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Apple's Siri to Stop Defaulting to Female Voice

Apple says it will offer new voices in a new version of its iPhone software.
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Apple's  (AAPL) - Get Apple Inc. Report Siri assistant will no longer default to a female voice as the tech giant adds two new English-language voices in a new version of its iPhone software.

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The change is currently available in a beta version of iOS 14.5 that was released on Wednesday.

Users will be able to choose from four voices for Siri, Apple said. Previously, Siri defaulted to a female voice, and users could pick among other voices in settings after the fact.

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The new voices are available to English-speaking users worldwide, and Siri users can select a personal preference of voice in 16 languages.

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In addition, iOS 14.5 beta 6 also improves the Siri voices in Ireland, Russia, and Italy, upgrading them to neural text to speech and bringing the total voices using the new technology to 38, according to TechCrunch. 

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Siri now handles 25 billion requests a month on more than 500 million devices. The assistant supports 21 languages in 36 countries.

“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,” Apple said in a statement.

“This is a continuation of Apple’s longstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion, and products and services that are designed to better reflect the diversity of the world we live in.”

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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, according to CNBC.

Apple’s decision to make Siri voice female by default in the U.S. and many other countries reinforces gender bias, according to a 2019 United Nations report, as a female voice "reflects and reinforces" the idea that assistants are female.