Meet Siri, your new best friend

Apple Siri voice assistant

Many people dismiss the thought of talking to a smartphone’s voice assistant as ridiculous or impractical, but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. A voice assistant like Apple’s Siri can be valuable for organising mundane everyday tasks, for getting things done at times when you’re not able to physically pick up your phone (like when driving) or just saving a bit of valuable time here and there.

Voice assistants can play a helpful role in one’s busy life if you can get past the awkwardness of addressing your phone as if it were a person. We have tested some of the things Apple’s Siri* can do for you as well as a few fun extras.

But first, let us introduce you…

Siri is a personal voice assistant and knowledge navigator for Apple devices. Siri answers users’ questions, makes recommendations and performs actions by delegating requests to a set of Web services. It adapts to a user’s individual language and individual searches, or preferences, with extended usage to provide personalized results.

This voice assistant was first created by a company called Siri, Inc. and was to be sold for use on Blackberry and Android-powered devices. However, Apple acquired Siri in April 2010 and so it became a service exclusive for Apple users. It has been a part of iOS since iOS 5 and became a regular feature from the release of the iPhone 4S in 2011. Siri was added to the 3rd generation iPad with the release of iOS 5.1.1 and was included in every subsequent iOS release during and after October 2012.

Common commands for Siri

Before you can start to give commands to Siri, you need to activate the feature. Go to Settings > General and turn Siri on (button should display as green). If you want Siri to activate without having to press the Home button every time, activate the “Allow ‘Hey Siri’” feature. This will, however, only work if your iPhone or iPad is plugged into a power supply otherwise it will burn through your battery while it is listening for your next command in the background.

You can add other settings to Siri which includes the language you want to communicate in, the gender of Siri’s voice (male or female) and whether it always provides feedback in the form of a voice. You can also add personal information about yourself so that Siri will be better equipped to give you the correct answers.

There are a myriad of things you can ask Siri to do for you and in many different ways. The following is by no means a comprehensive list of all the things you can ask Siri but just a few examples you can try out:

Weather

  • What is the weather like?
  • Is it going to rain tomorrow?
  • What is the weather like in Rio de Janeiro?

Time, date, alarms and timer

  • What time is it?
  • What is today’s date?
  • What time is it in New York?
  • What is Saturday’s date?
  • Set an alarm for 7 AM
  • Turn off all alarms
  • Change my 7 AM alarm to 6:45 AM
  • Wake me up in 2 hours
  • Set timer for 10 minutes
  • Stop timer / resume timer

Maps, directions and places

  • Where am I? / What is my current location?
  • Directions to home
  • Find a petrol station / movie theatre / restaurant near me
  • Show me local traffic
  • Get me directions from Sea Point to Claremont / Knightsbridge to Notting Hill

General knowledge (conversion, maths, geography, etc.)

  • How many calories in a Big Mac burger?
  • Calculate the square root of 144
  • How many elements in the periodic table?
  • What is the population of Mexico?
  • How many South African rands are in 100 United States dollars?

Search, social media and contacts

  • Send a tweet
  • Post to Facebook
  • Search Google for images of kittens
  • Search for CNN
  • Read my new messages
  • Send a text to Jennifer
  • Send an email to my Mom
  • Call Dave Smith
  • My dad’s name is Christopher Smith (this command helps Siri to identify important people in your life for future reference)

Sports and movies

  • Show me reviews of the movie ‘The Avengers’
  • Who directed the movie ‘Inception’?
  • What movies are coming out this weekend?
  • When is the next Manchester United F.C. game? (Siri is most likely to provide a good/correct answer when official names are used)
  • Show me the soccer scores from last weekend

Phone settings

  • Turn on Airplane Mode
  • Turn off Bluetooth
  • Turn on Wi-Fi
  • Turn up brightness of display
  • Take a picture
  • Open Instagram (or any app that you want)

Calendar and reminders

  • Cancel my two o’clock meeting
  • Create a meeting on … (date/time)
  • Create an event
  • Cancel my meeting with David
  • Change my two o’clock meeting to three o’clock
  • Remind me to water the garden when I get home
  • Remind me to call Jonathan when I get to work
  • Remind me to buy bacon
  • Remind me to call Suzy at 7 PM

Fun questions / commands for Siri

  • “What does the fox say?” (from the viral song that took the Internet by storm in 2013)
  • “Tell me a story” (sometimes you have to repeat the question a few times before you get a complete answer)
  • “Tell me a joke”
  • “What is the meaning of life?”
  • “Testing”
  • Siri defaults to your name when talking to you but you can ask it to call you anything. Just say “Call me ‘honey’” or whichever name you’d like.
  • “Why did the chicken cross the road?”
  • “What’s your favourite animal?”
  • “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?”
  • “Flip a coin” (for those times that you feel indecisive)

* Don’t feel left out Android- and Google-lovers, a follow-up showcasing Google Now’s powers is coming soon!