You can now ask Siri what the news is, thanks to a new feature that has cropped up in the iOS 11.2.5 beta. When given the prompt, “Hey Siri, give me the news”, Siri will stream a daily news podcast created by The Washington Post, CNN, NPR, or Fox News, depending on your preference. The new feature was first reported by 9to5Mac.
Siri’s audio news briefing feature, which comes into play in situations in which you are not looking at a display (e.g. when you are using headphones or CarPlay), was likely developed with Apple’s forthcoming HomePod smart speaker in mind. The HomePod has a LED touch surface instead of a full display, meaning users will have to rely primarily on voice commands to interact with it. When prompted with the Home button rather than a voice command, Siri will pull up Apple News or Safari search results in order to give you the day’s headlines.
In November of last year, Apple delayed the release of the HomePod past the holiday season, announcing that shipping would begin in early 2018: “We can’t wait for people to experience HomePod, Apple’s breakthrough wireless speaker for the home, but we need a little more time before it’s ready for our customers. We’ll start shipping in the US, UK and Australia in early 2018.”
Many seriously question whether the HomePod, which has been in development for over three years now, can compete with the likes of Amazon Echo. While the HomePod is expected to boast a high-end speaker system, Siri is widely regarded as an inferior digital assistant compared to Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.
Amazon’s Echo already has a similar news briefing feature powered by Alexa that offers a broader array of options. Users can customize that feature to have Alexa read headlines aloud or stream news podcasts, whereas Siri’s news briefing is limited to four podcasts.