In our busy twenty-first-century lives, time is a precious commodity. Siri helps you make the best of your limited free time by helping you to search for goods and services, find your way to local businesses, and even calculate tips and taxes.
This chapter explores the ways that Siri works at your command to make your shopping journeys as smooth as possible. Siri hunts down the items you crave, and reminds you to buy something when you are near a store that carries an item. Siri in your pocket acts like an invisible assistant whose sole goal in life is to get you out of stores and back to enjoying friends, family, and that ever-shrinking free time.
Products and Services
Siri provides an amazing interface for hunting down products and services. You might say to Siri, “I’m in the mood for Italian food,” and Siri will try to find exactly what you’re looking for based on your current location (see Figure 5-1). Just tap on any of the offerings to find directions and phone numbers.
Figure 5-1 Siri finds restaurants, stores, services, and more, all with simple queries.
Typical Shopping Requests
Siri loves to track down many types of goods and services for you. Shopping requests you might make include the following:
- Find me a bike shop.
- Where can I go to read a book?
- I’m looking for a health clinic.
- What’s a good place for dinner?
- Is there a dentist near me?
- How far is it from here to a library?
- I want to buy clothing.
- Remind me to pick up a 12-pack of soda when I leave work.
- Where can I buy milk?
As Figure 5-2 shows, Siri often sorts items by rating for you, simplifying your search. Other times, Siri’s searches will show closer items first. You can’t always know when the sorting will happen for each query, but when they do, they’re always set up to simplify the task you’ve asked Siri about.
Figure 5-2 Siri may sort some of its searches by rating, enabling you to scan the best-rated items first.
Siri can look up prices for you for certain commodities, such as gasoline, bread, potatoes, ground beef, butter, eggs, orange juice, sugar, and milk. You can also look at average prices of toothpaste, facial tissues, shampoo, detergent, dry cleaning, haircuts, movie tickets, newspapers, and bowling, among other standard items. For example, you might ask Siri, “What is the average price of a gallon of gasoline in Denver?” (see Figure 5-3) or “How much does milk cost in Denver?” In addition to pricing in big cities, Siri also provides prices on a state or national level. Siri cannot, however, look up shelf prices at the local grocery, so you can see only averages. What’s more, Siri cannot look for vendors based on price ranges, so you cannot ask, “Where is the cheapest gas station near me?” or “Where can I find inexpensive groceries?”
Figure 5-3 Siri enables you to check average prices on certain commodities.
Adding Sales Tax
Siri can help you shop by calculating sales tax. Just ask how much a purchase is with tax added for a given city, as shown in Figure 5-4 (left). This is a great way to calculate your final purchase price.
Figure 5-4 Siri calculates sales tax and tip for you.
Want to add a tip? Siri does that, too (see Figure 5-4, right). Siri does calculate the total with tip as well as the amount of tip as separate listings, but the iPhone 4S will not show both the question and the results with that all on one screen. To see the amount with tip, as well as the amount with standard tips like 10%, 15%, 20%, and 25%, just scroll down the results.
If you are traveling abroad or purchasing from overseas merchants, Siri can help you convert between currencies. As Figure 5-5 shows, Siri converts currencies to show you what a purchase would cost in U.S. dollars.
Figure 5-5 Converting between currencies helps you shop abroad or from foreign websites.
Preparing a Shopping List
Cliff Joyce of Pure Blend Software introduced us to our favorite way of putting together shopping lists in Siri.
Start in the Reminders application and create a new list. To do this, tap the Lists button at the top-left corner of the application. It looks like three lines on top of each other. Then tap Edit, Create New List, and enter the name Groceries. Click Done. After you have a list named Groceries (see Figure 5-6), you can refer to it in Siri.
Figure 5-6 When you create lists in the Reminders app, you can refer to them by name in Siri.
After you create the list, add items to it with simple requests whenever you think of something new you need to buy. Tell Siri, “Add eggs to my Groceries list.” Siri asks you to confirm the new item (see Figure 5-7). Just say “yes,” and Siri adds it for you. When you’re at the market, just check off the items as you buy them. It couldn’t be easier.
Figure 5-7 Siri can add items to your list whenever you run out of them in your pantry. Just tell it to add the new item and confirm.
This add-to-reminders approach is also, by the way, an amazing way for people on diets to keep food logs. Siri’s Wolfram Alpha integration makes it possible to look up calorie content for a large variety of foods. Between Wolfram and reminders, Siri is the perfect diet-logging tool.
Sharing Reminders with the Cloud
Lex Friedman of Macworld came up with a remarkably clever way to share reminder lists with others. Log in to iCloud.com and enter the Calendar section. Click the gear icon (top right), New Reminder List. The new list appears in the list on the left side of the screen. Double-click the list and edit its name (for example, Cloud).
To add people to the reminders list, click the small Wi-Fi-esque signal icon to the right of its name. Add each person by email address. Click Share to finish. Each person receives a confirmation email. If you plan to share your reminders only with highly trusted people, such as your spouse, you can share your default reminders list (called Reminders) using these steps, without creating a new one.
By adding people to your shared list, you enable them to see your reminders in their iCloud and iCal lists in the iOS Reminders app. Then, all you have to do is tell Siri, “Add pickup the library books to my cloud list.”
Friedman points out this killer use for shared lists. He writes, “Add your local supermarket as a contact in your iPhone address book, and of course add its address. (I called mine ‘The Supermarket.’) Now, you can say, ‘Remind me to buy eggs when I get to the supermarket’; when you—or whomever you’ve shared your list with—arrives at the supermarket, Reminders will, well, remind you—or whomever—about the item(s) on your list.”
Siri doesn’t always get your shopping requests right. It has been optimized for a general urban lifestyle and may miss the subtleties localized to, for example, living in Denver, home to the National Western Stock Show, where you can, in fact, easily buy a cow, a pig, a sheep, and so forth (see Figure 5-8).
Figure 5-8 Siri, clearly, does not live in Colorado. Yee-haw.