Siri is a powerful feature that not a lot of users fully take advantage of on a daily basis. Perhaps it's the awkwardness of talking to Siri in public, or perhaps you don't know all of the commands that Siri is capable of using. Either way, we'll guide you through five tips and tricks that can broaden your usage of Siri and make you a Siri power user.
1. Use Siri as an app launcher
Hunting and pecking to find an application on your device's home screen? Is your app hoarding getting in the way of actually finding the apps you want to use? No worries, because Siri can help in this situation. If you didn't already know, Siri is a very capable application launcher.
To launch an application using Siri, open Siri by pressing the home button until the Siri UI appears, and then speak "Launch [app name]," "Play [game name]," or "Open [app name]," as shown in Figure A. You can't use this functionality to control apps that are already running, but you can at least launch them using your voice.
Launching apps with your voice couldn't be easier.
2. Check and send email and text messages
Checking email and text messages while driving can be distracting and, in some states, illegal. Fortunately, Siri can help you out here whenever you get an important message and need to respond immediately while doing something else.
To read your text messages or emails, simply open Siri and say, "Read my email" or "Read my messages." This will start Siri reading all of your latest emails or text messages. If you wish to only read the latest email or text message, just say, "Read my latest [email or text message]," as shown in Figure B.
Siri can read your email for you, leaving you hands-free and distraction-free while doing another task.
After the message has been read, Siri will ask whether or not you wish to respond back directly from the Siri UI by dictating your reply and having Siri send the response.
You can also send a new email or text message to someone using Siri by opening Siri and saying, "Email [name in Contacts list]," "Text [name in Contacts list]," or "iMessage [name in Contacts list]." When you do this, Siri will ask you for the body of the message (Figure C), and you will use the built-in dictation functionality in iOS 7 to handle the creation of the message. When you've finished dictating your message, you can have Siri deliver the email or message for you.
Responding to a text message or creating a new one relies on the built-in dictation features of iOS.
3. Check voicemail and missed calls
If you miss a voicemail message and want to listen to it later, Siri can help you out here as well. Simply activate Siri and say, "Check Voicemail." Your assistant will kick into gear, searching for the latest unlistened voicemail messages, and will display the results (Figure D). Once you tap on one, it will be played back for you.
Finding out if the last caller left you a voicemail message is even easier with Siri.
By the same measure, if you missed a call and want to see who it was, simply say "What are my missed calls?" and Siri will gladly list the last missed calls for you right in the interface without having to hunt and peck for the phone app.
4. Quickly turn off and on settings
"Please turn off and stow your electronic devices." It's the dreaded statement that we hear every time we board an airplane. Disconnecting your digital life from the rest of the world for a few hours while traveling can be a bit daunting, but fortunately, you can easily enable AirPlane mode on your electronic devices using Siri.
To do this, open Siri and speak, "Enable AirPlane mode," or any of the other countless settings that Siri can easily enable and disable for you (Figure E). You can use this with Bluetooth, screen brightness, Do Not Disturb mode, Wi-Fi, and more.
Enabling and disabling settings that are buried in the Settings app is easier with Siri.
5. Edit misread Siri questions
Siri does a pretty good job of recognizing the commands that you speak and interpreting them into actionable items. However, when Siri gets a word or phrase wrong, it usually gets it very wrong. Fortunately, you can edit the phrase or word by typing instead of re-speaking the misinterpreted item.
To do this, whenever Siri gets the spelling wrong, tap on the question that you asked, and you'll be put into editing mode where you can re-type in the correct phrase or re-type the misspelled word.
Siri didn't get something quite right? No worries, just re-type in your question to ensure correct spelling.
The future of Siri
These features and more are available with Siri in iOS 7, but with the advent of iOS 8 later this year, Apple will be adding even more functionality, including the ability to use Siri completely hands-free. With the iOS 8 hands-free feature, you'll be able to plug your iOS device in and awaken your digital assistant simply by saying "Hello Siri."
How do you use Siri? What Siri features do you like the most, and what features would you like to see in the future? Let us know in the discussion thread below.
Cory Bohon is an indie developer, creating both iOS and OS X applications at Cocoa App (his own company), MartianCraft, and for various other clients. As a part of full disclosure, he does not write about any software that he has created or has helped to create through these outlets.
Cory Bohon is an indie developer specializing in iOS and OS X development. He runs a software company called Cocoa App and is also a developer at MartianCraft. He was introduced to technology at an early age and has been writing about his favorite technology part-time since 2007. He runs a development blog named ObjDev when he isn’t writing about consumer tech.