siri

When Siri lost its beta tag almost a year ago, I suggested it might be a good time for those who’d been frustrated with its early performance to give it another chance. What I discovered through your comments was that Siri seems to be one of those things that polarizes views: people either loving it and using it every day, or dismissing it as a useless gimmick. Not too many people seem to fall between the two.

But Apple has continued to work hard on improving the service, adding new capabilities as well as refining its ability to handle existing ones. It might not yet be as sophisticated as its creators envisage for the future, but a year on seemed a good point to revisit the topic and find just how many of its capabilities people are using … 

Everyone knows you can ask Siri to call someone, and that if you’ve identified contacts by relationship you can say things like “Call my girlfriend,” but you can also get more specific. “Call my father on his work phone,” for example, or “Make a FaceTime audio call to Phil.”

Similarly, with text messages, you can be casual in your phrasing: “Let Sarah know I’m running ten minutes late.” Calendar queries, too, can also be more specific than general enquiries about your appointments, such as “When am I meeting Barbara?”

Using Siri to tweet? You can ask for your location to be added, along with any hashtags: “Tweet, with my location, having a great night out, hashtag drinking.” And if you want to know what’s trending on Twitter, you can simply ask “What’s going on?”

Digital Life Tech Test Apple iOS 7 Software

Apple Maps may not have gotten off to the best of starts, but there’s a lot of location-based functionality built into Siri to make your life easier. Some are basic, like “Give me walking direction to Alison Smith’s work.” Others are more sophisticated like “Make a reservation for two at a romantic French restaurant around here tonight at 7pm.”

Or fancy a movie instead? “Where is Guardians of the Galaxy playing?” will show you nearby locations and times, together with the Rotten Tomatoes review. If you’re in the U.S., you can also ask Siri to buy tickets. Not sure whether the movie is the right choice? “Play the movie trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy.”

Still got work to do in the meantime? “Show me the nearest WiFi hotspots.”

Location-based reminders are something without which I’d forget half the things I’m supposed to do. “Remind me to call Sam when I get home,” “Remind me to post the letters when I leave here” and “Remind me to buy milk when I’m at Tesco” are just a few examples.

timer

You probably know that you can ask Siri to wake you at 7am or, if taking a nap, in 20 minutes. Did you also know that reminders can be time-based? “Remind me to put out the trash on Wednesday” or “Remind me to call my mother on the first Saturday of every month.”

No need for a cooking timer when you can simply instruct Siri to “Set a timer for 45 minutes.”

You can also ask Siri when Thanksgiving is this year, or how many shopping days until Christmas.

itunes-radio

Everyone knows you can ask Siri to play specific tracks, albums, artists or playlists, but did you know you can get more specific? “Shuffle my morning commute playlist,” for example. Alternatively, you can get less specific, instructing Siri to play a genre: “Play some rock.”

Siri can also now control iTunes radio, enabling commands like “Play my Sara Bareilles station” and “Play more songs like this one.”

mail

Most people know Siri can read your mail, but again you can be much more specific than this. “Do I have any new mail from Tim Cook today?”, “Show the email from Melanie yesterday” or “Show unread mail about the beach trip.”

Need to reply to it? No need for anything as 20th Century as typing. “Reply: Many thanks for the directions comma see you there.” Similarly when composing new emails: “Email Bill to ask for the latest financials.”

note

Dictating to Siri can be a really convenient way to make short notes. You can create new notes: “Note that I ran 10 miles today.” You have to be a little careful with that one, as if you say “Notes that I ran 10 miles today,” Siri will think you’re searching for existing notes containing that phrase.

You can also add to existing notes: “Add abseil from a tall building to my bucket list note.” You can also have Siri read notes to you: “Read my note about ideas for new articles.”

search

No-one needs to be told you can have Siri search the web for things – it quite often does so when you were hoping it would do something more useful. But you can also specify image or video searches: “What does poison ivy look like?”, “Show me pictures of a Tesla S” or “Find videos of a Space Shuttle launch.”

