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With the release of the iPhone 6s, Siri’s potential as a hands-free, always-listening Siri Is Listening: Has iOS Privacy Been Blown Open? Siri Is Listening: Has iOS Privacy Been Blown Open? Apple's has been accused of recording everything - absolutely everything - you say to Siri, and passing it to a third-party. But is this really a privacy breach, or is there good reason for it? Read More assistant increased considerably. Those lucky enough to own one of Apple’s latest gadgets no longer need to keep their devices plugged in to summon the feature.

Even if you own an older iPhone or iPad, “Hey Siri” is still bursting with potential, particularly since voice recognition greatly improved Alexa, How Does Siri Work? Voice Control Explained Alexa, How Does Siri Work? Voice Control Explained The world is moving towards voice commands for everything, but how exactly does voice control work? Why is it so glitchy and restricted? Here's what you need to know as a layman user. Read More with iOS 9. Here’s how one of Siri’s lesser-known features can make life easier.

How It Works

Hands-free Siri access requires the use of the spoken “Hey Siri” phrase, just like “OK, Google” does on Android phones. The iPhone 6s, 6s Plus, SE, and iPad Pro make the best use of this feature, and once setup, you can say “Hey Siri” wherever you are to summon Apple’s digital assistant.

Users with an iPhone 6 and iPad Air 2 or older will only be able to make use of the feature when their phone or tablet is plugged into a power source. This limits the usefulness of the feature somewhat, but if your phone’s out of arm’s reach while charging it’s still a useful feature to have access to.

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If you haven’t already set up the feature, you’ll need to manually do so by heading to Settings > General > Siri and enabling Allow “Hey Siri” in the menu that appears. You’ll be asked to say “Hey Siri” a few times (along with a few other phrases), which is designed to better train your iPhone to identify your voice.

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You can also change some basic settings here, like language and localization, Siri’s voice, and whether or not you want Siri to talk back to you under the Voice Feedback option. You should also ensure the correct contact is selected under My Info.

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The “Hey Siri” command is most useful when your phone isn’t directly within your reach, and that means it will probably be locked when you use the phrase. If you’ve disabled Siri access by default from the lockscreen Stop Siri & Notification Center Giving Away Your iPhone Secrets Stop Siri & Notification Center Giving Away Your iPhone Secrets Leaving your iPhone on the table while you go to the bar is okay if it's locked, right? After all, your mates can't access information or post slanderous messages on Facebook... right? Read More you’ll need to enable it by heading to Settings > TouchID & Passcode and checking Siri in the “Allow Access When Locked” section.

iOS 9’s voice recognition feature does a good job of stopping other users from using their voice to perform tasks on your phone, which is somewhat reassuring but not foolproof.

For Driving & Cycling

It might seem obvious, but hands-free access to Siri might be most useful in the car or when you’re cycling (assuming you’ve mounted your smartphone on your bike Want To Mount Your Smartphone On Your Bike? It's This Easy Want To Mount Your Smartphone On Your Bike? It's This Easy When was the last time you left home without your phone? We're in the age where we take our phones everywhere, and that includes while biking. Read More ). The digital assistant already offers huge benefits for drivers, but having to reach across and hold a button to activate the feature is probably the most distracting part of the process.

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Simplify the process further by using your voice, and only your voice, to use your smartphone without taking your hands off the wheel (or handlebars). Some common tasks you might want to perform include making a call, sending a message, creating a reminder, checking your team’s current score, or creating a route to follow while already driving.

Seeing as most of us charge our iPhones while driving thanks to the increasing prevalence of USB ports, you probably don’t need to worry about having the latest iPhone to use “Hey Siri” while you’re in the car. Even cyclists can easily charge their devices while riding along Charge Your Smartphone While You Ride Your Bike Charge Your Smartphone While You Ride Your Bike There are tons of options out there if you want to charge your phone while riding your bike, so we take a look at the best. Read More .

Next-Level Home Automation

HomeKit is Apple’s answer to home automation — a unified standard for smart, connected devices to interact with iPhones and iPads. The ability to turn on your lights or adjust the thermostat using an app is novel, but performing these tasks hands-free using your voice is positively futuristic.

If you want to add a touch of sci-fi magic to your smart home setup, start using “Hey Siri” to interact with your connected devices without touching a thing. Apple maintains a list of HomeKit-ready devices, and though there aren’t a ton of them to choose from at present, HomeKit is still a relatively new standard, and the number of options are only going to increase.

Control lighting with Philips Hue, Incipio CommandKit, and Nanoleaf Smart Lighting; toggle power with a ConnectSense Smart Outlet, iDevices Switch, or iHome Control; and adjust the temperature with a Netatmo Thermostat, ecobee3 Thermostat, or Elgato Eve Thermo.  You can check out Apple’s full list of HomeKit Siri commands. A few worth noting are:

  • “Set the temperature to [input]”
  • “Turn off the upstairs lights”
  • “Turn on the coffee maker”
  • “Goodnight”

HomeKit allows you to group accessories by zones, rooms, and scenes — which is how commands like “party time” are possible How to Use Siri to Set the Scene for Romance How to Use Siri to Set the Scene for Romance Yesterday we showed you how to create a Wi-Fi light; today we're going to build on that knowledge to make Siri to work with Sonos, then put it together in a romantic scene. Read More . Being able to access these features using voice commands takes home automation to the next level. Don’t forget you can use Siri to play music and podcasts too — perfect if you use your iPhone or iPad for Apple Music, Spotify, or with Apple’s Podcasts app.

