For me, Siri was one of the things I was most excited about the iPhone 4S. For business, personal, and software development use I mainly used a 3GS, so the 4S was a big leap forward. Before I get started on all the things you can do with Siri, below are a few things to know first.
To use Siri just hold down the home button, then speak after Siri’s signature double ding. You can do this while the device is locked (asleep) or active, but not all the way off. When Siri determines you are done speaking it will sound another, lower double ding and then process what you said.
To work, Siri needs internet access, either though your cellular network or though Wi-Fi. This is because Siri is a large and powerful program that lives in part on a server somewhere, much like a more helpful version of Deep Thought from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. If you know Douglas Adams's work you will appreciate the fact that Siri has not once told me it would have to think about it and to come back in eight and a half billion years. If there is a problem with your internet connection or the Siri servers are down for maintenance you will get a message along the lines of “I am sorry, I can not do that right now.”
If you find Siri is having trouble understanding you, make sure you are speaking clearly and are not speaking too quickly or running your words together. Also voice recognition software may give you some trouble if there is a lot of background noise like on a busy street, or next to a loud TV.
And now on to the list…
#1 Want to know the weather? Just ask. You can also ask it about the weather in other cities which is convenient for traveling.
•“What is the temperature?”
•“Is it windy?”
•“What is the temperature in Dallas Texas?”
•“What is the weather in Dallas Texas?”
•“When is sunset?”
•“When is sunrise?”
#2 You can search Wikipedia quickly and easily without going though the internet search engine:
•“Search for fish on Wikipedia”
•“Search Wikipedia for saturn”
#3 Setting and checking reminders is extremely handy if you use Apple’s new Reminders app. It is much faster than typing.
•"Remind me to check my email tomorrow"
For me the word tomorrow sets it to tomorrow at 9:00 am.
Or you can use:
•"Remind me to check my email tomorrow at 10 AM"
•"Remind me to buy some lettuce on Thursday 5 PM "
Then to check your reminders you can just say:
Or if you think it best to speak proper English to your computers:
•“Show me my reminders”
#4 You can search for various facts on Wolfram Alpha which is a conceptual knowledge engine (sort of like a smart encyclopedia)
•"Who is Demi Moore?" (not really sure why Demi Moore came to mind, but she did)
•“Why is the sky blue?”
•“What is the speed of light?”
•“What is the speed of sound?"
#5 Wolfram Alpha has information about animals:
#6 Wolfram Alpha can also answer math questions
•“How many centimeters in one inch”
•“What is 9 times 7”
•"What is 6 divided by 3"
•“What is 4.5 times 3.4?” (Division of decimals behaved a little wonky for me)
•“What is the square root of 42”
•“How do you calculate the area of a circle?”
#7 Wolfram Alpha also takes food questions:
•“How many calories in an apple”
•“How many calories in Blueberry pie”
•”What is the nutritional value of grapes”
Or more simply:
•“What is the nutrition of grapes”
•“What is the nutrition of a [insert your favorite band-name candy bar]”
#8 English word definitions:
•“What is bling” (Merriam-webster.com says “bling” is not a word, however “bling-bling” is.)
•“What is happenstance”
#9 Wolfram Alpha has added some integration with the Best Buy website so you can ask about:
•“Wolfram laptop computers”
•“Wolfram desktop computers”
•“Wolfram tablet computers”
Sometimes it may return a definition of a computer. This is a new feature so let them iron out the kinks.
#10 One of the coolest things, in my opinion, is that you can create documents via the Notes app. Try this:
•“Create a shopping list note”
•“Add grapes to shopping list note”
Once the note is open and displayed on the screen you can simply say:
Then later on when you have found you have consumed the last drop of milk you can whip out your iPhone and say:
•“Add milk to shopping list note”
It is really pretty handy if you use lists. Siri won’t recognize every brand name, although it will recognize a wide variety and even some surprisingly obscure ones.
#11 Siri has nice integration with the Maps app:
•“Where am I?”
•“Where can I get some coffee?”
Or you can just grunt:
..or if you are unsure what you want:
•“What should I have for dinner?”
Oddly it does not do well with medical facilities probably because their names and key words often don't include the words we use.
•“Where is a doctor office?” sends me about 70 miles away, and does not show me the doctor office I use that is about a mile away. Of course this could be because my doctor’s office has neither the word “doctor” nor “office” in its name.
However if you say…
•“I need a hospital my arm is chopped off." Siri did find the closest hospitals. (I would recommend dialing 911 if your arm is chopped off. Maybe yell for help too)
#12 Siri has some integration with the Apple store
•“What is an iPhone?”
•“What is a Mac?”
#13 You can check stock prices with Yahoo
•“What is the stock price of Apple?”
#14 You can check and set alarms though Apple’s Clock app:
•“Show me my alarms”
•“Look up my alarms”
•“Create an alarm at 10 am“
•“Make an alarm at 10 am”
To check the time you can just say:
To search for the time in a different city / time zone:
•“What time is it in Tokyo?”
#15 Then there are goofy and fun things you can say to Siri. Try asking each of the these multiple times and you will get some different answers:
•“Siri what should I do?”
•“What is the meaning of life?”
•“Which religion is the correct one?”
•“Should I ask for a raise?” (The trigger seems to be “Should I…”)
•“Why am I here?”
•“Who is Siri?”
There are probably a lot more.
#16 Finally you can use Apple’s Messages app:
•“Show me my messages”
•“Send a text message to Bob” (Just use the name of someone in your address book)
•“Message Bob hello”
If someone just sent you a message you can:
•“Reply OK I will pick up some milk”
And a very cool feature is:
•“Read me my messages” which will read aloud your unread messages
Although I use it a lot, and as said before using Siri is much more efficient than typing, I am not 100% sure about talking into a phone to send a text message. I can’t put my finger on it, but something about that just strikes me as a bit odd.
If you want to see some examples of what Siri can do or just a reminder on how to phrase things, just say:
Siri is context sensitive to a degree, so sometimes it may try to fit your question into it’s current context which is what is displayed on the screen at the moment (reminders, maps etc). If this is causing your question to be misinterpreted close Siri and reopen.
Also if Siri displayed something like a note or reminder you can just tap it to open the full app.
If you have tried speaking more slowly and Siri still has some difficulty understanding you try enunciating each word carefully and separate each word with a brief pause. Also make sure your mouth is close to the mic… I don’t think it was designed to be yelled at from across the room. Given human beings often have a tough time understanding each other, there is no way a piece of software is going to be 100% accurate.
Siri did manage to decipher some more common bad enunciation such as:
(Siri will respond to these by the way)
Siri is useful, fun to play with, and may even trigger a renaissance with speech recognition in consumer appliances and electronics. If you know of or find any Siri tricks share it with the rest of us and post it in the comments section below.