Apple VP Phil Schiller Implies Voice-Activated Smart Speakers Could Benefit From a Screen

Gadgets 360 published an interview with Apple SVP of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller this week that could shed some light on Apple's plans for a dedicated Siri-based voice-assistant for the home. Rumors have swirled in recent weeks about Apple's plans to unveil an Amazon Echo-like smart connected speaker, possibly as early as WWDC in June, so Schiller's thoughts on the topic could potentially relate to the way Apple is approaching the design of its Echo rival.

During the interview, Schiller demurred when asked what he thought about Amazon's Echo and Google Home, but his comments clearly imply that the two speakers leave a lot to be desired: "My mother used to have a saying that if you don't have something nice to say, say nothing at all." More revealingly perhaps, Schiller took pains to distinguish between different usage scenarios for voice assistants: handsfree, such as while driving, when simple voice-activation is convenient – but limited – and most other occasions when the availability of a screen is preferred.

phil schiller

"We think it's important that there are times when it's convenient to simply use your voice when you are not able to use the screen," said Schiller. "For example, if you're driving [and] you want Siri to work for you without having to look at the screen, that's the best thing. Or maybe you're across the room, and you want to ask Siri to change the song you're listening to."

So there's many moments where a voice assistant is really beneficial, but that doesn't mean you'd never want a screen. So the idea of not having a screen, I don't think suits many situations. For example if I'm looking for directions and I'm using Maps, Siri can tell me those directions by voice and that's really convenient but it's even better if I can see that map, and I can see what turns are coming up, and I can see where there is congestion, I understand better my route, and what I'm going to do.

Schiller continued his argument for voice assistants with screens using the example of photography and photo sharing. "With all the social networking apps that are now embracing photos more and more, well, it doesn't work really so great in voice-only assistants," said Schiller. The same goes for games, he said, calling them the "biggest category of all".

I have yet to see any voice-only games that, for me, are nearly as fun as the one that I play on my screen. And so I think voice assistants are incredibly powerful, their intelligence is going to grow, they're gonna do more for us, but the role of the screen is gonna remain very important to all of this.

Schiller ended his comments on the topic by calling the dual role of voice-assistants "an interesting discussion", especially with respect to "when each is appropriate, and what they can do in our lives".

It's unclear how Schiller's comments fit in with the recent uptick in rumors that Apple is working on a Siri-based smart speaker for the home. Often-reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities has said the product will double up as an AirPlay speaker and feature a custom W1 Bluetooth chip for easy pairing, while Sonny Dickson has suggested the device will run a variation of iOS and have a Mac Pro-like concave top with built-in controls. However, none have claimed Apple is working to integrate a screen into the device.

By contrast, recent alleged leaks have suggested Amazon's next-generation Echo could have a built-in touchscreen and camera with the potential to support phone and video calls.

In the Gadgets 360 interview quoted from above, Schiller also spoke about other topics, including Apple's Swift programming language, and the company's app subscription model as it relates to developers and users of the App Store. You can read the full interview here.

Related Roundup: HomePod
Buyer's Guide: HomePod (Buy Now)

Popular Stories

Apple WWDC24 Apple Intelligence hero 240610

Apple Explains iPhone 15 Pro Requirement for Apple Intelligence

Wednesday June 19, 2024 4:48 am PDT by
With iOS 18, iPadOS 18, and macOS Sequoia, Apple is introducing a new personalized AI experience called Apple Intelligence that uses on-device, generative large-language models to enhance the user experience across iPhone, iPad, and Mac. These new AI features require Apple's latest iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max models to work, while only Macs and iPads with M1 or later chips will...
Apple Intelligence General Feature

Apple Intelligence Features Not Coming to European Union at Launch Due to DMA

Friday June 21, 2024 9:44 am PDT by
Apple today said that European customers will not get access to the Apple Intelligence, iPhone Mirroring, and SharePlay Screen Sharing features that are coming to the iPhone, iPad, and Mac this September due to regulatory issues related to the Digital Markets Act. In a statement to Financial Times, Apple said that there will be a delay as it works to figure out how to make the new...
iPhone 16 Pro Max Generic Feature 2

