Siri's iOS 14 makeover gives you some of your iPhone screen back

The new, more compact Siri interface won't block your entire iPhone screen whenever you pull it up.

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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Ry Crist
2 min read
Screenshot by Sarah Tew/CNET

At a virtual, pandemic-appropriate version of its yearly Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple on Monday got a chance to show off the latest improvements to its iOS mobile operating system -- including some brand-new functionality for Siri, the company's AI voice assistant.

For starters, iPhone and iPad users who download the new iOS 14 update will find that Siri looks a little different when you activate it. Whereas before, Siri would take up your whole screen and obscure whatever you'd been looking at, now the assistant will pop up as a minimized presence at the bottom of your screen. Ask about something like the weather, and you'll see a banner with the info you seek at the top of your screen.

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Ask Siri about the weather and you'll see a banner at the top of your screen with the info you need.

Screenshot by Sarah Tew/CNET

"This is especially great when there's information you want to reference on screen," said Craig Federighi, Apple senior vice president of Software Engineering. "For example, you could ask Siri to add to your grocery list."

Another new upgrade in iOS 14 is a bigger bank of responses to common questions. That includes over 20 times more facts than Siri had access to three years ago, and also answers curated from outside sources on the internet, which might help Siri catch up to Google Assistant on the general knowledge front. iOS 14 users will also be able to ask Siri to send quick voice messages and to help with dictation and translation.

New Siri features are a staple at WWDC, where the company likes to flex its software-making muscles. Last year, the company announced better Siri personalization and messaging features, as well as advanced CarPlay integrations that allow drivers to use Siri with third-party apps like Pandora and Waze.

First introduced in 2011, Siri uses voice recognition and natural language processing to respond to user questions and commands, and it's a core feature built into every iPhone and iPad that the company sells, as well as the HomePod smart speaker. Siri started as a unique, state-of-the-art means of interacting with your mobile device and telling it to carry out common tasks with simple voice commands, but it soon found fresh competition in the form of Google Assistant and Amazon's Alexa.

Watch this: Apple updates Siri with new UI and adds support for more languages.

Now, voice assistants like those are entrenched as pivotal gatekeepers to an ambient internet that fills your home or travels with you in the car or in your pocket. And, like Google and Amazon, Apple has a vested interest in demonstrating that its voice platform is the most compelling.

"Siri's helping so many of you, with a staggering 25 billion requests, each month," said Yael Garten, Apple's director of Siri Data Science and Engineering. "And Siri's getting more helpful every day."