Siri Held Back by Lack of Advancements in Microphone Technology

Siri on Apple WatchServices like Siri, Cortana, and Alexa are being held back by a lack of advancements in digital microphone technology, reports Bloomberg, citing the opinions of several analysts.

While processors, camera sensors, and other vital iPhone components have evolved rapidly over the course of the last several years, the same can't be said for microphones. Digital microphones still have trouble focusing on filtering out background noise and clearly detecting faraway voices, impacting device listening capabilities.

With artificial intelligence growing in popularity, however, Bloomberg says manufacturers are scrambling to improve microphone tech.

"No doubt, there is an arms race," says Peter Cooney, an analyst at SAR Insight & Consulting. The big tech companies are thinking a lot more about mics than they have for the past few years. Since the 2012 launch of the iPhone 5, "microphone performance has not really improved that much," says Marwan Boustany, an analyst with research firm IHS Markit.

Apple and other companies who rely on microphones to deliver queries to smartphones and other devices are said to want technology improvements that will make them better able to distinguish voices from other sounds at longer distances.

In a recent interview, Apple SVP of software engineering Craig Federighi said that microphones have a big impact on Siri's ability to understand commands. "It's not just the silicon," he said. "It's how many microphones we put on the device, where we place the microphones. How we tune the hardware and those mics and the software stack that does the audio processing." He said Apple's expertise at combining hardware and software gives the company "an incredible advantage" over companies just working on AI with software.

In the same interview, Apple execs said Siri's capacity to interpret commands has reportedly improved greatly following the introduction of machine learning, but in practice, Siri still often fails to hear commands or misinterprets spoken words, mistakes that could perhaps be improved with better microphone technology in the future.

Siri has long been limited to iOS devices and the Apple Watch, but with the launch of macOS Sierra this fall, the personal assistant will expand to Macs. Siri also came to the Apple TV last fall with the launch of the fourth-generation set-top box.

Top Rated Comments

Roadstar Avatar
56 months ago
Umm, how exactly is it a microphone problem when I can see a 100% correct transcription of what I just said, but Siri still fails to do anything useful with it?
Score: 77 Votes (Like | Disagree)
patrickdunn Avatar
56 months ago
Really held back Cortana, Alexa, and Google.
Score: 37 Votes (Like | Disagree)
macsrcool1234 Avatar
56 months ago
No, Siri is just stupid.
Score: 31 Votes (Like | Disagree)
GfPQqmcRKUvP Avatar
56 months ago

Umm, how exactly is it a microphone problem when I can see a 100% correct transcription of what I just said, but Siri still fails to do anything useful with it?

Exactly. Also, if industry-wide microphone technology is the limiting factor (and has stagnated since the iPhone 5) then how have Google Now and Cortana advanced so much while Siri remains close to useless?
Score: 29 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Stuey3D Avatar
56 months ago
No Siri is held back because she is stupid, she can hear what I'm saying fine.

See my post in the iOS10 forum about how she doesn't understand a simple command to "play downloaded music" I mean the section is right there in the bloody app.
Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)
AppleScruff1 Avatar
56 months ago
Siri's problems are a bit deeper than microphone technology.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

m1 chip macbook air pro

Kuo: Redesigned MacBooks With Apple Silicon to Launch in Second Half of 2021

Tuesday November 24, 2020 7:53 pm PST by
Apple plans to release additional MacBook models with Apple Silicon in the second half of 2021, according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, as part of the company's two-year transition away from Intel processors across its Mac lineup. In a research note today, obtained by MacRumors, Kuo said that these MacBook models will feature a new design. Kuo did not specify which models these will be, but he...
Apple Watc black friday 20 sale feature

Apple Black Friday 2020: Best Apple Watch Deals [Updated]

Wednesday November 25, 2020 4:01 pm PST by
Black Friday sales have begun on a variety of products, including the Apple Watch. There are quite a few deals across the Apple Watch lineup this year, including one of the lowest price we've ever seen the Apple Watch Series 3. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the...
AirPods Pro black friday 20 sale feature 2

Black Friday 2020: AirPods Pro Reach Lowest Price Ever [Updated]

Wednesday November 25, 2020 3:22 pm PST by
Black Friday has kicked off this week, and one of the first major sales for the AirPods Pro is available right now on Walmart. You can find this deal below, along with a few other solid discounts on the regular AirPods. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site...
13 16 inch macbook pro air trio

Reliable Leaker Suggests Redesigned MacBooks in 2021 Will Include Both Apple Silicon and Intel Models

Wednesday November 25, 2020 9:15 am PST by
Reliable leaker known as "L0vetodream" has today suggested on Twitter that redesigned MacBooks coming in the second half of 2021 will include models with both Apple Silicon chips and Intel processors. The brief Tweet came in response to a MacRumors article from earlier today, which outlined a report from Ming-Chi Kuo claiming that Apple plans to release redesigned MacBook models with Apple ...
mac mini macbook pro macbook air

Apple M1 Hands-On Comparison: MacBook Air vs. MacBook Pro vs. Mac Mini

Monday November 23, 2020 3:40 pm PST by
Apple's M1 Macs are out in the wild now, but ahead of the holidays, you might still be trying to figure out which one to pick up, either for yourself or as a gift for someone else. We've got all three of the new Macs available, so we thought we'd give MacRumors readers a hands-on overview of each machine in our latest YouTube video. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. ...
app store christmas icon

Apple Shutting Down App Store Connect From December 23 to December 27

Monday November 23, 2020 10:14 am PST by
Apple shuts down App Store Connect for a week around the holidays each year in an effort to give App Store staff time off from work. This year, App Store Connect will be unavailable from December 23 to December 27. With App Store Connect unavailable, Apple will not accept new apps or app updates, so all pricing changes and new app submissions need to be locked in before those dates for...
iPads black friday 20 sale feature

Apple Black Friday 2020: Best iPad Deals [Updated]

Tuesday November 24, 2020 8:51 am PST by
Black Friday is underway, and we're tracking discounts across Apple's lineup of iPads, including the current-generation 10.2-inch iPad, iPad Air, and iPad Pro. We'll be keeping this post updated as new deals appear and current ones expire, so be sure to keep checking back for the latest. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors. When you click a link and make a...
Target November Deals 1

Black Friday Spotlight: Target Begins Week-Long Sale With Deals on iPhone 12, Powerbeats Pro, and More

Monday November 23, 2020 8:07 am PST by
We've been tracking early Black Friday deals in our dedicated Black Friday Roundup, and in an effort to prepare our readers for the big shopping event we're highlighting sales store-by-store in the lead-up to November 27. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Target. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running....
new mac mini logicpro screen

M1 Macs Able to Run Up to Six External Displays Using DisplayLink

Tuesday November 24, 2020 6:53 am PST by
It is possible to run up to six external displays from the M1 Mac mini, and five external displays from the M1 MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, with the aid of DisplayPort adapters, according to YouTuber Ruslan Tulupov. This far exceeds Apple's specified limits on external displays with the M1 Macs. Apple's host of new M1 Macs are not capable of supporting as many external displays as their...
2020 apple shopping event

Apple Offering Up to $150 Gift Card With Select Products on Black Friday Through Cyber Monday

Monday November 23, 2020 2:53 am PST by
Apple has announced its annual four-day shopping event, offering customers up to a $150 Apple Store gift card with the purchase of select products between Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the United States. The gift card values in the United States are as follows: $150 for 16-inch MacBook Pro $150 for 21.5-inch iMac $50 for 13-inch MacBook Pro $50 for MacBook Air $50 for iPhone SE,...