The AirPods are the new Home button for Apple’s wireless ecosystem

The most significant development coming out of Apple’s iPhone 7 announcement was not the outgoing analog audio jack (an obvious move in line with Apple’s forward-thinking design philosophy), but rather the incoming AirPods and, in particular, their unprecedented capability as a voice input device. The AirPods, which one can assume will serve as a great audio listening device, will likely have far greater impact as the first viable interface for using Apple’s (long-maligned) voice assistant, Siri.

Mobile voice assistants like Siri and Google Now, although much improved, have continued to face two hurdles to becoming truly viable, everyday usable experiences. First, they lack an instant and reliable interaction point — you must first pull out your phone, press a button, and then initiate your command, or you are required to recite an invoking phrase, like “OK Google” which may or may not work and can make you look awkward to boot. Second, they are susceptible to interference from background noise, rendering them useless in loud environments and discouraging their use for interactions requiring privacy in public spaces.

Assuming we develop a habit of keeping them in our ears throughout the day (many of us already do this with our Beats headphones or current EarPods), the new AirPods are designed to resolve these issues. With the onboard W1 processor, a voice accelerometer, and beamforming microphones, the AirPods are designed to accurately detect when you’re speaking and filter out all background noise. You‘ll simply need to tap on your AirPods then issue your request to Siri, and, assuming Apple’s design works, a softly spoken command should suffice.

Combined with the significant enhancements to Siri that Apple is bringing into its latest operating systems, iOS for mobile and MacOS for laptops and desktops, the AirPods should make Siri feel more useful, more often. You can imagine pausing your music and tapping your AirPods to ask Siri to call you an Uber rather than pulling your phone out of your pocket. Or asking what your calendar looks like this afternoon, or having that note you jotted down earlier today dictated back to you.

The AirPods appear to be the capstone to years of investment Apple has been making in Siri. Since Siri’s initial launch as a default feature in the iPhone 4S in 2011, not only have her voice recognition capabilities improved but she has been woven into the entire Apple ecosystem. The Apple Watch makes heavy use of Siri as a way to navigate and access basic functions. Last year’s launch of the new Apple TV included deep integration of Siri as a core UI mechanism for navigating movies and music. MacOS Sierra, due out this fall, also puts Siri front-and-center as a core tool for accessing information on your computer. Clearly, Apple is positioning Siri to be one of the primary ways in which we interact with all of our devices, and the AirPods appear to be the glue to tie our voices to our ecosystem of devices.

One of the notable features of the AirPods is its ability to seamlessly pair with all of your Apple devices. You should be able to ask Siri to find a file on your MacBook, start a timer on your Watch, and pull up iMessage on your phone, without worrying about which device you’re connected to.

Significantly, in iOS 10, Apple is also launching a Siri API for developers to integrate Siri into their apps. Apps like Uber, Spotify, Amazon, Waze, and Strava will be accessible through voice commands, making them easier to access and more useful, likely driving more app usage and greater adoption of Siri. Rather than opening up your iPhone and scrolling through screens of icons, wouldn’t it be easier just to tap your AirPods and quickly compose a tweet, open up Instagram, or run a search on Amazon?

With rumors already circulating that next year’s major iPhone revamp will do away with the home button completely, it seems to be the natural progression of things that the AirPods will become the new home button for the Apple ecosystem of devices.

Michael Quoc is the founder of Dealspotr, a real-time deal sharing platform that enables shoppers to find working coupons for things to buy with 50% greater success than any other site or app. Michael was formerly the Director of New Products at Yahoo, where he spearheaded many of the company’s product innovation efforts.

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Founder Demand.io. Working at the intersection of e-commerce, decentralization, creator economics & conversational SEO. Prepping for #web3.

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Michael Quoc

Michael Quoc

Founder Demand.io. Working at the intersection of e-commerce, decentralization, creator economics & conversational SEO. Prepping for #web3.