Siri Is Catching Up to Alexa and Google Assistant in an Important Way

Look, Siri has its issues. But at today's WWDC 2018 keynote, Apple announced "Shortcuts," a feature that will make Apple's virtual assistant more convenient to use.

With Shortcuts, users will be able to program a phrase of their choice to prompt Siri to take an action, or series of actions.

For example, saying the word "Travel Plans" could prompt Siri to pull your flight and hotel info from the Kayak app and relay it to you. Or "Good morning" could simultaneously set a reminder, text a friend, and activate Apple Music. It'll be a quick way to access data from, for example, a travel or cooking app while you're busy and your hands are full.

Setting up Shortcuts will be simple. Within apps, an option to "Add to Siri" will appear. If you tap it, you'll be prompted to record your phrase of choice, which will become the phrase that app is linked to.

You'll also be able to create Shortcuts with multiple tasks within a dedicated Shortcuts app.

Siri will also suggest that you add appropriate skills to your Shortcuts. For example, if you're going to a movie, Siri can suggest that you put your phone on "Do Not Disturb" mode. If you're late to a meeting, Siri can suggest that you call into the meeting or text its organizer.

Sound familiar? Siri's rivals, Google Assistant and Amazon's Alexa, both offer Routines features that allow you to tie multiple actions to one trigger phrase. Since March and last November respectively, Assistant and Alexa have allowed users to, for example, program "Good morning" to turn on lights, start your coffee maker, and launch Spotify.

This feature will also hit close to home for users of popular automation tool Workflow, which allows users to create and launch lists of tasks for their phones to accomplish.

Siri has historically lagged behind Alexa and Assistant when it comes to integration, skills, and functionality. But this feature should make it more convenient for iPhone users to use Siri, and encourage them to take advantage of voice commands.

It will also give users certain advantages that Alexa and Google Assistant don't offer. It'll be available on the Apple Watch for one, and can integrate Apple-exclusive services such as Animoji and Apple Music.

Shortcuts will roll out, alongside a slew of additional new features, with Apple's new iOS 12, as well as the upcoming watchOS. The operating system will be available on devices dating back to 2013.

Monica Chin is a writer at The Verge, covering computers. Previously, she was a staff writer for Tom's Guide, where she wrote about everything from artificial intelligence to social media and the internet of things to. She had a particular focus on smart home, reviewing multiple devices. In her downtime, you can usually find her at poetry slams, attempting to exercise, or yelling at people on Twitter.