Skip to main content

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 (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab). While the panels aren't "smart", their plug is. It's an iHome Smart Plug (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab). 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.

  • Quick question: when you have Siri add something to your "shopping list," do you have a designated list in Notes it gets added to? Or does it just make a new note in the app?
  • I think "shopping" is the designated list. I use it too. I could use "grocery list" if I want separate lists.
  • 100% it goes to the list named "Shopping". Like Rene said, if you instead want something to go to your "To-Do" list, you say that instead. Or "Talk to my wife about" list. Or "Do around the house" list. Or "Look into" list.
  • To be clear, it goes to the list named 'Shopping' in the Reminders app, not the Notes app.
  • Ah - I missed that detail. Correct!
  • Yep, Reminders has both reminders and lists that function largely the same way. Just have to remember to look there :-)
  • It will prompt you to create one if you don't already have a list with that name.
  • Regarding the Hue Lights. Beyond the importance of having a Tatoiine sunrise, is having a colour choice worth the extra cost?
  • I'd say that's really a question only you can answer, but I personally enjoy being able to have my hallway bathed in soothing blue light, or my living room a deep red. It definitely changes how a room feels.
  • I don't understand the question. Is there such a thing more important than having a Tatooine sunrise?
  • Relevance! The real question: Is he a Star Wars fan? Sent from the iMore App
  • I use Siri to text my family members. But when I try to text my son named William, Siri brings up every person in my contacts with the last name Williams and asks me 'Which one?' I've even tried changing his nickname to 'Will', but Siri continues to bring up the list of 'Williams'. Is there any easy way to force it to text a specific person when I say 'Will'?
  • add a relationship by putting his full name in the contact and saying "Siri William xxx is my son. siri will then remember this and you just say siri text my son and it will text him.
  • Exactly what I was going to say.
  • Siri is complete trash compared to Google now. Especially for people who are not native Americans like me. It just don't get the things 90% of the time and my English is pretty good. While when I use Google search app on my iPhone it gets 99% of my requests. Instead of adding new devices and features they need to fix the old ones. Siri needs a lot of work to be even close to Google now.. Which is sad because I am trying to stay away from Google.
  • lol I wholeheartedly disagree. See my post below.
  • I agree. I'm not sure why...maybe I have I have a slight accent, but I was born in the US. Siri works ok for simple tasks, like texting, simple reminders, but start to search or do things that require a little more complexity and Siri becomes unusable. I have the Google app installed and anytime I can't get a request through Siri (i.e. Phone # or address search, web search, etc.) Google gets the job done. I really want Siri to be my primary tool (I spend a lot of time in my car), but it still needs a little bit of work. I just wish we had the option to set Google as a default setting. Setting aside your privacy concerns I don't think you can argue that Google Now is significantly more useful then Siri.
  • Lights, cooking timers, grocery list - those are my uses too. I wouldn't want to go back to having to type each item I need to buy or always set a timer on the stove or microwave all the time - Siri is much easier.
  • Try asking Siri to set a timer for eight minutes and thirty seconds. Oh wait, that's right, the IOS timer doesn't do seconds.
  • Um... I just said "Set timer for eight and a half minutes" and it went... Siri even sounded excited about it: "And the suspense is killing me!"
  • No joke: the "Add eggs to my shopping list" feature is one of the biggest reasons I switched from my Nexus. Now, not just because I use the feature all the time - it's because it was a manifestation of something much bigger: deeper integration by a cohesive ecosystem. I got so sick and tired of waiting for Google Now to have some sort of deeper integration into the apps that I used all the time. So tired of having Google strip features away and not return them for a very long time. So tired of seeing features I want be promised and not delivered.
  • Good point. Use google now for internet searches only. Use Siri for everything else. Sent from the iMore App
  • Rene, you should take a look at WatchNotes. It has a glance for the watch, allows you to dictate notes which sync to its iPhone app, and also contains a checklist on the watch that I use all the time for shopping lists. No need to take out the iPhone to check what's on the list.
  • Good share. Thanks.
  • If only Siri was always listening . The Amazon Echo had spoiled me since I carry so much stuff to work and back, my hands stay full and it's great to be able to say 'Alexa, turn lights on and tell me the news" when I come home with my hands full. Lights turn on, thermostat recognizes I'm home, and get caught up on the news as I put my coat away , put down my groceries , Tom Bihn bag , or whatever else I'm carrying. I'm not sure Siri could handle that command. Or 'play my audio book' command I give next so that it will pick up reading the book that I listened to during my commute home while I start making dinner. Siri gets some use, but I usually have to stop everything to hold the home button down and wait for the beep that tells me it's listening . Often that been never comes and I have to look the the screen to see if it's listening or if I need to try again. But the 3rd try Siri usually gets it right or I give up. I think Apple needs to make an Echo equivalent in the same price range with better voice recognition and integration with other company's home automation products. I love the podcast stations feature and Apple Music and shed a tear when I need stop what I'm doing in order to mash touchscreen buttons to get my playist to play .