10 useful everyday things Apple's Siri can do for you

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  • Siri’s Shortcuts feature makes it easier for the virtual assistant to streamline tasks on your phone.
  • Apple launched Shortcuts in the fall, and now a handful of new apps have announced support for the feature.

Siri has existed since the iPhone 4s debuted in 2011, but Apple’s voice-enabled virtual assistant has become much more useful in recent years.

That’s because Siri is more than just a question-and-answer machine; it learns about your iPhone usage habits and puts those observations to use proactively.

For example, Apple launched a new feature called Siri Shortcuts with its iOS 12 software this past fall, which makes it possible for Siri to make suggestions based on your usage habits and streamline tasks. A handful of companies like American Airlines, food delivery startup Caviar, and glucose monitoring system maker Dexcom recently added shortcuts to their apps, joining the thousands that Apple says already support the feature.

Shortcuts is one of several enhancements Apple has made to Siri in recent years as companies like Google and Amazon have aggressively expanded the capabilities of their own respective virtual assistants.

See below for a few useful Shortcuts and other clever ways Siri can help you save time.


Dig up old photos.

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If you’re anything like me, you have thousands upon thousands of old photos stored on your iPhone. Thankfully, Siri can help you pull up that photo from five years ago in a pinch. Just say something like: “Show me photos taken in Connecticut from 2013” to pull up photos from years ago without having to scroll, swipe, or tap.


Check your food delivery status (with certain apps).

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Thanks to Siri Shortcuts, Apple’s virtual assistant now works more closely with certain third-party apps, making it a much more worthy rival to Amazon’s Alexa. That includes the food delivery app Caviar, which now offers an option to record a phrase of your choice to check up on your order status-hands free. After placing an order, you can choose to say something like, “Where’s my food” to get an update. You can also use Siri to re-order dishes you’ve purchased through Caviar in the past.


Launch the camera.

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It’s not always convenient to stop what you’re doing, navigate back to the home screen, and tap the camera icon. Instead, you can just say, “Hey Siri, take a picture,” to jump right into the camera app. If you’re using an iPhone 6 or older, your phone will need to be plugged into a power source in order to use Siri hands-free – meaning you’ll have to hold the home button down until Siri activates.


Delete all of your alarms at once.

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If you often add new alarms instead of editing existing ones as your schedule changes, you can very easily end up with a pretty lengthy list in the Clock app’s Alarms section. To clean these up and start from scratch, simply say: “Delete all alarms.”


Find your misplaced AirPods.

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If you can’t remember where you left your wireless Apple earbuds, try asking Siri. If they have fallen out of their case and are within range of your connected Apple devices, Siri can prompt them to make a sound so that you can find them. This could be helpful if they have gotten loose in a backpack or purse.

If they’re out of range, in their case, or out of power, you can still see the time and location at which they were last online through Find My iPhone.


See how much time you have to left get to your gate at the airport (for certain airlines).

Those flying with American Airlines can now ask Siri for flight details, including how long it will take to get from your current location within the airport to your gate. This is yet another Siri Shortcut available to those who have the American Airlines app installed on their iPhones. British Airways and Lufthansa also offer similar shortcuts that make it possible to pull up your flight status just by asking.


Get an ETA for your morning commute and start your morning playlist.

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Siri can help you get directions, provide an estimated time of arrival, and start your morning commute playlist with a single command. After setting up this routine in Apple’s Shortcuts app, record the phrase you’d like to use to trigger this shortcut. Reciting that pre-chosen command, such as “Heading to work,” will prompt Siri to launch all of these actions simultaneously.

Apple’s Shortcuts app has a trove of pre-made commands like this, including ones that make it possible to turn photos into a collage with your voice and turn on “Do Not Disturb” until you leave your current location. You can also create your own custom shortcuts.


Find out how much battery life your AirPods and Apple Watch have left.

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If you can’t be bothered to reach for your iPhone and swipe over to the Batteries widget to check the battery status of your connected devices, just say something like, “Hey Siri, how much battery is left in my AirPods?”

Again, you’ll need to make sure you’re using an iPhone 6s or later to use Siri hands-free on your smartphone without plugging it in to power.


Share your location with a friend or family member.

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Using the “Share Location” shortcut in Apple’s app can streamline the amount of time it takes to share your current whereabouts with a loved one.

When setting up the shortcut, choose the intended recipient and press the “Add to Siri” button to record your custom phrase. You can tailor this phrase to match the recipient’s name (i.e. “Hey Siri, tell Dan where I am.”) or keep it general if you have multiple recipients.


Find your keys (if you have a Tile tracker).

Tile

Siri can now help you find your misplaced keys – as long as you’re using Tile’s Bluetooth tracker. Tile’s app includes a Siri option that lets you record a phrase that will prompt the app to ping your keys when they have gone missing. You can set it to a sentence as simple as “Find my keys,” for example. The company was among the first third-party developers to support Siri Shortcuts when the feature launched this past fall.

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