iOS 16 App Intents: Add Siri to your app for a voice UX

by: | Aug 2, 2022

Have you ever wanted your app users to engage with your app just with their voice? If you haven’t, you probably should. A recent Google study found that 27% of mobile users regularly search with voice. And, as more apps are designed for accessibility, voice interfaces are becoming increasingly important.

This brings us to Apple’s recently introduced App Intents. At WWDC, the company unveiled iOS 16 — and with it, a suite of new tools to help boost app engagement. That includes App Intents, which following the original SiriKit, now offers a simpler and more versatile way for iOS app developers to tap into the Siri voice assistant.

And for users, App Intents makes it much easier to use Siri as a tool to engage with their favorite applications using only their voice. In this post, we’ll explain the ins and outs of App Intents and why developers should support this new feature in iOS 16.

What is intent?

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, “intent” is an adjective to describe being “determined to do or achieve something.” As a noun, the term is commonly used to describe what users are hoping to accomplish while using a digital product or service. Apple uses this term for commands to be executed by Siri. When you say, “Hey Siri, what time is it?” your intent is to know the time of day.

Why is the iOS 16 App Intents feature so important?

The new App Intents represent a big improvement in how Siri can interact with your app. It can help increase engagement between your users and your app.

From a user point of view, App Intents make it easier to accomplish everyday tasks more quickly through voice, touch, and automation. By supporting App Intents, you give users a whole new way to perform actions by speaking a simple phrase. They no longer need to hold their device in their hands, giving them a quick way to access an app’s features and multitask.

What’s new compared to the Siri App Shortcuts?

Users no longer need to set up Shortcuts to enable the Siri features in their favorite apps. Developers can determine which features to expose to Siri, and by default, those features can be activated when a user phrase matches an App Intent. Users can still use the Shortcuts app to create a combination of actions within applications.

For developers, building support for Siri into an application is more streamlined. By building support into the App Shortcuts framework, you’ll have access to Spotlight Search, Siri, and the Shortcut app. The App Intents feature essentially integrates your app into the Siri ecosystem in a more efficient way — and makes it available on any device that supports Siri and Apple’s HomeKit.

How is this easier for app developers to add Siri support?

Before App Intents, developers had to perform several steps to build support for Siri into their apps.

First, you had to enable voice capability to your project. Then you needed to create a new target extension, the Intent Extensions, which handled most interactions within the SiriKit framework. Once that was done, it would be time for you to add a SiriKit Intent Definition File to specify the intents your app supports.

With the launch of the App Intents framework, developers no longer need to take all these steps to support the use of Siri and Shortcuts. App Intents offers a programmatic way to make an app’s features available to system services. This programmatic approach allows us to provide an app’s action metadata, activation phrases, and any other information the system might need to execute it.

This means that apps no longer need a separate target extension or an Intent Definition File to manage this integration. Developers only need to define the actions an app supports by making these actions as App Intents, encapsulating the code that executes such action directly in the app’s code, and making the code the source of truth. If you want to declare intents that are not provided by the system, you can customize user phrases that will activate your app’s intents. Apple’s developer site offers detailed info on supporting App Intents and App Shortcuts.

How do App Intents help users?

When you define App Intents that Siri will support, you give users a whole new way to engage with some of your app’s key features. By speaking a simple phrase, users can activate your application without needing to hold their device in their hands. In other words, your audience will be able to access your app’s features from anywhere without even having to actually open it.

What are some examples of apps in which App Intents can improve the user experience?

Here are some types of apps that can benefit from supporting App Intents:

  • A calendar app: Ask Siri to create an all-day PTO event. Or to create a meeting with a group based on available times during the workday.
  • A food delivery app: Ask Siri to find out the expected delivery time or the status of an order.
  • A sports app: Ask Siri for the score of a game or for a specific player stat.
  • A cooking app: Ask Siri for suggested recipes for different ingredients you may have at home. And once you have a recipe, go through the step-by-step cooking instructions without having to touch your device.
  • An electric car app: Ask Siri for an update on your battery level. Or, tell Siri to “shut down” the car, which could turn lights off, close windows, and lock the doors.

iOS App Intents example

Source: Apple’s developer website.

Can supporting App Intents increase engagement?

Yes, it can! More people are comfortable with using their voices to interact with phones and smart assistants in their home. By supporting Siri and App Intents, developers are creating another entry point for people to engage with an app. We believe that with App Intents, Lock Screen Widgets, and Shared with You, iOS 16 offers several powerful new features to increase app engagement.

Is your app ready for iOS 16?

App Intents is just one of the exciting new iOS features to increase app engagement. ArcTouch is happy to review your app and provide recommendations to take full advantage of the upcoming iOS 16 and Android 13. Contact us to set up a free consultation.