Note: Some HomeKit commands are only available when your device is unlocked, a security feature designed to ensure only you have access to them. So if you have a smart lock or HomeKit-compatible garage door, you’ll need to unlock your device before you can issue the command.

Ask Questions, Get Answers

More services and sources of information are added to Siri with each new iOS release, and as a result, the assistant has become far more useful over the past few years.

If you’re curious about something, simply bark out “Hey Siri”, and ask your question to have the digital assistant answer you if it can. Can’t remember when the film you’re watching was made? Ask away.

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In addition to checking facts and answering trivia questions, Siri can perform sums and conversions — which is particularly handy if you’re using your iPad as a recipe book and need to quickly convert from imperial to metric without coating your tablet in flour. Split a bill quickly, or work out how much you spend on coffee a week with a multiplication sum.

You can also perform date and time calculations, like what day the 5th of October falls on, what time it is in Cape Town right now, and check the weather anywhere in the world. Lying in bed? Ask Siri what time your alarm is set for tomorrow, or better still, tell Siri to set your alarm for a specific time. Have your text messages or emails read to you, with the option to reply if you want — all without lifting a finger.

Dictate Notes, Reminders, Email, and Messages

If the simple act of picking up your phone to tap out a note, email, or message is too distracting for you, why not use “Hey Siri” to dictate it instead? Now that voice recognition has been improved, so too has Siri’s dictation feature. You can do it from across the room, while typing on your laptop, while driving, or even in the shower simply by using your voice.

Once you’ve finished dictating you can pause and Siri will respond by asking you whether to send the message or save the note, and at this stage you can reply with “read it to me” or “review it” to have the assistant read it back to you to avoid errors.

Do You Use “Hey Siri”?

I find the worst thing about this feature is that I’m always forgetting it’s there, so you might need to make a conscious effort to use it before you get into the habit. Once you do, you’re bound to find it indispensable when driving, cooking, or any time you have your hands full and need to send a message, draft a note, or perform a quick calculation.

Do you use “Hey Siri” on your iPhone or iPad?

  1. jkoenig24
    May 2, 2016 at 2:11 pm

    "In what way is Siri less useful, out of interest?"

    I get far fewer USEFUL answers from Siri than I do from OK Google. It's NOT unusual to get NO answer from Siri. Siri has routed me to the wrong place (mt DDS new office). OK Google; no problem. When I request driving directions, OK Google AUTOMATICALLY factors in current traffic conditions. I haven't seen that with Siri. These are the issues that quickly come to mind. There are other issues too.

    • Tim Brookes
      May 4, 2016 at 4:16 am

      Well Siri's routing would depend on Apple Maps, which does now include traffic information but I'm not sure if it factors into directions or how reliable it is. It figures that Google would probably provide better routing capabilities given their use of Google Maps, the gold standard for this sort of thing. I think traffic information (and indeed public transport info) depends on where in the world you are, big US cities should be fairly well-serviced though.

      Apple does seem to be constantly improving its mapping solution, so hopefully things will continue to improve in future. It would also be nice to be able to ask Siri to "route me to with Waze/Google Maps/Tom Tom" — in the same way Spotify users would benefit from the sort of voice control Apple Music has. Siri is still very restrictive in this sense though.

      I think Apple has changed considerably over the past few years, introducing things like the larger iPhone, changeable keyboards, the iPhone SE, the Pencil stylus — but they're still "very Apple" in many ways.

  2. jkoenig24
    April 29, 2016 at 5:26 pm

    Although Siri has recently improved, my experience is that Siri is helpful less than half the time I try to use it. I find OK Google MUCH more accurate and useful.

    • Tim Brookes
      May 2, 2016 at 5:00 am

      In what way is Siri less useful, out of interest? Do you mean in terms of information sources, commands, voice recognition or something else?

      I haven't used OK Google, but I've heard good things — and the same goes for Microsoft's Cortana.

  3. Shane Harris (Patch)
    April 29, 2016 at 3:15 am

    I use it for all sorts of things while im driving, it didn’t work very well at the start but after using it everyday for about 2 months I find it has adapted quite well to my voice.

    Very useful tool.

  4. George Ryan
    April 29, 2016 at 1:35 am

    Allowing Siri on lock screen is something the FBI and other hackers would like everyone to do.

    • Tim Brookes
      May 2, 2016 at 5:06 am

      Siri access from lockscreen is something I hope Apple locks down in the future. I imagine their recent run in with the feds might see them tighten security in iOS 10, but it would be nice to fully customize Siri access from the lockscreen. I'd like to be able to make music requests or perform web searches without letting anyone read my texts or emails to be honest.

      We've covered this in the past, by the way: http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/stop-siri-notification-center-giving-away-iphone-secrets/

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