Or restrict a search to news: “Show me news for Brooklyn Bridge.”

You can also ask Siri how to spell something or, ironically, how to pronounce it (assuming you get close enough without help!).

apps

You may have an app for that, but much of the time there’s no need to open it. Why bother opening the calculator, for example, when you can simply ask Siri to do the math for you? Want to know how much an item will be with sales tax? “What’s $216 plus 6 percent?”. Travelling? “What’s 45 Euros in dollars?” In a restaurant? “How much is a 20 percent tip on $42.75?”.

No need to open Find My Friends just to see whether your partner has left work yet: “Where is my girlfriend?”

Similarly, you don’t need to open a calorie counter when Siri can tell you everything you need to know. “How many calories in a banana?” or “Coca-Cola nutrition.”

settings

iOS 7′s swipe-up gesture made it much easier to change settings, but voice is even easier. “Make the screen brighter,” “Enable Bluetooth” or “Turn on Do Not Disturb,” for example.

one

There are lots of easter eggs built into Siri - you can even ask it to tell you a bedtime story …

If you’re a regular Siri user, have I missed any important ones people may not know about? And if you’re a Siri skeptic, has anything here persuaded you to maybe give it another go? As ever, let me know in the comments …

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76 Responses to “As Siri gets more powers in iOS 8, we ask: Do you use it to its fullest or is it still a party trick?”

  1. Ray Wolf says:

    I don’t fully use Siri, I’m still more comfortable navigating where I need to go on the device to get the information I want. Maybe one day I’ll use it more.

    Like

  2. Ben Debnam says:

    Sorry, I can’t take any requests at the moment. Please try again in a bit.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I use it for unit conversions and setting reminders. Using the reminders app is slow as their is a lot of information to fill out. Saying “Remind me to get milk when I leave work” to Siri is much faster.

    Though, I only use it in the car or at home as I find it awkward to use around others.

    Like

  4. jrox16 says:

    I use Siri often, at least once a day. It is definitely not a party trick. I’m sure lots of people don’t use it and would consider it a party trick, but that’s only because they don’t use it out of habit of doing things the old way. What I use Siri for, in descending order of frequency, is:

    texting and making calls while driving keeping eyes on road;
    setting reminders;
    asking for reference information (like converting units);
    creating calendar events;
    navigation.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. jexner325 says:

    I still find it weird to talk at my phone when I can just tap what I need. Never use Siri and don’t plan on it. Probably the same reason why the Kinect sucks too; people don’t seem to grabbed up with talking at objects and looking like a moron.

    Like

    • Jexner325, please read this aloud to your self.

      Everyone reading this reply, read this aloud and see how wired this comment is.

      I though we all speak or type on little miniature boxes in our hands.

      Like

    • James Rimmer says:

      But remember how stupid people looked when Bluetooth ear pieces first came out; and how crazy everyone looked… as if they were talking to themselves like a loony? Specially those with tiny ear pieces you could barely see? Now no one bats an eye. Siri and others will soon be as widely excepted. Everyone just has to get used to having it in their lives; just like everything else that has come before it.

      Like

  6. singingfriar says:

    I don’t know how you did it, but I’ve NEVER (since Siri was introduced) been able to get her to properly understand “Sara Bareilles.”

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I use Siri all the time! I love her. I often get frustrated if she doesn’t work b/c it requires me to actually think!

    Like

  8. matthiasf says:

    I wish I could teach Siri some of my pronunciations, I have a lot of problems with my German accent, which makes it faster to type then to re say thing over and over again.

    Like

  9. My dad got an iPhone 5S not to long ago, and the thing that REALLY annoy’s me is the fact that he NEVER uses Siri OR the fingerprint sensor. I mean, if your going to get a hi-tech phone, at least use ALL if its capabilities to their fullest extent…

    Like

  10. I don’t really use Siri much outside of driving. That being said, it is wonderful to be able to be productive on my morning commute to work. I use that time to make calls, text, get a review of my tasks for the day, check my calendar and scheduling any reminders needed for the day.

