Whether you use Siri daily or feel like a dork having a conversation with your phone, there’s no denying Apple’s iconic voice recognition system has undergone quite a few changes since its early days as beta software on the App Store.

Its newest incarnation, planned for release with iOS 7, reflects the biggest changes since its initial launch. The update promises to address some of the problems competing companies have been quick to criticize, but will it be enough for Apple to reassert itself as the king of voice assistant software? We won’t know until launch, but the early results show definite promise.

Closer than the cloud

When a Mac-friendly reporter says he’s dropped an Apple product in favor of Android, you know there’s a problem. Tech reporter Rob Griffiths did just that after pitting Siri against Google Search. The article claims Google has a definite edge in speed and functionality due to Android’s ability to transcribe the user’s voice locally. Siri, on the other hand, utilizes off-site computers to analyze and answer every interaction with the person holding the phone. At least it used to.

For iOS 7, Apple has added new data sources to Siri’s back-end to speed up search results and bring them closer to their competitors. The result, Jim Edwards says in a Business Insider post, could be a faster, smarter experience capable of wooing critics like Rob Griffiths away from Google Search.

Smarter answers, better experience

When it comes to searches, the answer isn’t the only thing that matters. Where and how the results are found is just as important, and Siri appears to be much improved on that front in iOS 7. In a video from TechSmartt, we see Siri verbally explain the theory of relativity, thanks to a definition from Wolfram Alpha, and dig through Wikipedia for info on osmosis, as per the user’s request. Siri even included links to Bing and Wolfram Alpha’s articles on the topic in case Wikipedia wasn’t enough.

The computer with a human voice

Remember calling 411 before the dawn of smartphones? Siri may not be as personable as a live human being, but with the iOS 7 update, Apple is well on its way to bridging the gap between the two. Tech writers all over the Internet have praised Siri’s new conversational skills, noting its better diction and ability to learn hard-to-pronounce names as major improvements for the yet-to-be-released software.

Better yet, the digital assistant now comes in two flavors. If you’ve ever wanted a guy to handle your digital assistant duties, iOS 7′s expanded options should be right up your alley: click the Settings menu, make a quick switch, and listen as a dude-ified version of the famous Siri voice doles out information (and the occasional smart-alecky retort) on your command.

Visually consistent

iOS 7 introduces a ton of changes to the standard iPhone UI, and Siri is no exception. Holding down the Home Screen key now makes the background fade as the software appears instead of simply switching to a black screen. The facelift also provides more spacious and streamlined answers by displaying results within the Siri window, rather than opening up the Safari browser like previous Siri versions.

It’s more of an aesthetic change than some of the other alterations we’ve seen online, and one that calls to mind the look of a voice-guided Bing search, but it’s definitely a step toward a cohesive end-user experience. In an industry where UI design is every bit as important as the content behind it, that’s certainly not a bad thing.

More to come

In a recent comparison article, AppAdvice writer, Dom Esposito, calls the iOS 7 edition of Siri “much better.” After looking at the changes, we very much agree. With faster speed, better answers, an improved UI and a more human voice (not to mention new features like iOS in the Car), it’s safe to say Apple has “fixed” its voice recognition software.

If you didn’t think it was broken to begin with, it’s still a huge upgrade to one of the company’s key device features. It’s a win-win situation no matter what side of the fence you’re on. Prepare to be impressed when the changes finally hit a touch screen near you this fall. We certainly will be.