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?”
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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!).
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.”
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.
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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