Apple will add two new English language voices to its Siri voice assistant in an upcoming version of its iPhone software, the company said on Wednesday. Users will be able to choose from four voices for Siri, which will no longer default to a female voice in the U.S.
The change is currently available in a beta version of iOS 14.5 that was released on Wednesday. Apple previously said the update will be released for everyone sometime in “early spring.”
Digital assistants with default female voices have been scrutinized by researchers in recent years, with critics saying the choices reflect a male-dominated artificial intelligence industry and reinforce stereotypes.
“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,” an Apple spokesperson said in a statement. “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.”
Apple previously offered male voices as the default in some regions, as well as Australian and British accents, but it has defaulted to a woman’s voice in the U.S. since its release in 2011.
Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant both currently default to feminine voices for English speakers but offer a range of alternative voice options.
Apple’s iOS 14.5 will be a major update for iPhones. In addition to the new voices, it will add the ability to unlock a phone with an Apple Watch, new emojis including one that depicts a vaccine, and will include a privacy change restricting access to a device ID that mobile advertisers use.