    The only time I really use it outside of driving is in the kitchen I set timers and quickly get unit conversions using Siri.

    Siri is a great tool for a power user on the go, as well as a few novel uses like showtimes, cooking aid, etc. I would definitely not call it a party trick, but I also don’t think that EVERYONE would use Siri in its current form.

    Like

  11. michaelbraun says:

    I wonder how much Siri use is predicted by trust in Siri. For example, Siri’s email and texting features are cool. And I definitely use them if I’m driving and need to tell my wife when I’ll be home. But I don’t trust Siri to write an email or text accurately, and that makes me use it less.

    For example, from above, “Email Bill to ask for the latest financials.” I’m not convinced that Siri will put together an email that I’m comfortable sending. Indeed, here’s what happened when I tried that command. (I substituted my wife’s name for “Bill”.)

    1. Siri wants to know which person I mean. There are five people with my wife’s first name in my address book, so I specify which one.
    2. Siri wants to know which email address.
    3. Siri puts together the email with the subject line “Ask for the latest financials” and then asks, “What do you want the email to say?”.

    If I’m driving, this is pretty useless to me, as I’m either pecking at the screen (dangerous) or trying to use Siri with voice commands, which is frustrating. Then, I’m trying to edit an email, something Siri isn’t good at. For example, if Siri misunderstands what I say, I don’t know how to get it changed. (Likely there is some way to do this: “Edit the second sentence” maybe?) And the subject line on the email is wrong, meaning I’m likely to scrap the whole thing and wait. Or just call if I really need to get those latest financials.

    As such, I don’t trust Siri and use the feature relatively infrequently. Great for simple tasks, less so for complicated ones.

    Like

    • Ben Lovejoy says:

      As Siri maintains individual voice files on the server, and gets better the more you use it, there’s a catch-22 there. Next time you’re bored while waiting to meet someone or (to pick a purely random example) are in a clothes shop while your partner tries on outfits, use the time for a bit of Siri practice and see if you note an improvement.

      Like

  12. Alan Aurmont says:

    I use Siri exclusively for telling me a joke before bedtime.

    Like

  13. I use siri everyday, especially while working. I use to use it as a “party trick” when it first came out. Now I use it constantly to: make phone calls, search stats/games, conversions, timer, and just general information. I feel like once you use it everyday, it becomes super smooth to yourself. I use it with headphones mostly, idk if that makes it more convenient for me?

    Like

  14. Eli Matar says:

    In business, I still cant use Siri. Because she might not get my request and I would loose time (the spinning thinking wheel). I especially never use it while in a meeting for making a call to a third party or calculating figures because when she doest get it, I look like Im loosing people’s time.
    I still cant believe Apple rolled it out when it was (and still in my eyes) in Beta.

    Like

  15. Siri often feels like a tacked on add on that I don’t use as much as I should, but I never found reason to use her, sometimes she’s useful in the car, but even that she doesn;t even send the proper text or hear me well, and I’ve tested that against Google, which even that I don’t use. As a personal assistant Siri doesn’t help me at all right now, and I feel it’s a waste.

    Like

  16. Stetson says:

    I don’t usually use it for longer dictations, but it is useful for sending short texts or calling while driving.

    I also use it a lot to set alarms, timers, and reminders. “Remind me when I get home to do X” is way quicker and easier than setting up a reminder with geofencing manually.

    Like

  17. My typical interactions with Siri summarized: “Set a timer for fifty minutes”. “Your timer is set for fifteen minutes”.

    Like

  18. I’ve been testing iOS 8 since beta 1. Siri is the most improved thing I’ve noticed. It even detects when she / he has cut you off mid-sentence now (sometimes). I use Siri for the common things – but some uncommon things I’d like to share are:

    My wife and I have shared lists in the reminders (yes you can do that and it’s COOL) (Costco, Wal-Mart, Lowes, Sam’s, Kroger, etc). If we need Milk, one of us says “Siri – add Milk to my Kroger list” – now the next time one of us is at Kroger (a grocery store for those of you not familiar) – we pull up our list and see that we need milk. Then check it off and both phones are updated.

