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Communicate Better with Siri

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In this article, Jason R. Rich, author of iPad and iPhone Tips and Tricks: 2nd Edition, explains some of the improvements made to the Siri feature that’s built in to iOS 6. He also offers some recommendations that will allow you to better communicate with your iPhone or iPad using verbal commands that will be understood.

In conjunction with the release of iOS 6, Apple enhanced the features and capabilities of the Siri feature, which is now available on most iPhone and iPad models, as well as the iPad mini. Using your voice, Siri has the ability to understand what you say and then utilize apps, app-specific data, and content from the Internet to quickly respond to your commands, questions, and requests.

For Siri to function, your iPhone or iPad must have access to the Internet using a 3G/4G (LTE) or Wi-Fi connection. Then, regardless of what you’re doing on your iOS mobile device, to activate Siri, press and hold down the Home button for two to three seconds until the “What can I help you with?” window appears and you hear Siri’s activation tone.

As soon as you hear the activation tone, begin speaking to Siri. On the iPhone, if you have a headset connected to your iPhone or iPad, tap on the blue speaker icon that’s displayed next to Siri’s microphone icon to select between using the microphone that’s built in to the iPhone or your headset’s microphone.

If you wait too long after activating Siri to begin speaking, the feature automatically turns itself off. To reactivate Siri, while the Siri window is still visible, tap on the circular microphone icon once.

Thanks to iOS 6, you’ll discover that Siri has a wide range of new capabilities. For example, you can launch any app by issuing a command, such as “Launch [insert app name]” or “Open [insert app name].” If you want to play a game on your iPhone or iPad, activate Siri and say, “Play [insert game name].”

Siri functionality is also integrated into many of the iPhone and iPad’s preinstalled apps, including Contacts, Phone (iPhone only), Messages, Calendar, Maps, Music, Mail, Weather, Stocks, Clock, Notes, and Safari. In addition, Siri now works in conjunction with the Facebook and Twitter functionality that’s built in to iOS 6, plus using Wolfram Alpha technology, is able to utilize the Internet and answer questions about a wide range of topics.

If you have the optional Find My Friends app installed on your iPhone or iPad, Siri can be used to quickly pinpoint the location of the people you designate as your friends. What Siri is really good at, however, is pulling information or data from one or more apps (or the Internet) in order to address to your questions and commands.

For example, if you’re using an iPhone and issue the command “Call mom at home,” Siri will access your Contacts database to figure out who your mother is, look up her home phone number, and then launch the Phone app to dial that number. Or, if you ask Siri, “How do I get to mom’s house from here?”, Siri will access your Contacts database to look up your mother’s home address, utilize the Location Service feature of your iPhone or iPad to pinpoint your current location, and then launch the Maps app to provide detailed directions from where you are right now to your mother’s home address.

Siri Is Now a Sports Expert

In addition to offering greater inter-app integration, Siri has access to a vast amount of information related to sports. You can now activate Siri and ask about your favorite professional sports teams or athletes.

Some of the types of sports-related questions Siri can respond to include: “Did the Yankees win their game last night?,” “What was the score of last night’s Red Sox game?,” “When do the Dallas Cowboys play next?,” “Who is pitching for the Mets today?”, or “Which quarterback has the most passing yards?”

You can also issue commands like “Show me the basketball scores from last night” or “Show me the roster for the New England Patriots.” Depending on how you set up the Siri feature, Siri will respond verbally and/or display related information to your question, command, or request on the iPhone or iPad’s screen.

Ask Siri About Restaurants

Thanks to integration with Yelp! and Open Table, no matter where you are, Siri can help you find a restaurant, learn about its menu (if applicable), make a reservation for you, and then help you get to that restaurant by providing detailed, turn-by-turn directions.

If you’re looking for an Italian restaurant, activate Siri and say, “Find me an Italian restaurant,” or ask, “What’s the best Italian restaurant in the area?” By default, Siri will pinpoint your current location and provide nearby results. However, as part of your request, you can insert any city or region, and Siri will provide appropriate results. For example, you could say, “Find me the best Italian restaurant in Providence, Rhode Island.”

Once Siri displays related restaurant results, tap on an on-screen listing to view details about that establishment, including its price range, hours of operation, average Yelp rating, phone number, address, and website. Tap on the photo thumbnail to view images of the restaurant.

Meanwhile, on the iPhone, if you tap on the restaurant’s phone number, the Phone app will launch and a call to that restaurant will be initiated. Or, either the iPhone or iPad, tap on the map thumbnail to obtain directions to that location using the Maps app. You can also activate Siri again while looking at a restaurant listing and ask, “How do I get there?”

