How To Talk To Siri, The iPhone’s New Virtual Assistant

How To Talk To Siri, The iPhone’s New Virtual Assistant

Yesterday Apple announced Siri, the new voice-controlled assistant for your iPhone, and we detailed how it works to give you an idea of the things it can help you do. But have you been wondering what you can say to it, specifically? The Unofficial Apple Blog (TUAW) has posted a very comprehensive list of options. Here are a few examples and how they work.

Accessing Your Calendar and Events

When adding events, you can say things like “Set up a meeting at 9”, “New appointment with Susan Park Friday at 3”, and “Schedule a planning meeting at 8:30 today in the boardroom”. If you need to change an event, “Move my 3pm meeting to 4:30” will work. If you just want to hear about existing events, you can say things like “What does the rest of my day look like?” and “When am I meeting with Michael?”. The voice interface is designed to be very natural and understand how you would normally talk.

Interacting with Contacts

Siri has full access to your address book, so if you want an address, for example, just ask “What is Susan Park’s address?” To see a contact on your screen, “Show Jason Russell” is sufficient. You can also specify relationships by saying things like “Michael Manning is my brother”.

Setting Alarms and Reminders

Waking up tomorrow is as simple as saying “Wake me up tomorrow at 7am.” You can also be a little less specific about the exact time and say “Wake me up in 8 hours.” If you change your mind, “Delete my 7:30 alarm” will get rid of a particular alarm. Of course you can always just ask for the time or the date as well. If you want to add something to the Reminders app, specifically, then just start off the sentence with the word remind. For example, “Remind me to finish the report by 6” will get the job done.

Sending Emails and Text Messages

Siri can compose messages for you. With emails, you can set the recipient and subject in a single sentence by saying, for example, “Email Jennifer about the change in plans” or “Mail Dad about the rent cheque”. Saying “Check email” will, of course, check your email, but you can get a specific message with a command like “Show the email from Lisa yesterday.” If you have a message open, a response as simple as “Call him at work” will call the email’s sender at their work number if it exists in their contact information. Text messages work similarly. You can send one quickly with a phrase as simple as “Tell Susan I’ll be right there.” If there are multiple numbers you can send the SMS to, you can be more specific and say “Send a message to Susan on her mobile saying I’ll be late.” You can also specify the number numerically if you don’t have it in your contacts.

Getting Directions

Siri can provide you with directions very easily. One of the most common questions you’ll want to ask is “How do I get home?” You can also ask for directions to a specific address (e.g. “Show 1 Infinite Loop Cupertino California”) or to a location in your contacts (e.g. “Directions to my dad’s work”). If you’re looking for something non-specific, that’s OK too. Just say something like “Find coffee near me”, “Find a gas station within walking distance”, or “Good Mexican restaurants around here”.

Searching the Web

Siri can handle your web search requests in a couple of ways. You can just say “search for” and then follow that up with your search terms. Alternatively you can ask it a question for Wolfram Alpha to answer. Things like “What is an 18% tip on $86.74 for four people?”, “What was the Best Picture of 1983?”, and “What’s the price of gasoline in Chicago?” are all within Siri’s ability.

Playing Your Music

Playing music isn’t really a new feature for Siri, as you can do it now with the existing Voice Control in iOS 4, but it’s good to know it is alive and well. Saying the word play followed by a song or artist name, or even a playlist, will get the music started.

Checking Information in Your Widgets

Siri can check information that you’d generally locate in your widget-like apps, such as stocks and weather. To check the weather, just ask whatever you want to know. “What’s the weather for tomorrow?” or “Will it rain in Seattle this week?” are both specific enough for Siri to figure out. With stocks, you can ask things as “What is Apple’s PE ratio?” and “What did Yahoo close at today?”, or just request a simple stock price by saying “What’s Apple’s stock price?”

We’re still waiting to see how well Siri will work with an Australian accent; while it promises to support it, voice recognition in this country has something of a disappointing history. But we have our fingers crossed.

iPhone 4S: What can you say to Siri? [TUAW]


  • What I’m hoping to find out is if there’s some way to teach siri new tricks. For example, I’d love it if I could say something like “Tune in to Nova FM” and it would open up FStream (3rd Party App) and start streaming Nova through that app. So far it sounds like Siri is restricted to apple’s iOS-bundled apps only.

    • You can already do this with a jailbroken iOS device an download ‘VoiceActivator’ in Cydia. From there you can create an unlimited amount of new commands, you type in what you would say then you select what you want your phone to do, from opening up apps/games to replying back to you saying something else! 🙂

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