    Also, if you’re tired of being cut-off by Siri while you’re thinking of what else you want to say, keep the home button held down while you talk to her / him – Siri will know you’re finished when you release the button.

    It also seems to get more words right now and can correct words earlier in a sentence it got wrong based on words you have said later in the sentence. That’s helpful too.

    If you don’t use Siri, I suggest you give it another shot in iOS 8 – it’s still not perfect – but definitely not a gimmick!

    Like

  19. j0hnf23 says:

    the only situation i tend to use siri is to set timers. she’s not that “powerful” in german speaking countries :)

    Like

  20. Something I’d like to see and haven’t tested it in iOS 8 yet – but I’d like to see a delay on the location texts. For example. I want Siri to remind me to pay a bill when I get to work (which I do online) – but it takes me 5 minutes for me to get into my office from the parking lot – Walking, Elevator, Security – etc. I’d like to be able to say “Siri, remind me 10 minutes after I get to work to pay my water bill” Currently I’m reminded in the parking lot and forget by the time I get to my office. (Apple are you listening?)

    Like

  21. Siri is pretty limited here in France, since Wolfram Alpha is only available in English.
    No knowledge base (dates, definitions, scientific stuff, …), no calculations (Spotlight should do this like on OS X), no unit conversion, …

    Like

  22. My biggest regret about Siri is that it seems it will never integrate with any 3rd party app, especially ones that compete with something Apple wants to monetize. I have zero physical songs loaded on my phone because I use the spotify app for everything. However, I can’t use voice commands in spotify like i could if i purchased all of that music from apple and loaded it separately. Of course, this would cost me thousands of dollars, so I’m ok with the tradeoff – but i envision it being an area google attacks sooner rather than later.

    Like

  23. I’m in the in-between crowd. I generally use Siri to launch apps, place calls, play music, and set timers. Sometimes I use Siri to send messages when driving. I find it most useful when I go to the gym to control music and call up my pass in Key Ring.

    Like

  24. rettun1 says:

    I use Siri for timers, reminders, dictating messages, and searching for points of interest around me.

    I can’t wait to try out ‘Hey Siri’. Even if it is only while the phone is charging, it may convince me to buy one of those battery cases so I can do it anywhere

    Like

  25. iSRS says:

    I use Siri for mostly everything I can. Sometimes to the annoyance of my wife.

    That said? I would love Siri to copy the more contextual/conversation abilities of Microsoft’s offering.

    Like

  26. It’s nothing more than an annoyance that I can’t turn off. Some crappy interrupter of my time that activates unintentionally all-too frequently. Why can it not be turned off? It’s absurd. If it worked, it would be great, but it doesn’t, so it’s worse than not having it at all.

    Like

  27. I use it a bit, but not that much. It’s too unreliable, so if you can type fast, you can quite literally get the query in that way a lot faster than trying to rephrase things to Siri a half dozen times.

    It didn’t help that Siri literally could not understand a single word I said for over one and a half years because of a built in assumption that I must have a British accent since I set my phone to British settings. I’m glad they fixed that, but it still only gets what I say about half the time.

    Probably works flawlessly for Americans like a lot of Apple’s gear and thus no one at Apple ever knows that they have a problem.

    Like

    • Ben Lovejoy says:

      Different languages/accents and languages/names (eg. speaking in English but referencing German names and places) seems to be two things Siri hasn’t yet cracked. I can imagine there are some real challenges there.

      Like

  28. Charles Reed says:

    Yes, I use her to the fullest. You either like Siri or you hate her. I think those that don’t, just don’t understand how to use the technology or expect too much from it at this time. High expectations and the failure to see the value in an “evolving” piece of technology is where many miss out on the power they actually have in their hands. And what I can’t do with Siri, I supplement her with *cough* Google Now.

