iPhone 4S: Getting along well with Siri

The more I use Siri the more I discover that the personal assistant can do for me with the iPhone 4S. Here are some simple areas that Siri is making a contribution in my daily life.
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor

Siri is the voice assistant introduced with the iPhone 4S designed to make the user's life easier. Through natural commands spoken into the phone, Siri jumps to provide assistance or information as required by the request. Siri isn't able to do everything, nor to understand some requests, but the technology is imnpressive in how often it works as intended. I find myself using Siri more and more the longer I use the iPhone 4S, and have run across some useful things.

Reminders. Siri works with the reminders in iOS5 to make sure you don't forget to do something. These are the first thing that most iPhone 4S owners get familiar with, and the longer I use Siri the more use I get out of reminders. I use it all the time for simple things.

My wife asks me to check the dryer in an hour and I tell Siri to "remind me to check the dryer in an hour". Today I told Siri to "remind me to turn the crock pot down at 3" and my dinner was saved.

I am getting good at not just using Siri for timed actions like those above, but for lots of other functions. I often tell Siri to "remind me to note fact A" for anything I would normally jot down on a post-it note. This is so easy to do I never forget simple things like this, now that I have a personal assistant.

Information requests. Like most folks I have become dependent on web searches to get information I need. Siri has assumed a big role in my quest for information, both searches I used to do on Google, "ipad 2 cases", and others that are less structured.

Sunday I wondered how my local NFL team's schedule looked the rest of the year so it was "Siri, show me the Houston Texan NFL schedule". Siri fired up a Google search that took me right to the remaining schedule I needed.

These are very simple examples, but I am gradually coming to depend on Siri to get me more specific information through Apple's integration with Wolfram Alpha. Preceding a request with "Wolfram" instead of Siri tells Siri I want her to use that service to look for the information I am requesting.

I am finding this useful in researching topics for writing projects, as well as stuff I am simply wondering about. "Wolfram, who played in the 1983 World Series" yields everything you want to know about that event. Every day I am finding I end up thinking about something like this and Siri gives me the exact information I am wondering. You can also preface a question with Bing or Yahoo, if you want those services to be used.

Sending text messages. I don't text a lot of people, primarily just family members. In the beginning I would tell Siri to "Send a text to Sheri" along with the line of text I wanted to send. As I used Siri, I realized she could learn how those who I text frequently are related to me. Now I simply state "Text my wife I will be running late" and after once telling Siri which contact that meant all future texts go straight to Sheri. I've done the same thing with my brother, daughter 1, daughter 2, etc. Since getting the iPhone 4S I find I text folks more often, due to how easy it is with Siri.

I also use Siri's ability to send text messages to tweet occasionally. I set up Twitter to allow tweeting via SMS, and trained Siri what number that was. Now I tell Siri to "Send a text to Twitter" followed by a short tweet. Nice and simple and totally hands-free. You can also configure Google+ and Facebook to allow you to post updates using this method.

Making phone calls. I use Siri more and more to initiate phone calls, especially in the car. I know I shouldn't make calls while driving but I admit I do that once in a while. It is so easy to tell Siri to "call my brother at home" and have the call started with no further action on my part.

The same method is good for getting contact information I need. Asking Siri "what is Matt Miller's address?" is a lot easier than manually finding it in the Address Book. I can even ask Siri what so-and-so's birthday is and get the date.

Setting alarms. When I need a more persistent reminder than the Reminders app provides, I now use Siri to set alarms to bug me. This is as simple as "Wake me tomorrow at 6:30" or "set an alarm for 6:30". That gets the nagging iPhone alarm set to disturb me appropriately.

Scheduling. Siri is especially good at scheduling meetings and events. "Meet with Bob today at 3" gets the appropriate event in my schedule. I really like the ability to ask Siri "What does my schedule look like on Thursday?" and having it shown. This is where the natural language of Siri really shines.

Siri is far from perfect, but as I use it more I am getting better at figuring out what type of natural language commands work best. I can state confidently that I am using the iPhone 4S and Siri more than I have used any other smartphone, because I am finding more things Siri can do for me all the time.


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