Siri is a cutting-edge voice recognition feature built into iOS 7.1.1 that allows users to access and control functionality offered by their iPhone or iPad using their voice. Since Siri was first introduced, this feature has evolved in terms of what it understands and what control over your mobile device it provides.
To function, Siri utilizes programming that’s built into iOS 7.1.1 that works with many of the core apps preinstalled on your device. However, because the “brains” behind Siri are controlled by Apple’s online-based severs, an Internet connection is always required to access and use Siri’s functionality.
New Siri Features Added to iOS 7.1.1
As updates to iOS 7 are released, what Siri is capable of improves. Two of the biggest improvements made to Siri in conjunction with iOS 7.1.1 include how someone activates Siri and the clarity of the male and female voice generated by Siri that’s used to respond to a user’s questions and commands.
In the past, to activate Siri once this feature is enabled, an iPhone or iPad user simply needed to press and hold down the Home button on his or her device for a few seconds until the Siri prompt is displayed and the audible tone associated with Siri is heard. Then, the user would release the Home button and use his or her voice to pose a question or issue a verbal command or request. As soon as the user stopped talking, Siri would process that command or request.
In situations where the user is in an area with a lot of ambient background noise, the Siri feature sometimes has trouble discerning when the user starts and stops speaking. Now, once iOS 7.1.1 is installed on a compatible iPhone or iPad, a user can either press and then release the Home button after a few seconds to activate Siri, or press and hold down the Home button to activate Siri, continue holding down the Home button until the user is done speaking and the question, command, or request is issued. In this case, the Home button is released after the user is finished speaking.
Customizing Siri’s Functionality from Within Settings
How and when Siri functions depends a lot of how this feature is set up from within Settings. To adjust Siri-related options, launch Settings from the Home screen and tap on the General menu option (shown in Figure 1). From the General menu within Settings, tap on the Siri option (shown in Figure 2).
Figure 1 Adjust how Siri operates from within Settings on your iPhone or iPad that’s running iOS 7.1.1
Figure 2 From the General menu within Settings, tap on the Siri option to access the Siri submenu and customize Siri’s functionality
Located near the very top of the Siri submenu (shown in Figure 3) is a virtual switch that allows you to turn on or off the Siri feature on your mobile device. If turned off, Siri will not function and cannot be activated by pressing and holding down the Home button. So, if you want to use Siri, be sure the main virtual switch for this feature is turned on.
Figure 3 Customize Siri’s functionality from the Siri submenu within Settings
Lower down on the Siri submenu within Settings are five additional options that are customizable. Tap on the Language option to select what language Siri will understand once activated. The way Siri functions is that once activated, the user speaks a verbal command, request, or question in his or her native language using everyday speech. The language you’ll use to communicate with Siri needs to be selected, although the default option is English (United States) if you’ve purchased and registered your device within the United States.
Based on what you request from Siri, information may be spoken to you using a computerized voice, or appropriate data gets displayed on the iPhone or iPad’s screen. From the Siri menu screen, you can choose to give Siri a male or female voice. Thanks to the iOS 7.1.1 update, Siri’s voice now sounds more human-like and is easier to understand, no matter which option you choose.
Also accessible from the Siri submenu within Settings is the Voice Feedback option. Tap on this to determine if Siri will respond to you (whenever appropriate) using its voice, or if only data will be displayed on the screen.
If you’ve linked your iPhone to your vehicle via Bluetooth, and your vehicle is Siri Eyes Free compatible, anytime you activate Siri using the activation button built into your compatible car’s steering wheel or in-dash infotainment system, it is assumed you’re driving and should not take your eyes off of the road. As a result, Siri will only use its voice to communicate with you, and will not display any requested data on the screen. Thus, the Handsfree Only option is activated on your behalf while your iPhone is linked with your vehicle. However, you can turn on the Handsfree Only option manually as well.
By tapping on the My Info option that’s also found within the Siri submenu of Settings, it’s possible to link your personal Contacts entry with Siri. Thus, you should use the Contacts app to create an entry for yourself that contains your Home and Work addresses, phone numbers, email address(es), and other details about yourself and your relatives.
Once your Contacts entry is selected from the Siri submenu, Siri can access and use whatever information is included within that entry. If you add your Work address to your Contacts entry, you can later activate Siri and make references to your Work Address, and Siri will know where you’re talking about. For example, from wherever you are, you could activate Siri and ask, “How do I get to work from here?” and Siri will provide detailed, turn-by-turn directions to your work address.
The final option offered within the Siri submenu within Settings is the Raise to Speak option (compatible iPhone models only). When you turn on the virtual switch that’s associated with this feature, anytime you pick up your smartphone and hold it up to your ear, Siri will automatically activate so you can immediately issue a verbal command or request such as, “Call home.”
Once Siri has been set up and your iOS mobile device has access to the Internet, anytime Siri is activated (shown in Figure 4), you can tap on the question mark icon (?) icon that’s displayed near the bottom-left corner of the screen. Now you can view a menu of functions (shown in Figure 5) that Siri can handle for you using verbal commands, plus see examples of how to word your questions, commands, and requests to generate the desired responses.
Figure 4 Once Siri is activated on the iPad, for example, this is what the tablet’s screen looks like. Now, you can speak to your device to ask a question, issue a command, or make a request
Figure 5 Tap on the question mark icon when Siri is activated to view a menu of possible ways Siri can be used on your iPhone or iPad
For example, Siri works with FaceTime, and accepts commands like “FaceTime Joe,” plus can be used to launch any app installed on your smartphone or tablet. To do this, use a command like “Launch Pages,” or “Play Words with Friends.”
You can also compose and send text messages, have Siri read your incoming messages via the Messages app, or access emails (using the Mail app and appropriate voice commands). It’s also possible to create or view appointments in conjunction with the Calendar app. Plus, Siri offers functionality in conjunction with Maps, Twitter, Facebook, Contacts, Reminders, Mail, Notes, Music, and Safari, and has the ability to access information stored within your mobile device or the Internet to answer questions.
Obtaining information about the weather, stocks, sports, movies, restaurants, or music, for example, is also a specialty of Siri. Simply activate Siri and ask a question such as, “What’s today’s weather forecast?” or “What was the score of last night’s Yankee’s game?” Siri will access the Internet and promptly offer an informative reply.
Siri is much more than a gimmicky feature built into the operating system of your iPhone or iPad. Once you become accustomed to using this feature and issuing commands or questions in a way that Siri understands, you’ll discover that this voice-controlled option allows you to more efficiently utilize your smartphone or tablet and reduce the number of screen taps required to take advantage of commonly used features and functions.