Siri's great and everything, but a really useful assistant should be able to read to you, in addition to taking orders.
Back in November 2011 I wrote about one of my favorite apps: Voice Brief (free for a limited time, App Store). It's an impressive text-to-speech app that I described at the time as like having Siri read your Flipboard.
Instead of having to focus your attention on your smallish iPhone screen to read content, Voice Brief reads websites, emails, weather, stock quotes, Twitter and FaceBook to you in a pleasing voice.
It's a killer app for commuters or anyone that wants to have their iPhone read to them. I set it as my morning alarm clock and wake up to it reading me the weather and the top headlines that I'm most interested in.
It's a brilliant concept and highly useful. Voice Brief strings together the items that you want it to read and intersperses them with catchy music, so it's like a fully customizable newscast tailored specifically to you.
My complaints when I reviewed it back in November were that Voice Brief could only read email from Gmail accounts and only text from RSS feeds (which is just an abstract many times) -- not an entire web page. Well, both of those shortcomings have been addressed.
Voice Brief 1.8.1 was released today with some significant upgrades, including the ability to read full Web sites (not just RSS) and any email accounts (not just Gmail.) It also added better voice synthesis but the clincher is that it's free for a limited time (the developer tells me that it's only going to be a couple of days), so download it risk free and take it for a spin.
The UI takes a little getting used to and could use some polish, but once you get beyond that it's an incredibly powerful app. And for free, you don't have much to lose.