Apple is updating Siri on iOS by bringing two new voices and the option to let users select the voice they want at the time of setup instead of getting the default voice, which is female in most countries — and male in some. The new change is initially part of iOS 14.5 beta 6 that’s available to developers at this moment. However, it will be available to all eligible users through the iOS 14.5 public release in the future. Apple has also brought a recalibration tool to the latest iOS beta version to fix the battery health reporting system on the iPhone 11 series.
The two new Siri voices introduced by Apple are designed for US English users and are available in both female and male versions. The additional voices come alongside the existing female and male Siri voices. Users who are already on the iOS 14.5 beta can find the new voices on their devices by going to Settings > Siri & Search > Siri Voice.
Apple has used its Neural Text-to-Speech (Neural TTS) technology for designing the new Siri voices with natural sound. The company has also upgraded the existing Siri voices in the latest iOS beta version with its Neural TTS treatment in Ireland, Italy, and Russia. This brings the total Siri voices using Neural TTS to 38.
In addition to the new voices and the upgrade for the existing voices, the iOS 14.5 beta brings the option to let users decide which Siri voice they want on their devices at the time of setup. This means that Siri on your Apple device will no longer have the default female voice.
Apple’s move by enabling the option to select a particular Siri voice at the setup stage seems to address the ongoing debate regarding gender-biased implementation of voice assistants by tech giants. A report by the United Nations in 2019 alleged that by making Siri voice female by default, Apple reinforced gender bias and sent a signal that “women are obliging, docile, and eager-to-please helpers.”
In some countries, Apple already offers Siri by default in a male voice. The new change, however, enables users to select whether they want a female or male voice as default on their iOS devices. This is unlike Google Assistant that by default has a female voice, with the option to choose a male voice. Amazon’s Alexa, on the other hand, doesn’t have a male voice to choose, and it is currently limited to female voice only.
“We’re excited to introduce two new Siri voices for English speakers and the option for Siri users to select the voice they want when they set up their device,” Apple said in a statement. “This is a continuation of Apple’s long-standing commitment to diversity and inclusion, and products and services that are designed to better reflect the diversity of the world we live in.”
Siri on Apple devices is already handling over 25 billion requests per month on more than 500 million devices. The voice assistant currently supports 21 languages in 26 countries globally.
The latest iOS 14.5 beta also includes the tool to let you recalibrate maximum battery capacity and peak performance capability on the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and the iPhone 11 Pro Max. As initially reported by 9to5Mac, the calibration tool is designed to address inaccurate estimates of battery health reporting for some users.
The eligible users will see a message to recalibrate the battery health reporting by going to Settings > Battery > Battery Health.
“The update will recalibrate the battery health reporting system, including the maximum capacity and peak performance capability. The recalibration time will vary based on device usage,” the company said.
Recalibration will occur during regular charge cycles, and the process might take a few weeks, Apple said in a support page.
In a few cases, Apple noted that recalibration might not be successful, and a new battery service message will appear. The company said that an Apple Authorised Service Provider will be able to replace the battery free of charge if that issue occurs. It is also important to note that failure to recalibration doesn’t indicate a safety issue and the battery can still be used.
Apple has initially provided the new experience to beta testers. However, it will be provided to regular users through the public release of iOS 14.5 that is expected to debut soon.
The iOS 14.5 release will also bring the ability to unlock the iPhone using an Apple Watch and an updated Apple Maps with options to report accidents and speed checks.
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