    I have taught a few people how to navigate and use Siri. When they realize what you can do with her, they too find her indispensable.

    This technology is evolutionary, meaning it will only get better with time. As in any tech, you need to know how to use it and be comfortable with it. I find dictation, sending messages, reading messages, emails, setting appointments, reminders, alarms and timers truly useful. Getting directions, placing calls, placing FaceTime calls, finding places to eat, setting reservations through open table, and ordering movie tickets amazing. The less poking around on my phone to get things done, the better.

    Call me a geek, nerd, or scifi nut. I whole heartily enjoy and embrace this technology. I cannot wait to see how Siri evolves in the coming years. Siri is way more than a party trick. Sure she acts sometimes as if her brain is disconnected. It’s understandable knowing how the technology currently works at the moment. Picture this.. millions of iPhones being used globally, out of that, how many is being used to issue commands to Siri every minute of every day? Issue a command, it travels to Apple’s servers for processing, then back to you in seconds. Again it’s understandable she is not going to work 100% all the time for everyone.. Tech is flawed and it evolves, hopefully only getting better with time. The unfortunate thing is most of us have de-evolved and expect all the magic to work 150% all the time on an instant. Heads up, the world doesn’t work like that, it never has and neither does technology. Siri is very complex and with as many people using mobile connections these days.. It’s a wonder she works as well as she does.

    Major Kudos to Apple, Tim and the team of developers who have worked hard on bringing us the future, here and now. It’s only going to get better with time.. Patience people!

    If you know how to speak to her, you can get some amazing things done with Siri without lifting a finger.

    Like

    • Ben Lovejoy says:

      I think you’re right that you have to enjoy the technology itself in order to get a good sense of what it can and can’t do. I had a head-start as I was already using Dragon and had experienced suffering for a couple of weeks while it learned my voice, and seeing just how good it became once it had, so I was prepared for a similar experience with Siri.

      Like

  29. I use it for reminders and setting alarms, but little else.

    Like

  30. I will start to use Siri when it speaks my language. I look stupid in public speaking English to my iPhone, even at home.

    But Apple has hired new engineers for Siri and some of them were Norwegian so hopefully in iOS 8.1(?) or something Siri will speak my Language.

    Like

  31. Overlord says:

    I don’t use Siri… is not available in my native language, Brazilian Portuguese.

    And yes, I know speak English… but is a pain in the ass talk portuguese names of people, locals, streets combined with english Siri commands. :(

    So, i use Google Now on my iPhones (4 and 5S).

    Like

  32. herb02135go says:

    When I had an iPhone I used Siri for reading and replying to text messages while driving. I didn’t find it to be very accurate and it was simply not a time-saver.

    Whenever I see someone talking to their phone I laugh and wonder if Siri will get it right.

    OK Google is so much better. I don’t use it much in public since that’s very annoying. But it’s much more accurate.

    I think Apple erred by rolling it out when it wasn’t ready. It won’t be taken seriously in our lifetime.

    Like

  33. Siri needs to be local on the phone. the servers and internet issues are just holding it back

    Like

  34. I don’t txt and drive but I do Siri and drive!

    Like

  35. I would use Siri if she understood me. I get a text in the car, I ask Siri to read the text, which it does, then Siri asks if I want to reply and I say yes and dictate perhaps a 10 word answer. I then spend the next ten minutes telling Siri to change my message to try and get it right and finally give up and send “driving talk soon” as three word messages are as much as I can get Siri to understand… I would put a comma in, but more often than not it doesn’t work.

    Like

    • Kind of silly, but to my close friends, I’ll end my 10 or 20 word answer with “Dictated but not read” and they can generally understand the words I tried to use that Siri got wrong. Of course if the details are extremely important, I wouldn’t do that.

