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Cool iPhone 4S Siri tips

Jack Wallen shares some iPhone 4S Siri tips that will make your mobile life even easier.

If you own an iPhone 4S (or if you're a fan of The Big Bang Theory) you probably have encountered Siri, which stands for Speech Interpretation and Recognition Interface. This is a fancy way of saying that it's a virtual (voice activated) personal assistant and knowledge navigator for the iPhone.

As I discovered with the Verizon-branded iPhone 4S, out of the box, Siri works quite well -- but there are ways to make Siri work even better. These tips range from quirky configurations to simple commands. Put them together, and you'll have a personal assistant that is comparable to a living, breathing human being.

Add punctuation

Siri tries very hard to guess your punctuation. But why make the system guess when you can add punctuation yourself? Here are the commands to use for different punctuation:

Say... ...to do

new line - To add a new line of text (carriage return)

new paragraph - To start a new paragraph

cap - To capitalize the next letter of the next word

caps on/off - To capitalize the first letter of every word in a section

all caps - To capital all letters in the next word

all caps on/off - Capital all letters in next section of text

no caps - Make all of the next letters in the next word lower case

no caps on/off - Make all next letters in next section lower case

space bar - Prevent hyphenation from occurring in a normally hyphenated word

no space - Prevent a space between two words

no space on/off - Prevent space in a section of text

period - Place a period at the end of a sentence

dot - Places a dot (period) within text, but no space after

ellipsis - Places an ellipse ( ... ) in the next space

comma - Places a comma at the location of the cursor

quote - Places a quotation mark at the cursor

apostrophe - Places an apostrophe at the cursor

exclamation point - Places an exclamation point at the cursor

You get the idea. Most punctuation is put in place by simply saying the name of the punctuation. Some (such as the ellipse) have multiple ways of insertion (ellipsis or dot dot dot).

Set up relationships

I'm not talking matchmaker here. Siri can recognize relationships set up within the Contacts application. So, instead of me having to say "Send message to Stephanie Wallen," I can just say "Send message to spouse."  Setting up relationships in your Contacts is simple. First, you must have your info set up for Siri. Once you've done that, just follow these steps:

  1. Open up your Contacts app
  2. Open up your contact entry
  3. Click the Edit button
  4. Scroll all the way to the bottom and tap the add field button (Figure A)
  5. Pick Related People from the list
  6. Once that field has been added, you can then tap the left side of the entry and select the relationship (by default it will be "mother")
  7. On the right side of the entry, tap the right-facing arrow, and then select the appropriate contact for the relationship (Figure B)
Figure A

You can add as many custom fields as you like here.

You can setup multiple relationships in your info, which will make using Siri far easier.

Figure B

My wife's contact will now be associated as "spouse" for Siri.

Secure Siri

Even if you have a Passcode set on your iPhone, did you know that someone can still send messages using your phone through Siri? To avoid that, you must set Siri to "off" in the Passcode Lock screen. Here's how:

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Click General
  3. Select Passcode Lock
  4. Set Siri to "off," and the tool will not be accessible when your phone is locked

Switch Siri's dialect

Siri's dialect is set up based on location. But what about Aussies living in the United States or Americans living abroad? If you find yourself having trouble with Siri recognizing your dialect (heavy British and Southern U.S. dialects will have trouble regardless), you can switch the dialect Siri uses. The choices are:

  • English (Australian)
  • English (UK)
  • English (US)
  • French
  • German

Outside of that, best brush up on your dialects. Here's how to change the language used:

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Click General
  3. Select Siri
  4. Choose Language

You cannot randomly change the gender of Siri. Siri uses a female voice for English (Australian), English (US), and a male voice for English (UK).

A word of caution: Although it might be fun to have Siri speak to you in an Australian accent, doing so can cause the speech recognition to be far less effective.

Siri is an incredibly powerful tool that can make your mobile life far easier. Spending just a bit of time configuring Siri will go a long way to make your interaction with this feature more user-friendly.

Do you have Siri tips and tricks that you'd like to share with the TechRepublic community? Please post them in the discussion thread below.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

5 comments
rstoeber
rstoeber

I was trying to set up a relationship with my brother. Following the instructions in this post I select the appropriate contact record, then Edit -> Add Field -> Related People. The default I get isn't mother, it's spouse. But when I tap on spouse the only options I get are spouse, assistant and manager. How do I get all the other relationship choices?

drj
drj

It's an oversight to not offer 'son' and 'daughter' as options. However, you can do it yourself by following the instructions above and, while still in edit mode, do a 'select all' on the name and change it to your choice, e.g. 'daughter'.

ktell
ktell

The only valuable aspects are the Wolfram Alpha integration (formula and calculations). Calling someone by their relationship? Really? That's just another "name" that my Windows Mobile 5 phone could do years ago. Punctuation? Really? How useful!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Here's why SIRI sucks: Reminders: When I tell SIRI to "Remind me to buy eggs when I go to VONS" it does absolutely nothing. VONS is a contact that has an address that is mapped correctly. Same thing when I have it remind me when I go "HOME". The only reminders that work are time based. Hello 2008. Data Connection: Dozens of times I will ask SIRI something, like: "Call Home" or "where is the nearest..." or "who was the first..." and I get that brain piercing response "I'm really sorry about this..." or the even worse response "Something has gone wrong". Most of the time it's because it ALWAYS requires a data connection to process my voice commands. Some basic functions like opening apps or calling contacts should be built in to the software. Speed: The voice processing generally takes 2 to 5 seconds longer than if I were to use the search feature for whatever I was looking for. Depending on what screen im in, holding down the button to activate, talking, waiting, then her processing my request (if she get's it right) is just slow as all get out. I can swipe to the search, type the first two letters of what I'm trying, press the contact, app, or whatever and go. Google search is much faster and has a lot better responses for location requests. SIRI blows, and I never use her. In fact I wish there was a way to turn her off completely. The 4s is merely a faster processor with a better camera, period. Oh and it runs on Verizon.

phronk
phronk

You can also set up relationships with Siri. Just say "X is my girlfriend" and Siri will know it from then on.