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Apple in 2016 opened up Siri to bring the personal assistant to apps, but few developers have signed on. Jefferson Graham explains why, on #TalkingTech.

 

MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. — Hey Siri, why can’t I use you on more apps?

Last summer, Apple was busy advertising its latest move to beef up Siri, the personal digital assistant for the iPhone, iPad and Mac computers. For the first time, Apple said, developers would be able to use Siri with our favorite apps, thus promising a brighter future for the heavily used, but often maligned, voice computing tool.

“Siri,” Apple said in September, when the latest iOS mobile operating system was released, “works with your favorite apps from the App Store.”

But fast forward to today, and it turns out few app makers have taken the bait.

Of the top 50 most downloaded apps in Apple’s App Store, only a handful are fully functional with Siri, a USA TODAY analysis found. They are ride-hailing apps Uber and Lyft, Whatsapp Messenger, Pinterest, Twitter and Yelp. 

Missing in action: Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Google Maps, Spotify, Netflix — and many others. 

Outside the top 50, Apple says Siri also works with popular apps like LinkedIn, Skype, Paypal, Square Cash and Venmo.

What happened? Many developers chose not to sign onto the software tools called SiriKit to integrate the assistant into the app because Apple only let Siri be used in six categories (since adjusted to nine) and “that knocked almost everyone out,” says Bret Kinsella, the publisher of the Voicebot.ai website, which covers artificial intelligence and voice computing. “It was just too restrictive.”

For instance, developers could code Siri into working with apps that made phone calls and ride-hailing, and visual search. “Hey Siri, get me an Uber (or Lyft)” results in Siri asking what kind you want (i.e. carpool, cheap ride), the time the driver will arrive and if you want to request it.

In contrast, photo-taking apps like Instagram, shopping apps, navigation and rivals to Apple’s Music app couldn’t participate. While Apple says Siri works with YouTube, the results are wanting: Ask Siri to play a specific YouTube playlist, it tells you it can’t find that playlist in your Apple Music. Ask Siri to play clips from the TV show Seinfeld (which are all over YouTubeand it takes you to a sign-up…