From Searches to Apps to Siri

When the App Store was launched on the iPhone, for the first time people could do things and and access many of their favourite services through native apps. These apps used navigation controls, fluid animations, and custom interfaces that were tailored for mobile use. This was different than the desktop where most tasks on the web began with a Google search, leading users to large websites designed for a multitude of tasks. We used to access services through their websites, and then we through their apps. Now we can access a growing number of services and accomplish an increasing number of tasks through Siri. This is an evolution that will continue to grow and affect more and more services.

Before the iPhone 4S you would open Yelp for restaurant reviews, Weather Network for the weather, Wikipanion for Wikipedia, and Terminology for a dictionary. While mobile, a lot fewer of people’s day to day tasks would start with a Google search. After the launch of Siri things changed and users had another alternative to both Google and their own apps. Users could talk directly to Siri, asking it questions and asking it to perform specific tasks.

In the upcoming iOS 6, on top of being able to access a lot of the built in iOS apps like Notes, Messages, and Reminders, Siri will integrate with Yelp, Yahoo! Sports and Rotten Tomatoes.

When the App Store first launched, apps used to be the most effective way of accomplishing tasks on our phones, but that changes when we start to use Siri. This new model of accomplishing tasks is more effective and easier for users to do than performing web searches or relying on apps. Workflow wise it’s similar to performing a web search with a query-results workflow, but it removes much of the burden from the user.

If you compare web searches, to apps, to Siri, you can see that each is more effective than the last at finding information and doing what you want.

Web Searches

  • Require crafting a proper query.
  • Require reading through multiple results of varying quality
  • Require filtering out spam and ads.
  • Requires you to navigate through desktop web layouts designed for accomplishing broad sets of tasks.


  • Require finding and downloading the right app.
  • Require having that app on your phone all the time and having to update it.
  • You have to find the app on your phone every time you want to use it (can be difficult with many apps installed).
  • Gives you a well designed interface for your device and the task you want to accomplish.


  • You get the specific result you requested.
  • The results can be flexible, from queries results, to performing actions, to launching apps.
  • Built into your phone or tablet.
  • Doesn’t work with all languages and accents.

One of the big leaps from web searches to Siri are the objects it can return: Rich weather data, formatted and location based restaurant or movie data. Over time that list will expand and as it does the need for web searches and apps will decline.

There’s a definite trend here of users having to do less work, and getting better results. It’s no surprise that matches the design values which iOS is built on.

Google launches a Search App on the iPhone much like Siri.

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