According to a new report from the widely respected analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, the iPhone 16 will feature a hardware upgrade in an unexpected area: the microphone array.
Writing on Medium Thursday, Kuo reflected on the growing importance of artificial intelligence-generated content, or AIGC, and noted that “it is not difficult to predict that the iPhone 16 will offer relevant innovative features.” Apple’s main AI-related venture is Siri, its divisive voice-activated assistant, and Kuo said he expects the company to focus on improving Siri’s “hardware and software features and specifications.”
It feels like the software is what needs more work, namely Siri’s tendency to guess when not given full information and to get those guesses wildly wrong. (Fail to specify one of several available recordings of a song, for example, and Siri has an irritating habit of playing an obscure live track instead of the logically obvious single version.) But in his report, Kuo focuses instead on “a significant upgrade in microphone specifications” in the iPhone 16, which should at least give Siri more accurate information about the user’s requirements in the first place. Specifically, the result (other than a big increase in the cost of the component) will be “a better signal-to-noise ratio to improve the Siri experience significantly.”
I’m a little skeptical about this; better microphones, by themselves, won’t fix Siri’s many problems. In the example I discuss above, crystal-clear microphones would ensure it can accurately hear me saying “Play ‘Nobody Does It Better’ by Carly Simon,” but it picked that up already; what Siri needs is the brains to extrapolate from that sentence the unstated but obvious additional information that I want the version of the song from “The Spy Who Loved Me.” Audio fidelity doesn’t strike me as the limiting factor on Siri’s efficacy.
Sometimes it’s easier to worry about the deckchair layout than the hole in the side of the ship, but in this case, there is hope that Apple wants to deal with both. As Kuo points out, the microphone spec bump speaks to a wider interest in delivering a better Siri experience, and “could indicate that Apple expects to integrate more AI/AIGC capabilities into Siri as a key selling point of the iPhone 16.” Let’s hope so.
For more on next fall’s big launch, check out our in-depth iPhone 16 guide. If you’d like to buy an iPhone before then, make sure you get the best possible price by reading our big iPhone deals roundup.