Apple has overhauled its virtual assistant Siri to control third-party apps without users having to open them.
A new Shortcuts function allows device owners to assign their own phrases to different commands.
In addition, a single command, such as “I’m heading home” can be set to trigger multiple actions.
Although Apple was one of the first tech firms to offer a smart assistant, Siri is widely seen to have fallen behind its rivals in recent years.
Its new abilities appear to be an attempt to expand its capabilities without requiring the kind of personal data-sharing that Android requires to get the best out of Google Assistant.
“Voice assistants like Siri are critical because they are becoming a vehicle to a service,” commented Ben Stanton, an analyst at the consultancy Canalys.
“If you think about booking taxis, ordering food or using social media, voice ultimately has the potential to overthrow today’s app stores.
“That’s a huge opportunity and why there’s so much money being invested into voice assistants.”
Siri’s new functionality appears to build on Workflow, an automation tool that Apple acquired last year.
Apple made the announcement at its WWDC developers conference, which is being held at San Jose, California.
Another major addition announced for iOS 12 was Time Limit, which will allow users to pre-determine how much time they should spend using individual apps, and bring up a full-screen alert when an allowance is used up.
Although adults will be able to extend the period, they can also prevent their children from being able to do so.
Parents will also be able to get a breakdown of how long children are spending using different apps, block access at certain times of the day, and restrict the types of content youngsters have access to.
“Just as people know they eat too much junk food but keep on doing it, they also know they shouldn’t spend hours buried in their phone but still do it,” commented Neil Mawston from tech advisory firm Strategy Analytics.
“So, device-makers and app providers do have a responsibility to make sure their products don’t become an addiction for consumers.”
Google unveiled similar tools at its own IO developers conference last month.
Other announcements about iOS 12 included:
- Memojis, animated emojis that can be set to look like device owners, much like the AR emojis introduced on Samsung’s Galaxy S9
- Group Facetime, in which up to 32 people can take part in the same audio or video call
- Shared experiences in augmented reality, whereby several devices can be used simultaneously to show graphics mixed with the real world from different points of view
- Measure, a new app that allows users to get the dimensions of real-world objects by holding an iPhone in front of them