      Like

  36. PMZanetti says:

    Things I use Siri for all the time:

    -Sending iMessage
    -Setting an Alarm
    -Setting a Timer
    -Creating a Reminder
    -Certain calculations
    -Calling someone

    I guess you could call those the basics. Siri has many more specific things it can do, but I never think to use Siri for them. Other things that I know it can do, I elect NOT to as it often gets it wrong, i.e. Creating a Calendar Event: while Siri can do this, it does not handle multiple Calendars very well (can only create using your Default Calendar). This is the same behavior as Reminders (using your default Reminders List), but I typically only use 1 Reminders List, vs. Calendar where I have many.

    Like

  37. Actually – I am hell of a drunk right now. And I don’t think I’d able to set alarm. But I just said (multiple times) set alarm for 6:55, 7:00, 7:05 AM andI believe Siri will wake up me in the morning – I can’t be late – work and stuff :D I’ll update results in the evening.

    Like

  38. I use it pretty regularly, though I picked up some good tips in the article. Mostly I use it for safely messaging my wife while driving, sending short emails, eyes-free driving directions, making reservations in restaurants (which Siri can do if you have OpenTable installed), checking movie times, setting reminders and the occasional demo or “party trick” use.

    Like

  39. Emre Eser says:

    The problem of siri isn’t it’s features. Siri just doesn’t recognize voice well. Keep making things up. I wish Siri’s voice recognition was as good as Google Now.

    Like

  40. I’ve only used it 3-4 times tops when I tried replying to a text and finding the weather. All times it felt like it took longer to get things done and required more effort. I haven’t used it since and will never use it again under it’s current incarnation.

    Like

  41. CS Guru says:

    “I am not agianst using technology but I am still in love with the navigation-and-tap way of operating phones. Some may call it the old way but I call it the human way. This way I interact with my phone and know all what it has to offer me.

    I find it interesting the way SIRI is put to work by some of the responses here. As said by Dayton, its easy to add reminders on the fly rather typing. I will try it next time I need a reminder.

    Like

  42. monty72 says:

    People felt uncomfortable using mobiles in public when they first came out, I know I did. If I got a call in a shop or restaurant I’d go out side to answer it! Getting a call on a train or public transport was positively nauseating! I’m a bit like that with Siri now, I wouldn’t use it in a public place. No doubt that will change.

    Like

    • This is why I don’t use Siri more. I work in a group of cubicles and value my privacy. I do use it while driving but have not gotten to the point that it works well for me. And I don’t use it at home because my wife rolls her eyes at me when I do.

      Like

  43. I find myself using Siri mostly with navigation and texting while driving. I do find it useful most times but there are times she misunderstands whatI say and I have to repeat myself. I like this article a lot because it reminds me what I can use her for. I tried some and they did work. I think the problem for some is and what I noticed is the background noise interferes and letting go of the button too soon when speaking.

    Like

  44. Marklewood at Serenity Lodge says:

    When I first heard about Siri, I was excited, as I get with very new gadget. However, my first experience found me thinking, “what a dud.” And although I’ve tried again every once in a while, I’m still not impressed. But, I’ll keep trying. I really want it to work.

    Like

  45. Roy Zachary says:

    I us use it evey day many times a day you want to find out how good it is just Pick up a samsung that uses google for speech to text
    And see how bad it is siri is hands down the best voice to text convertre iv seen including dragon dictation

    Like

  46. James Rimmer says:

    I just upgraded my iPhone 4 to an iPhone 6, and gotta tell you; Siri is a total trip. I want to use Him/Her as much as I can; and started right away; but I find it difficult at times. Like when I ask it to find a local pasty shop, and it keeps omitting the closest choice; one that has “pasty” in their name no less. Some of the time it gets my words wrong. I think it is mostly due to my timidness while trying to speak (as someone once mentioned; they feel stupid speaking to an electronic device as if it were a human). I hope what they say is true; that it gets better with use; and I hope I get more accustomed to using it so I can get over my fear of looking like an idiot. I also would like to see better integration… For example; I use WeMo electric switches all over the house. I can get Siri to open the app; but can’t get it to turn on or off specific electrical devices. Those of you who use Siri regularly; has it gotten better at recognizing your voice, and does it get better at getting your words right?

    Like