How I use Siri to assist my life

Siri on iPhone
Siri on iPhone

Apple shipped Siri in 2011 as the built-in personal assistant for iPhone. Since then, Siri has spread to iPad, Apple Watch, and most recently, Apple TV. It's also spread through my life. Even with its Pixar-like personality and ever increasing skill set, I'm surprised surprising how much.

Let there be light!


Siri (Image credit: iMore)

I have Philips Hue lights throughout most of my house. So, when I go to bed at night, I can say "Hey Siri, goodnight" and my iPhone 6s Plus will tell all the lights go out. Any time I get up, even if it's to catch a plane in the wee hours of the morning, I can just say "turn on the hall light" and by the time I reach the hall, the light is on.

Hue gets its name from its ability to take on any visible color. Siri lets me take full advantage of that two. With a few words I can go from red to purple to blue to sunshine. I can even mix it up so I can ask Siri for "Tatooine sunrise" when I'm watching Star Wars. Yeah.

In my podcast studio I have both Philips Hue and two bi-color LED panels. While the panels aren't "smart", their plug is. It's an iHome Smart Plug and, because of the way I've named it, when I tell Siri to "turn on the studio lights", everything goes bright.

What's better, if my iPhone is out of earshot, I can do all of that right on my Apple Watch.

Take note!

I'm a writer. I think about writing all the time. If I'm within reach of a Mac, iPad, or iPhone, and I have an idea, I can easily jot it down. If I'm out for a walk or driving, I can't. And the current idea is always within imminent risk of being obliterated by the next.

With Siri, I can simply say "take a note" and then start talking. That means, because Notes syncs between iOS and OS X, when I get back to my iPad or Mac, the ideas are there waiting for me.

Sadly, there's no Notes app for Apple Watch. So, if that's all I have with me, I send myself an iMessage and then transfer it to Notes when I can.

Time flies!

I use Siri all the time while cooking. I cook because it's cathartic — the closest thing we have to alchemy. Temperature is mine to handle but for timing, it's all: "Hey Siri, set a timer for 8 minutes". Then I can go on with chopping mixing, frying, steaming, whatever. And when 8 minutes has past, the timer goes off. Nothing gets burned, nothing gets forgotten.

Likewise alarms. "Hey Siri! Reminder me to move my car at 6pm!"... so I don't get a ticket or worse — buried by the snow plow. I set alarms to remind me to pick up family members, wake up for planes, make meetings, and more.

Apple Watch is especially great here as well. Whenever my hands are full, and my iPhone isn't around, I can simply raise my wrist and speak away.

List away!

I used to run out of basic amenities all the time, forget to add them to my shopping list, forget to buy them, and then have to dash out at odd hours to pick them up. Then I remembered I could say "Hey Siri, add 'paper towels' to my shopping list" and paper towels would be added to my shopping list! Same for garbage bags, dish washing liquid, protein powder, apples, and anything and everything else. I do it while walking around the house cleaning up. And if my phone is too far away, my Watch is always there.

Stop: I see you about to fire off a comment. So, stop: I live in Canada, and there's no Amazon Echo in Canada — nor much of anything Amazon else. Amazon ignores Canada, so mostly I return the favor. Also, I value how Apple treats and respects privacy, and the implementation details the company uses to ensure it.

I'm also typically working on a dozen or score things at a time or more, and it's impossible to keep it all in my head. So, to avoid forgetting to-dos the same as to-buys, I simply say "Hey Siri, add 'write about Siri' to my work list!" and — boom! — it's added.

It's changed the way I stay organized but hasn't forced me to change too much to do it.

Speak now!

While distracted driving laws where I live are as myopically focused on mobile as they are most other places, they're at least smart enough to ban hands-on communications. (Do me a solid and ban all distractions, like that dude reading his newspaper on the steering wheel in traffic...! I see you dude!)

I don't have a Bluetooth system in my car, but I do have a dock. So, I can safely keep my phone out of hand and still say "Hey Siri, call Georgia iPhone on speaker". A few seconds later, Georgia is being called on the speaker.

If I don't know where I'm going, I can say "Hey Siri, take me to the Nelligan Hotel!" and then, on the way back, "hey Siri, take me home!"

My hands stay free, and Siri does all the work.

Play on!

I love, love, love Apple Music. Stop again. Before you start to jeer, just stop. Here's my use-case: "Hey Siri, play Public Enemy" or "Hey Siri, play Smooth Criminal by Alien Ant Farm" or "Hey Siri, play Beats 1". AND IT PLAYS.

Thanks to Apple Music and Siri, I have access to most of the music I want to hear, anywhere and any time I want to hear it. While I'm walking. While I'm cleaning up. While I'm driving.

Of all the "I'm living in the future" moments I've experienced in the last few years, this is the most fun.

Only Siri on the Apple TV comes close to eclipsing it.

What's next?

Siri just keeps getting better and better. With the iPhones 6s it can do "Hey Siri" hands-free and even basic offline dictation. With Apple TV, simultaneously multilingual Siri is starting to come on line. It may not be KITT or JARVIS yet, but it's getting closer all the time.

It's also maintaining Apple's industry-leading privacy policy. Some competing services provide more functionality but demand more access to do it — even when they probably don't need it. With Siri, I don't just find it useful, I find it reassuring, which is even more important to me.

Apple continues to expand and refine Siri, so who knows what'll be next? Hey Siri, make me a latte would be great right about now!

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.