'Shalom, Siri!' iPhone assistant to learn Hebrew

The lack of Siri functionality in Hebrew has been a sore spot for Hebrew-speaking Israelis,

January 13, 2016 20:43
1 minute read.
iphone 6

Apple's iPhone 6 (R) and iPhone 6 Plus.. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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New immigrants slave away for years at ulpan to perfect their Hebrew. All Apple’s virtual assistant, Siri, will require is a software upgrade.

Websites testing the beta version of Apple’s next mobile software upgrade, iOS 9.3, reported that it includes Hebrew language support for Siri, who is already able to interpret voice commands and reply verbally in 18 languages and dozens of dialects.

The update will also include support for Malay and Finnish.

Apple introduced Siri more than four years ago with the advent of the iPhone 4s, and has gradually expanded her repertoire to include a variety of commands, from setting an alarm or reminder to retrieving information from the Internet.

The lack of Siri functionality in Hebrew has been a sore spot for Hebrew-speakers, who have been able to use Hebrew voice-activated features on their Android phones since 2011. Microsoft’s virtual assistant, Cortana, still does not offer Hebrew.

Because Hebrew has a relatively small number of global native speakers, it is seldom among the top priority languages for tech companies putting products on the market.

Given Israel’s language, small size and isolated geography, its consumers frequently have to wait to gain access to new technology. The point strikes an ironic chord when Israelis have to wait for technology that was created in Israeli R&D centers.

Intel’s latest processor, for example, was largely developed in Israel, but was not available in local products for several months after its debuts in places such as the US.

Though Siri was not developed in Israel, Apple has its largest R&D center outside the US in Herzliya.

Apple is expected to release iOS 9.3 to iPhones and iPads in the coming months.

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