How to get much more out of Siri on your iPhone

Contextual intelligence to help you with your life

Apple’s Siri has a fantastic yet little-understood feature that brings a little artificial intelligence into every iOS user’s life. Here is how to use it.

What is it?

Apple calls this feature Proactive and makes it mainly available through Siri.

Proactive is context-based artificial intelligence solution the company intends will become more powerful than Google Now and more private than any other solution out there – even Royalty should be able to use it without being spied upon (and, by extension, anyone should enjoy equal levels of privacy).

You access it using Siri and it can do things like show you photos you took last month to reminding you to do things when you get into or out of your car. You also see these suggestions, including people, places, suggested apps and news and current events, on your search screen.

Two places you see this feature in action include:

If you receive a call from an unknown number Siri recognizes as having appeared in an email you previously received, you’ll be told who the caller potentially is.

When you receive emails with event details, iOS 9 can create a calendar event for you. And if an event includes locations it will even warn you when it’s time to go on the basis of traffic reports to your destination.

If you call your partner as you leave work every evening you’ll eventually find their contact file already available when you swipe right on the Home screen and access the Spotlight menu. That’s because Siri will know you usually call them around that time of day – suggestions will be different at other times if you call others regularly then.

In future you can expect Siri to become more virtually sentient, more contextually aware and more tapped into big data and virtual intelligence. It should become a supercomputer for the rest of us.

How to use it

As you can see, Apple has elected to make these contextually useful tools available to you in a non-invasive way – those recommendations on the search screen don’t really get in the way, and you can switch them off if you wish (Settings>General>Spotlight Search Toggle Siri Suggestions to off).

You can also customize what shows up on the Siri Suggestions section on Spotlight search in Settings>General>Spotlight Search. Scroll down beneath the Siri Suggestions toggle and you’ll find controls for multiple apps under Search Results. You can enable and disable each of the sections (Contacts, apps, nearby, news) if you wish. You may find some apps you don’t recognize or barely use listed here, you should switch those off (you can always toggle activate them again later on).

Reminders

Where this feature really comes into its own is its use as a vehicle for setting Reminders. This great feature is available whenever the screen is displaying something you might want reminding about later on. What’s on display can be an email, iMessage, Website, Web page.

To set the reminder just tell Siri, “Remind me about this later,” or specify a time “Remind me about this later, [tomorrow, next month] at 7.30am,” whenever you like. Siri will immediately create a useful Reminder for you in the Reminders app, and when you tap that reminder you’ll be returned to the original page, message or other onscreen item.

What makes this feature even more useful is that it is available across multiple apps, including Calendar, Clock, Contacts, iBooks, Health, Mail, Maps, Messages, Notes, Numbers, Pages, Phone, Podcasts, Reminders and Safari.

Each app has a slightly different behavior – so in iBooks you can ask Siri to remind you of your place in a book while in Notes it will remember the note you are reading and where you happen to be in that note. (A little more depth on this is available here).

Google+? If you use social media and happen to be a Google+ user, why not join AppleHolic's Kool Aid Corner community and join the conversation as we pursue the spirit of the New Model Apple?

Apple TV? If you want to learn how to get the very best out of your Apple TV, please visit my Apple TV website.

Got a story? Drop me a line via Twitter or in comments below and let me know. I'd like it if you chose to follow me on Twitter so I can let you know when fresh items are published here first on Computerworld.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags iOS 9Appleiphone 6Siri

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jonny Evans

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Crucial Ballistix Elite 32GB Kit (4 x 8GB) DDR4-3000 UDIMM

Learn more >

Gadgets & Things

Lexar® Professional 1000x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Plox Star Wars Death Star Levitating Bluetooth Speaker

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?