Apple’s latest iOS beta comes with a rather surprising change—Siri is no longer a female by default. Instead, Apple created new voice options, and you pick male or female during setup. The new voices sound even more natural than before, and one even takes on a southern draw.
The news comes from TechCrunch, who first noticed the change in the latest beta. Apple confirmed its intentions in a statement to the outlet:
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.
Here’s a recording of Siri’s new lineup of American voices in iOS 14.5. Voices 1 and 4 are the existing ones, voices 2 and 3 are the new ones. pic.twitter.com/6emei4B3Z9
— John Gruber (@gruber) April 1, 2021
Siri has defaulted to a female voice since its introduction in 2011. And while Apple wasn’t the first company to default to a female voice (GPS systems also typically made the first choice), others continued the trend from Google Assistant to Alexa, to even Cortana until that assistant died.
As far as we’re aware, this is the first major digital assistant to move away from a female voice by default. You can still choose that if you prefer, but going forward it is your choice when you set up Siri for the first time. Apple won’t assume what’s best for you (which is a rare thing itself).
Of course, this is just a beta for now and anything could change. Apple could decide to return to the status quo. But for those who are concerned by the standard choice of female voices for digital assistants, it’s a good sign.