Apple has released the beta of iOS 14.5 to users signed up to the Beta Software Program. A noteworthy improvement is that Siri will no longer default to a female (or male) voice, with two more speech options added for users in the US. The changes also apply to the HomePod.
This means that starting with iOS 14.5, users will be prompted to choose a voice assistant themselves for the first time.
For many, this is a positive step forward, as it allows people to select the voice they prefer.
The new voices are available to English-speaking users worldwide, and Siri users can pick a preferred voice in 16 languages. Users outside the US still have two options, but they are now called ‘Voice 1’ and ‘Voice 2’ rather than “Male” and “Female”.
The new options also bring more variety to our choice of Siri’s voice.
In their statement, Apple says, “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. 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.”
The two new voices use “source talent recordings” that run through Apple’s Neural text-to-speech engine, making the voices flow more organically through phrases generated on the fly.
This is probably just the beginning of an expansion in Siri voice options. Not only will Siri’s speech sound more natural, but Apple will offer more variations in accent and dialects.
A great move. It will go some way to help people feel more comfortable interacting with their virtual assistant.
Other changes in iOS 14.5
iOS 14.5 beta 6 also enhances the Siri voices in Ireland, Russia, and Italy, upgrading them to neural text-to-speech.
38 voices are now using this new technology, with Siri now handling 25 billion requests on over 500M devices and supporting 21 languages in 36 countries.