Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

If It Ain’t Fixed, Break It

In iOS 9, Siri was updated to provide haptic feedback instead of audible feedback upon activation, by way of pulsing the vibrator in a similar pattern to the familiar “ding-ding” sound. I really liked this change; it felt more personal and connected.

So you can imagine my surprise — after upgrading to an iPhone 6S — to not have any feedback upon holding down on the home button. I figured that it must be a bug in the integration between the Taptic Engine and the lack of audio feedback,1 and I planned on filing a Radar.

So did Daniel Jalkut, until he figured out why this change was made:

Apple “broke” the haptic feedback associated with invoking Siri, by “fixing” the problem that there had ever been any latency before. Have an iPhone 6s or 6s Plus? Go ahead, I dare you: hold down the home button and start talking to Siri. You will not escape its attention. It’s ready to go when you are, so it would be obnoxious of it to impose any contrived delay or to give taptic feedback that is uncalled for. Siri has become a more perfect assistant, and we have to change our habits to accommodate this.

Jalkut is right: this is way better. The lack of feedback is disconcerting at first — if you’re like me, you want some way for Siri to tell you that it’s ready to accept input. But it never really comes, apart from a visual on-screen indication via the histogram.

This somewhat mimics the Watch: if you raise your wrist and say “Hey, Siri” and then proceed to pause as you wait for the words “Hey, Siri” to appear onscreen, the request will likely be sent prematurely. The Watch is slow enough while activating Siri that it creates a pause in which it thinks you’re done speaking. I’ve learned to just plough ahead and hope that Siri catches up, which it does most often.

(The times that it doesn’t — whether it’s due to the speed of the Watch, the connection status of Siri, its fudging of dictation, or whatever — are still very frustrating. It is those times that you’re reminded that it doesn’t matter how natural-language Siri feels, it’s still software.)

  1. The Taptic Engine is somewhat connected to the speaker.

    If you have a 6S, there’s a cool way to feel this by selecting Sounds from Settings, then choosing Text Tone. Pick any of Apple’s tones and notice how the vibration matches the audio. This is made possible by the new “Synchronized” vibration pattern, selected by default. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work with third-party ringtones. ↩︎