Apple Starts to Play Nicely with Competitors, Spotify and WhatsApp Get Better Siri Support

Apple’s Siri is becoming a little more open to third-party apps. The voice assistant will allow users to play music from Spotify and to be able to send messages from apps that are not Apple products.

Music and Messages

iOS device users can now ask Siri to play a song, album, or playlist from Spotify as long as their request ends, “with Spotify.” Siri will still play from Apple Music by default unless Spotify is specified. That’s a significant improvement from the previous version, where Siri could open and pause or play Spotify, but not actually search through it for specific tracks and albums.

Siri has allowed third-party apps to send messages for a while now, using the same command formula that Spotify now offers. But, an upcoming iteration of iOS 13 will simplify that process by making frequently used third-party messaging services the default choice. If someone always uses WhatsApp on their iPhone to message a particular friend, Siri will automatically start messages in WhatsApp rather than switching to iMessage whenever the user forgets to request WhatsApp. Messaging app developers will need to enable the new function, and Siri will pick the service it defaults to based on how often interactions with a specific contact use that app.

The Domain Game

Siri’s capabilities for third-party apps have been limited to eleven activities, known as domains. Sending messages and payments, making calls, and operating car controls are all on the list, but it’s far from comprehensive. Allowing Siri to search through Spotify and other media apps isn’t technically a new domain, though it operates functionally the same. Siri’s previous limitations are one reason Spotify filed a complaint with the European Commission about Apple in March. Spotify claimed that limiting the kinds of apps supported by Siri is one way Apple uses control of the iOS to stifle competition. Even with the change, Siri still lacks the option of making Spotify or another media app the default choice, a feature Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa both include.

App developers have increasingly pressured Apple to give them more access to Siri. The lack of an OS explicitly for Siri continues to restrain developers who want to incorporate voice controls. As a result, there aren’t many third-party iOS apps using Siri even as the Alexa skill count grows beyond 100,000 and Google Assistant offers 4,000 third-party Actions. Before WWDC this year there were hints that Apple planned on extending the list of domains, perhaps even doubling it. There are no official plans as of today for Siri to offer more third-party features, but Spotify and the new messaging defaults could indicate that a bigger expansion for Siri is indeed in the near future.


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