Apple has finally listened to its small, but slowly growing user base in India. The iPhone-maker today announced a range of features in iOS 13 that are designed to appease users in the world’s second largest smartphone market.
First up, the company says Siri voice assistant now offers all new and “more natural” Indian English male and female voices. It has also introduced a bilingual keyboard, featuring support for Hindi and English languages. The keyboard offers typing predictions in Devanagari Hindi that can suggest the next word as a user types and it learns from their typing over time.
Additionally, the keyboard in iOS 13 supports 22 Indian languages, up from seven earlier. The new languages are Assamese, Bodo, Dogri, Kashmiri (Devanagari, Arabic), Konkani (Devanagari), Manipuri (Bangla, Meetei Mayek), Maithili, Nepali, Sanskrit, Santali (Devanagari, Ol Chiki), and Sindhi (Devanagari, Arabic).
The addition of these features comes as Apple grows more serious about India, a market where it has about 1% of the smartphone market share, according to research firm Counterpoint. Even as smartphone shipment is declining in much of the world, India has emerged as the fastest growing smartphone market in recent years. Users in India have long complained about Apple services not being fully optimized for local conditions. Siri, for instance, has so far offered limited functionalities in the nation, and many Apple services such as Apple Pay and Apple News are not available for users in India.
The upcoming version of iOS, which will ship to a range of iPhone handsets later this year, also includes four new system fonts in Indian languages — Gurmukhi, Kannada, Odia, and Gujarati. These will “help deliver greater clarity and ease when reading in apps like Safari, typing in Messages and Mail, or swiping through Contacts,” the company said.
Additionally, there are 30 new document fonts for Indian languages Hindi, Marathi, Nepali, Sanskrit, Bengali, Assamese, Tamil, Telugu, Gujarati, Kannada, Gurmukhi, Malayalam, Odia, and Urdu.
Apple says iOS 13 will also enable improved video downloading option for patchy networks. It says users can now set an optimized time of the day in apps such as Hotstar and Netflix to download videos. Consumption of video apps is increasingly skyrocketing in India. Just last week, Alibaba said it was investing $100 million in its short video app called Vmate in the nation.
In recent months, Apple has also improved Apple Maps in India. Earlier this year, Apple Maps added support for turn-by-turn navigation, and began to allow users to book a cab — from Ola or Uber — directly from within the app. The company has also been aggressively hiring people to expand its Maps and other software teams in the country, according to job postings on the company’s site.
Improvements to software aside, Apple has also been working to reduce the cost of iPhones in India, the single major factor for their poor sales in the country. In the last two years, Apple has ramped up iPhone production in India. The Indian laws allow phone makers to enjoy tax and other benefits if they assemble the devices locally in the nation.