Back when iOS 5 was released, one of the most talked-about features was Siri, the Voice Control technology that lets you speak commands to your phone and have it do things like dial phone numbers, add appointments to your calendar, look up directions, compose text messages, play music, and a slew of other tasks all with the sound of your voice. What sets Siri apart from other Voice Control applications, is that it's been programed to understand regular conversational language. So, rather than having to speak commands like, tell me tomorrow's temperature, you can instead ask things like, will I need to wear a jacket tomorrow? And Siri will be able to infer your meaning and look up the low temperature for tomorrow and read it to you.
Siri is only available for the iPhone 4S and later and the 5th Generation iPod touch. Older devices such as the iPhone 4 and the 4th Generation iPod touch still have the Voice Control capabilities, but it's a much more limited system compared to what Siri can do. But if you have one of these older devices, don't worry, I still cover how to use Voice Commands with them at the end of this chapter. Now one important thing that makes Siri different from the older voice command capabilities of earlier devices is that Siri requires an Internet connection to work, whether it's through Wi-Fi or through your wireless provider's network.
Basically when you speak a command, your command is sent to Apple servers, processed, and then the proper response is sent back to your phone at which point it will reply to your command. So, let's take a look at some basic things you can do. To use Siri, first go to Settings>General>Siri, and here, just make sure Siri is turned on. While you're in here, you can also check some other settings. Under Language, make sure that you have selected the language you plan on speaking to Siri. Currently, Siri works with several dialects of English, French, German, Chinese, Italian, and Spanish.
It also works with Japanese and Korean. And you can probably expect more languages to be added in the future. I'll leave mine set to United States, English. With Voice Feedback, you can determine whether Siri will verbally respond to you all the time, which is the default, or you can choose Handsfree Only and Siri will only talk to you when you're using a handsfree device like the iPhone earbuds or Bluetooth headset. Again, I'll leave this with the default settings. Under My Info, select your own contact information from your contacts if it's not already selected. This lets Siri know who you are and it will address you by name.
If you have information in your contact cards about who your relatives are like your spouse, parents, or children, you'll be able to send messages and call them simply by saying things like Call Mom or Send a text message to my sister. To do this, you have to go into your Contacts and find your own contact info, and tap Edit. And here, you can scroll down and find the field that's labeled mother by default, and here you can change it to one of the other labels. I'll select brother, and I'll select my brother, Greg.
So, from this point on, I'll be able to say things like, call my brother, to call Greg. Okay. Let's go back to Siri Settings, and the last option here is Raise to Speak. Normally, to talk to Siri, you hold down the Home button for a second, but with the Raise to Speak on, you can also activate Siri by putting your phone to your ear while it's unlocked. If you don't want that option, you can set it to Off, so the only way to activate Siri is to hold down the Home button. So, those are Siri's settings.
Let's take a look at some basic commands. Let's say I want to find out, if it's going to be cold enough to wear a jacket tomorrow. So, I'll hold down my Home button for a second to activate Siri. Once I hear a short chime, I can ask my question. Do I need to wear a jacket tomorrow? Siri: The low will be 52 degrees. So, as you just saw, Siri automatically detected my question, as well as when I stopped talking. It took a moment to process my question and then it came back and verbally told me what the low temperature is going to be and it even brought up the weekly forecast.
Now the beauty of working with Siri is that it understands contextual questions. So for example, let's say I just asked this question about the weather tomorrow, but my phone is in my pocket and I couldn't look at the Weekly Forecast we see here. By the way, you can invoke Siri with a button on your Bluetooth headset so you can in fact keep your phone in your pocket to talk to it. I want to know how cold it's going to be this weekend. All I have to do is tap the microphone or the button on my headset and say, How about this weekend? Siri: The low will be 57 degrees. So, Siri understood that I was still talking about the weather and gave me the information.
Pretty cool, right? Now in most cases when Siri displays visual data, you can usually tap it to go to the app or website it's related to. So if I tap the Forecast, I'm taken to the Weather App. Currently, Siri is tied into several of the iPhone's built-in apps like Weather, Maps, Calendar, Reminders, Clock, Stocks, and Safari. So you can generally ask it to do mostly anything you can do in those apps. For example, I can press the Home button and ask, How did SanDisk stock do today? Siri: SanDisk closed at $43.36 today, down 7 cents or 0.16%.
Again, Siri replies and gives me a graphic to check it out. If I tap it, I can go directly to the Stocks app. Siri is also connected to online information services like Wolfram|Alpha, which bills itself as a Computational Knowledge Engine. So, you can ask Siri a question like, how many cups are there in a gallon? Siri: Looking, okay, Garrick, here you go. So not only do I learn that there are 16 cups in a gallon, but I can also see that that's 8 pints, 4 quarts, and 3.785 liters, among other information here as well, lots of other information.
You can also ask about current sporting events. For example, who's first place in the NFC East? Siri: Here are the standings for the NFC East. And I get this nice chart. Siri is also tied in to Yelp, so you can easily search for local restaurants that have been rated by Yelp members. For example, where can I get some Sushi? Siri: I found five Sushi restaurants; two of them are fairly close to you.
And from here, I can tap any one of these restaurants to get more information, call them, or get directions. Other things you can use Siri for include launching apps, open calendar. You can even tweet or create Facebook status updates verbally. Post a tweet. Siri: What would you like to say? I'm working on my new iPhone course.
Siri: I updated your tweet. Ready to send it? Yes. Siri: Okay. I sent your tweet. So, that was a very brief sampling of the kinds of information you can get from Siri. One of the best ways to figure out its abilities and limitations is to start using it and asking questions. So, be sure to spend some time and play around on your own. You can also ask Siri itself what it can do. What can you do? Siri: You can ask things like: And here I get a list of common tasks it can perform.
In the upcoming movies, we'll take a look at some of the other things you can do with Siri.
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