By tapping on the website’s URL, it’s often possible to view the restaurant’s menu. If the restaurant accepts reservations, a Make Reservations button will appear on the screen. However, you can again activate Siri and say, “Make a reservation for [insert number] people at [insert time] on [insert day]” and, thanks to Open Table, your reservation will be made, and you’ll promptly receive a confirmation.

If you already know where you want to dine, and you know that restaurant accepts reservations, activate Siri and say, “Make a reservation at [insert restaurant name] for [insert number] people at [insert time] on [insert day].” Or, if you know you want Chinese food, but you’re not familiar with the area and you’re not sure which of the nearby Chinese restaurants serves the best food, activate Siri and say, “Find a good Chinese restaurant nearby,” or “Find the best Chinese restaurant in [insert city].”

Based on the results of a search, you can then activate Siri and say, “Show me the reviews for [insert restaurant name].”

Siri Can Help You Find a Theater or Choose a Movie

Because Siri can access your exact location, you can use this feature to find the closest movie theaters to wherever you happen to be, and then discover what’s playing, as well as movie times. You can also ask Siri movie-related questions such as “What comedies are playing nearby?”, “What time does [insert movie title] begin tonight?”, “Who directed [insert movie title]?”, “What is [insert movie title] rated?”, “Who stars in [insert movie title]?” or “Which movie won Best Picture in 2010?”

If you want to view the trailer for a movie, activate Siri and say, “Show me the trailer for [insert movie title].” The video trailer will then be streamed directly to your iPhone or iPad’s screen. Or, to read a movie’s reviews, say, “Show me the reviews for [insert movie title].”

Use Siri to Share Information with Your Facebook and Twitter Friends Online

If you have Facebook and/or Twitter integration set up on your iPhone or iPad, and you have an active Facebook or Twitter account, use Siri to compose and publish Facebook Status updates or compose and publish tweets.

For example, to update your Facebook Status using your voice, activate Siri and say, “Post to Facebook...” or “Write on my wall...”. If you want to compose and publish a tweet, activate Siri and say, “Tweet...” followed by your message. As always, an outgoing tweet can be up to 140 characters long. If you want to include your current location within a tweet, say, “Tweet my location...” followed by your message.

Tips for Being Understood by Siri

When used correctly, Siri can save you time and reduce the amount of manual data entry needed to obtain answers or interact with your iPhone or iPad. To improve Siri’s performance, use a Wi-Fi Internet connection (which improves Siri’s response time), and avoid using Siri in noisy areas. If there’s a lot of ambient noise when you use Siri, you’ll find the feature’s accuracy when it comes to understanding what you say diminishes.

To avoid having Siri ask follow-up questions, provide as much detail initially for Siri to comply with your command or request, or obtain the answer to your question. For example, if you want to set up an appointment within the Calendar app, don’t just say, “Set up a meeting with [insert name].” Instead, provide all relevant details by saying, “Set up a meeting with [insert name] at [insert location] at [insert time] on [insert date].”

Keep in mind that once you activate Siri, how you begin a question, command, or request will determine what app(s) Siri uses to respond. If you want to add a to-do list item within a list being managed with the Reminders app, begin your command by saying, “Remind me to...” or “Add [insert reminder information] to my [insert list name] list.”

To create a new event within the Calendar app, begin by saying, “Set up...”, “Meet with...”, “New appointment with...” or “Schedule a meeting with...” Likewise, if you want to create a note using the Notes app, begin your command by saying, “Note...”.

If you begin a command by saying, “Get me directions...”, “How do I get to...”, “What is the closest...”, or “Find...”, Siri will utilize the Maps app. You can also ask Siri questions to which answers can be found by accessing the Internet. This includes mathematical questions such as “What is 20 percent of $95.92”, or “How many dollars is 50 euros?”

It’s possible to ask Siri questions relating to almost any other topic imaginable, such as “What’s the state bird of California?”, “Who is the governor of Wisconsin?”, “What does the Australian flag look like?”, or “Who invested the light bulb?”

Because much of Siri’s functionality is handled from Apple’s online-based servers, as opposed to on your actual iPhone or iPad, Apple is continuously able to expand what’s possible, and enhance the accuracy and functionality of Siri.

For additional help discovering what Siri can currently do, and learn how to verbalize your questions, commands, and requests to generate the most accurate results, activate Siri and say, “What can you do?” or tap on the circular “i” icon that appears next to the “What can I help you with?” heading once you activate Siri.

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