

Siri will soon announce incoming messages via your AirPods as soon as you receive them. Once she reads the message, you'll be able to voice an immediate reply.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The keynote address at Apple's yearly Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) just wrapped up in San Jose, California. Along with new Mac Pros and new software updates for the iPhone, the iPad, the Apple Watch and Apple TV, we saw a couple of upgrades for Siri in the jam-packed presentation, too.

With so much ground to cover, Apple didn't spend a whole lot of time running through them. Here's a quick recap in case you missed them:

  • Apple Watch users will be able to ask Siri to search for WatchOS apps in the device's new dedicated app store.
  • Siri will be able to read incoming messages through your AirPods as soon as they arrive, with the option for you to reply immediately with your voice.
  • Siri will use voice recognition to personalize HomePod responses for the specific user talking to her.
  • You'll be able to ask Siri to stream from a library of thousands of radio station via TuneIn and iHeartRadio.
  • Siri Shortcuts will now be featured as a preloaded app in iOS 13.
  • Neural Text to Speech (TTS) will use a new, completely software-based approach to making Siri sound more natural, particularly while reading long sentences.

The brevity of the list might seem surprising given all of the attention that Amazon and Google have gotten for their respective AI assistants in recent years -- not to mention the fact that Siri is widely seen as lagging behind both of them. Then again, that's only because Apple hasn't seemed to see Siri as a top priority for the past few years. This year wasn't much different.

WWDC 2019: A quick visual recap of Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference keynote

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For instance, take the Siri-controlled Apple HomePod smart speaker. After the breakout success of the Alexa-powered Amazon Echo Dot and the Google Assistant-equipped Google Home Mini -- each of which sells for just $50 -- the potential for a smaller, cheaper version of the HomePod (and, arguably, the need for it) seemed obvious.

For a while, rumors were circulating that such a product was indeed in development, potentially under the Beats brand. But as last year wrapped, there was still no sign of it -- no HomePod Mini, no HomePod Nano, no HomePod nothin'.

Instead of a $50 HomePod (or even a $99 HomePod), we got a modest price cut for the one-and-only, full-size HomePod, bringing the cost down from $349 to $299. Apple also updated the speaker's software, enabling users to place and receive calls, manage multiple timers, search for songs by lyric, and locate missing iPhones. 

Notably, Alexa and the Google Assistant could already do all of that -- and the same could largely be said of the new Siri features today at WWDC.

Apple's annual developer convention kicked off Monday at the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, California. The confab is in its 30th year, and it's the third year for Apple to hold its developer conference in San Jose. The city -- the third biggest in California and 10th largest in the US -- is about 50 miles south of San Francisco and only about 10 miles from Apple's headquarters in Cupertino.

WWDC is where Apple details its newest software and services that will arrive on devices later in the year. The company may be best known for its hardware, but the seamless integration of its hardware with its software is what sets Apple apart from rivals. Apple's ability to control every aspect of its products -- something that began when Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak founded the company in 1976 -- has been key in making it the most powerful company in tech.

In July of 2018, Apple hired John Giannandrea, a longtime Google AI boss, to be its new chief of machine learning and AI strategy. Giannandrea reports directly to  Apple CEO Tim Cook, and is responsible for both Siri and Apple's Core ML machine-learning tech. Despite the new Siri features, he didn't make an appearance at WWDC this year.

CNET's Shara Tibken contributed to this story.