Services & Software

Apple may enlist Siri to answer your phone calls

The voice assistant would answer your calls with customized messages and then transcribe your voice mail into text, says Business Insider.

Will Siri be adding voice mail transcription to its list of skills? Josh Miller/CNET

Apple reportedly is cooking up a voice mail and transcription service that would use Siri as your own personalized answering machine.

The Cupertino, California-based electronics giant is testing a voice mail service in which Siri, Apple's digital assistant on the iPhone and iPad, would respond to incoming phone calls with a personal message if you're unavailable or just don't feel like chatting, Business Insider said on Monday. A new service dubbed iCloud Voicemail would transcribe your voice mail into text that you can simply read at your leisure.

Siri is hardly the only voice assistant in town and faces competition from two other major rivals. Google Now is a fixture on devices running Google's Android software, but it is also available for iPhones and iPads. And Microsoft's Cortana has spread its wings beyond Windows mobile phones onto Windows 10 computers and tablets. Cortana will also be available as an iOS app later this year. So Apple needs to keep innovating Siri to show that it can do more than just respond to your questions and take your requests. Voice mail seems like a good niche for Siri, assuming the transcription is accurate and reliable.

The service would work as follows, according to Business Insider. Siri would answer your incoming calls, but not with just generic messages. The iCloud Voice mail could share information with certain people about where you are and why you can't answer the phone right now. The voice mails would be sent to Apple servers where Siri would then convert your voice messages into text and display them on your iPhone for you to read, just as simply as you'd read a text message or email.

Employees at Apple are currently testing the new iCloud service and Siri integration with an eye toward launching it sometime in 2016, Business Insider said, adding that it first heard about Apple employees using the service several weeks ago. Assuming the information is accurate, that means we may be able to tap into the service when Apple's next mobile operating system, iOS 10, rolls out later next year.

Currently, you can tell Siri to play your voice messages so you don't have to manually trigger them. But viewing your voice mail as text would be easier than having to play and replay them in their initial audio format. Google already offers a voice mail transcription service through its Google Voice service, so this is one more area in which Apple could compete with the search giant, at least among iPhone owners.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.