WWDC Week of Wants, Vol 2

WWDC Week of Wants, Vol 2

Today's Ramblings: Messages

Messages (the concept) are very important. Messages (the app) needs to live up to that. I use a lot of messaging services for different things. Slack is the go-to app for work, I use Facebook Messenger for some things, the stock Messages app for iMessage and SMS conversations, and even What’s App once in a while.

Messages (the app) seems kind of stuck. Video and audio snippets have been added to compete with SnapChat and HeyTell, but that’s really it. There are two main things I’d like to see improved in Messages.

Inline Previews

Check out the screenshots above. I messaged myself in Messages and Slack. Look at how much better Slack is at handling rich media. If I send a link, Slack shows the web site’s title, icon, and tagline. If I send a YouTube link, a thumbnail is shown. A Google Doc? The title and type is shown. A giphy URL? I see the GIF!

With Messages, I see link, link, link, link. With Slack, I see a website, a YouTube thumbnail, a Google Sheet, and a GIF.

Smart Assistant

I’m going to get more into Siri as a smart assistant later in this series, but Messages can be a powerful platform for this.

While voice is the obvious future for these sorts of interactions, it’s not always practical. I can’t yell “Hey Siri, remind me at 4 to do something” in the middle of my open plan office. I can, however, type remind me at 4 to do something, and the SlackBot will do it.

SlackBot

Now, SlackBot is very simple, and has only a few built-in responses, but there is an open API that lets companies program their own SlackBots for internal use. I would love to be able to text Siri Remind me to call mom on Friday and all the backend magic would happen and there would be an entry in my Reminders app for Friday. I know you can do this by voice, but sometimes texting is just better.

Google’s Allo app does this right. You can (theoretically, because it’s not public yet) text the Google Bot and ask questions, do web searches, ask Is my flight delayed? and get this information in a familiar chat interface. It’s all much more personal and convenient than an all-voice interface like Amazon’s Alexa.

All of this is of course predicated Apple opening up Siri to third parties and them being willing to go through some of my data on an opt-in basis. I’d certainly let Apple read my confirmation emails if Siri could book me an Uber to that restaurant I booked on OpenTable.