Quick Review: Siri

Siri takes voice control and speech-to-text to a completely new level. Siri was first detailed by 9to5mac here less than a month before the iPhone 4S event, although speculation on what Apple would use Siri for after they had acquired the company a couple of years ago. The site notes that, when they originally posted the article, that the features were “not finalized”, but looking at it now, their explanation seems dead on.

Many smartphones have had voice control for years now, even some flip phones had it. The iPhone and all Android phones have had voice control before Siri’s inception, but they were only capable of executing basic commands like “Send text to Bob: Hello” or “Play song: Thriller”. If you didn’t say key words such as “Send” or “Play”, the command would not work. Siri completely revolutionizes these commands and more. Now, you can say “Tell Bob hello” or “Start some music by The Fray” and Siri will follow through. With Siri, you also get speech to text, allowing for easier text input into fields. Keep reading to find a short overview of Siri’s main abilities.

Information

Weather

Finding out the weather using voice control was never possible before Siri. (Access Siri by holding down your home button, or, if you have the setting on, raise your phone to your ear.) You would have to go into the weather application (on iPhone) or a 3rd party app (on Android, iPhone too) to find out the weather for the current day or a few down the road. Voice control would take in your words, but wasn’t sophisticated enough to report weather conditions back to you.

Asking Siri the weather is easy and can also be done in numerous ways – you don’t even have to say the word “weather” when asking. Some possible commands are “What’s it like outside?” or “What’s it like in New York?” and Siri will reply back in one of many different ways like “There’s some bad weather coming up for New York for today through this Monday.” If you don’t specify a city, Siri will use the first location you have set in your weather application. Locations can be reordered in the app itself. You can specify any day of the week or ask for specific times of the day, too.

The Internet, Google, and Wolfram Alpha

Siri also utlizes the internet as way of displaying information for you. Siri doesn’t have an answer for everything you ask her so when you ask her something that she does know, you’ll have the option to do a Google search. Clicking it will enter in the question you asked and then Safari will be opened with the search results.

Siri also uses the power information database Wolfram Alpha for all the cool factual information she gives you. If you ask her what 5 times 25 is, she’ll search Wolfram Alpha for it and then a box will pop up which says Wolfram Alpha in the corner.

Core Apps

Messages and Emails

 

Not only can Siri search information for you, but she can also send text messages and emails. All you have to do is say “Tell (name here) (message here)” or you can say “Send a message to (name here) (message here)” and a box will pop up allowing you to confirm your message. This utilizes the Nuance speech dictation allowing you to change your voic into text in a text field. For emails, it’s the same concept – just say “Email (name here) (message here)” or something similar.

Music

Playing is something voice control has featured for a long time now, and ultimately, it’s been brought over to Siri with barely any differences. You can tell Siri to play a certain song, play any song by an artist, play an album, pause songs, fast forward, rewind or shuffle. This can all be done, also, by wearing the Apple headphones (the one with the microphone) by holding on the volume button on the headphones.

Reminders and Notes

 

Adding new reminders and notes is just as simple. For Reminders, you can have her create simple ones such as “Remind me to buy milk” and that will be created. You can also say “Remind me to buy milk at 2pm tomorrow”, allowing you add specific dates and times for reminders. Siri also takes advantage of location based reminders in iOS. “Remind me to buy milk when I get to the store” is an example of that. For notes, Siri can create new notes, add to existing notes, and find notes.

Maps, Calendar, Clock, and Contacts

Maps: Asking Siri about a certain place or set of directs will cause a small map to pop up inside of her interface. It’s interactive so you can scroll around and check directions without leaving the interface. Siri will get directions to places, use addresses in your contacts, or yield directions for places you ask, like “Show nearby coffee shops”.

 

Calendar: Siri can set up meetings for you, as well as create events and repeat back ones with specific details like people associated with them, their times, places and subjects. She can also move or reschedule events, as well as cancel events, add people to events, or give you an overview of your day.

 

Clock: For Alarms, Siri can set alarms with a variety of expressions like “Set an alarm”or “wake me up at…”. She can also delete alarms, turn them on or off, or change alarm times. Siri will also use the clock to give you times in other parts of the world, as well as give you dates or upcoming days. You can command her to create timers, pause them, resume them, reset them  and stop them.

 

Contacts: The cool part about contacts is being able to set relationships so Siri knows who people are. If you set “Bob” as your father and you say call my dad (or father), Bob will be dialed. You can also tell Siri who your family is by saying “(name here) is my sister”, for example. She can also show contacts, as well as give you addresses of your Contacts. Also, if you tell her your name (or any name for that matter), she’ll call you it from time to time.

 

Siri can also give you the daily stock prices of any company.

Conclusion

Siri has a large amount of features and works great, especially for a feature that’s currently in the beta stages. It’s certain that Apple will be refining Siri, as well as adding more features to enhance and encourage hands-free productivity.

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