5 Biggest Changes Rumored for iPhone 16 Pro Max

Wednesday June 19, 2024 5:00 am PDT by
Given Apple's rumored plan to add an all-new high-end tier to its iPhone 17 series in 2025, this could be the year for Apple to bring its boldest "Pro Max" model to the table — the kind of iPhone 16 upgrade that stands tall above its siblings, both figuratively and literally. If you have been holding out for the iPhone 16 Pro Max, here are five of the biggest changes rumored to be coming...
Apple Vision Pro 2 Feature 2

Apple Reportedly Suspends Work on Vision Pro 2

Tuesday June 18, 2024 8:17 am PDT by
Apple has suspended work on the second-generation Vision Pro headset to singularly focus on a cheaper model, The Information reports. Apple was widely believed to have plans to divide its Vision product line into two models, with one "Pro" model and one lower-cost standard model. The company is said to have been deprioritizing the next Vision Pro headset over the past year, gradually...
back to school 2024

Apple's 2024 Back to School Sale Launches, Up to $150 Gift Card With Mac or iPad

Thursday June 20, 2024 4:29 am PDT by
Apple has launched its annual Back to School promotion for college students in the United States. This year's promotion offers a free Apple gift card with the purchase of an eligible Mac or iPad. Apple is also offering students 20% off AppleCare+ plans. Apple is offering a $150 gift card with any new MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, or iMac, and a $100 gift card with the purchase of any new M4 iPad ...
iOS 17

Apple Releases First Public Beta of iOS 17.6

Thursday June 20, 2024 10:18 am PDT by
Apple today seeded the first betas of upcoming iOS 17.6 and iPadOS 17.6 updates to public beta testers, with the betas coming a few days after the initial iOS and iPadOS 17.6 developer betas. Public beta testers can get the beta by opening up the Settings app, going to the Software Update section, tapping on the "Beta Updates" option, and toggling on the iOS 17 or iPadOS 17 Public Beta....

Top Rated Comments

otternonsense Avatar
93 months ago
Here's a tip, Phil: fix Siri first, make grandiose comments later.
Score: 45 Votes (Like | Disagree)
kodos Avatar
93 months ago
My mother used to have a saying that if you don't have something nice to say, say nothing at all
Stay classy, Phil. Cannot find a single nice thing to say about them? Here's one - they are both better than Siri.
Score: 28 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Aston441 Avatar
93 months ago
Well of course. How else could Siri show me Some Results I Found On The Web because she is a brain damaged retard and can't do anything besides Bing searches?

Alexa stands on her own.

Siri will need to be supported by a big (expensive) screen or she'll fall down. I'm feeling a thick $499 iPad with a big speaker coming on here lol!
Score: 21 Votes (Like | Disagree)
haydn! Avatar
93 months ago
So basically what he just described is an iPad, with "hey Siri" enabled, stood on a dock on a shelf in someone's lounge. #innovation
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
BruceEBonus Avatar
93 months ago
2017 really IS the POGO (Put Out Or Get Out) year for Apple.

A LOT of smoke and mirrors last year and this year and diversionary tactics employed.

Samsung have sold and are outselling the iPhone. Google is winning the AI war. MS winning the laptop war and Apple still having a go with their old iPads. But with tablet sales falling globally and Apple neglecting their original Mac market - 2017 has to be their year to prove they've not gone laz(ier) and actually bring something out that will make them stand out from the competition instead of just charity meals and RED paint schemes. Their shares keep rising despite years of stagnation. Will the name and glory years hold out on that alone? I say not. 2017 - Apple's POGO year. You read it here first.

("Yeah, right. Gerroff!"-MR Ed.)
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
4jasontv Avatar
93 months ago
This is Phil not getting it. Alexa works because the user is home. As soon as you step out of the house you risk being rude and annoying. For the car, where it's ok to talk to yourself, there is some value for a screen. On the street, in an elevator, in a cubicle, on the bus? These are places where it is never ok to use a voice assistant. Screen or no screen. At home though, where no one cares if you say the same thing five times, voice assistance works.

But the real reason none of this crap is any good is because people don't actually speak correctly. We say the wrong name or word all the time. Teach siri how to tell when I've corrected myself. Make sure she understands the difference between when I pause to think and when I'm actually done. Filler words like, um, hmm, yeah, like, and uhh shouldn't be an issue. Siri doesn't understand what I'm saying because she expects me to talk like a robot; it's not natural to always be purposeful, linear, and consistant.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)