When I first encountered Siri, it was on my aunt’s iPhone 4S and my teenage cousins and I said silly things to it for 15 minutes before getting bored. That was in November 2011.
When I got Siri a few weeks later, I didn’t actually use it, and I wasn’t alone.
Although our publication’s gadget guru loved Siri, our editor-in-chief said he and most people would never use it. Analysts trashed the product and said at the very least it didn’t live up to the hype. Some people wished they could take the voice assistant off their phone, and I know some people who turned it off, including me for a while.
By October 2013 it was reported that 85% of users of Apple’s latest mobile operating system had not used Siri at all.
Given this history, I have been surprised to see how Siri has recently crept into my life. The change may have to do with software updates, but it probably relates more to my gradual adjustment to a new way of interacting with a computer.
I still find it awkward to talk to my phone in public, but I use Siri all the time in private and sometimes in public, too — where admittedly there is a thrill in showing off my mastery of technology to people who haven’t adopted voice control.
My ways of using Siri are fairly basic (see a list of more advanced functions here), but they are useful:
“Call _____.” A very common command and one that’s easier than the several touches required to do it manually.
“Wake me up at ______.” Basic and satisfying.
“Turn off all alarms.” The natural corollary.
“Remind me at 8 AM to _____.” Although I don’t use the iOS Reminders app, this simple command is useful, especially if you think of something right before going to bed.
“Google _______.” Classic — and I’m sure you can use Bing and other apps, too, if you want.
“Take note: ______.” This is a personal favourite and one that I as a journalist use all the time. Just pause for a tick after saying “note” for it to work. When you take a note, it appears as a new note in the Mac Notes app. It was this Siri integration that lead me to abandon Evernote and take up Notes.
“How do you get to _____?” and “Where is ______?” Much easier than opening a map app and typing in a destination while on the run.
“Define ______.” I prefer my dictionary app, but this is faster.
“Take picture.” This calls up the camera. It is only somewhat useful, given that the iPhone makes it easy to access the camera manually.
“Text _____: ______.” I only use this occasionally, since I generally like to have manual control over my communications to other people.
Siri pros won’t be impressed, nor will expert users of Microsoft’s Cortana and Google Now, but for this user it is a breakthrough to convert such common commands into voice control. And I’m slowly picking up new commands, too, approaching the Hal 9000-type intelligent interactions seen in Apple ads dating back to Siri’s launch.
Now I consider Siri an essential part of the iPhone. Now I get frustrated that my Mac doesn’t have Siri — which is why I’m excited to hear that the app is expected in the next big update.
I also realise just how powerful Siri could be for Apple. After all, if I used Siri all the time, then I would stick with Siri-compatible apps, namely Apple apps and those that Apple favours. As the app gets more advanced, it might lead users to make more and more purchases from the iTunes store, allowing easy movie rentals and album downloads with a voice command.
As for Cortana and Google Now, I’ve never used them, but some people say they are even better than Siri. They both have more contextual services, allowing the programs to change based on where people, time of day, and other factors. And yes, increased use of these programs means giving more power and money to Microsoft and Google.
As for the many reluctant users out there, if you still haven’t started talking to your phone, then I suggest you get with the times.
Disclosure: I’m invested in Apple.
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