Siri has a lot of tricks to show you
Starting our fourth decade: Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously online for 31 years


Make Siri work harder

October 5, 2014

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2014, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2014, The Post-Standard

Siri, Apple's virtual assistant, is undoubtedly one of the reasons iPhone fans love their expensive device. But iPhone users often don't take advantage of the lesser known features of Siri. Perhaps Apple is just not publicizing these functions enough.

If you have an iPhone, get ready for some Sirialization. And if you're an iPad user, chances are you've got Siri, too. So this is for both sides of the aisle.

To wake up Siri, hold down the Home button until Siri springs to life on your screen. To shut Siri down, press the Home button lightly.

First, decide which gender you like best. Like everyone else, I got used to the female Siri, but now that I've had a chance to listen to the male version, that's the one I use now. To switch genders, open the Settings app (the one with two gears as an icon) and touch "General," then "Siri" and finally "Voice Gender." You can always switch back later if you like the female voice better. (I'll refer to her as female from now on.)

While you're in the Settings for Siri, note that you can turn off Siri's speaking voice entirely -- for when you're in a quiet place like a library. You'll find the setting in "General,", then "Siri" and finally "Voice Feedback." Siri's questions and comments always show up on the screen, no matter how you set this up.

Many Siri fans already know they can ask Siri to tell a joke. Sometimes she will tell one, but sometimes she'll simply decline. If that happens, you can persuade Siri to show some humor by asking again, right away. I'm not sure if Siri does this every time, but I once did hear a faint "Oh, all right" before getting a joke.

If Siri doesn't pronounce your name properly, you can teach her to say your first and last names right. I'll tell you what I do. I get Siri to address me personally -- sometimes saying "Good morning" to her will elicit a "Good morning, Al" in response. Then I tell her "That's not how to say my name."

Siri then asks how to say it. Obviously there aren't many ways to say "Al," but after I say "AHL," Siri asks me to check three versions of her pronunciation, and then asks me to say my last name -- something that's easy to mess up. After I say "FAH-solt," Siri again asks me to check the way she says it, and we're done.

This is fun and all that, but my favorite times with Siri are searches. I love to ask her to search for images. She does that exceedingly well.

Try this: "Siri, show me some pictures of two kids riding a tandem bicycle."

Siri shows how fascinating and useful artificial intelligence can be. Try your own complicated searches and see if Siri knows how to deal with them.