Apple is giving third-party developers more direct access to Siri (AAPL)

With the launch of iOS 13 last week, third-party developers now have deeper access to Apple's Siri voice assistant. Users can interact with third-party apps directly through Siri, whereas before they could only use the voice assistant to launch third-party apps through Siri Shortcuts. Some developers have already taken advantage of the new rules: Siri on iOS 13 provides navigation through third-party platforms such as Google Maps and Waze, and plays music through Pandora, according to The Verge.

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Apple services will now have less-exclusive access to Siri, which may have been a pain point for users. Siri steered users to Apple services, even when they were less popular than competitors' offerings — for instance, Siri provided navigation through Apple Maps, despite the service holding 11% market share in 2018 compared with Google Maps' 67% share, according to a 2018 survey from The Manifest.

Furthermore, Spotify alleged that Apple Music unfairly benefited from Siri defaulting to Apple Music. Consumer perception of Siri likely suffered due to this restrictive access: iPhone X owners reported a 97% satisfaction rate with the device, but a comparatively low 20% satisfaction rate with Siri, according to a 2018 survey from Creative Strategies.

Siri functionality should improve with third-party development, creating new potential revenue streams for Apple. In opening up the voice assistant, Apple can expand and improve its presence in connected cars and smart homes. Users may be more likely to utilize Siri for hands-free navigation now that it works with a wider range of map and audio services.

This could bolster Apple's CarPlay as it faces an increasing threat from Google, which just partnered with GM to embed the Android automotive platform directly in vehicles through 2021. Siri improvements could also help Apple catch up in the smart speaker market: It held just 5% of the US market in Q2 2019, compared with Amazon's 70% and Google's 25%. Siri-enabled smart speakers failed to gain momentum after early reviews reported its inability to match basic functionality offered by Alexa and Google Assistant.

Apple was once a leader in opening its ecosystem to developers, but it must now catch up with Amazon and Google to broaden voice assistant functionality. Apple found great success and ultimately revolutionized the handset industry when its App Store was open to third-party developers upon its debut in 2008. But in the era of voice assistants, Apple will have to play the role of follower rather than leader.

Amazon offered over 90,000 Alexa Skills worldwide from third-party developers as of the first half of 2019. And with the help of third-party developers, Google grew its Google Assistant Actions by over 250% between the start of 2018 and 2019, bringing the total to 4,253. Third-party developers will certainly be attracted to the massive base of iPhone users, but Apple will need to strengthen its presence across other devices to increase Siri utilization. This could bolster Apple's ecosystem, promote device sales, and boost service revenue via subscriptions through its App Store.

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