How to use and train Apple's Siri for Messages, Calendar, and iTunes Music on your iPhone

Posted:
in iPhone edited October 2020
Between new users, and long-time iPhone owners just getting into Siri, there are a lot of people trying out Apple's voice recognition technology every day -- and getting upset that it's not exactly like a Star Trek computer. Siri does need training to be as good as it can, and to assist in that endeavor, there are a series of phrases and query construction tips to get started with.




For the long-time user (or the older one), Siri may feel like a bad Infocom adventure game parser in the beginning, but it can be so much more flexible and accurate over time than it starts "out of the box."

After initial setup, where Siri asks you to say a few phrases, it still needs education on your voice. Here's some guidance on how to structure some basic queries for simple iPhone tasks.

General tip

There's really no compelling need to speak in anything other than your normal voice. In fact, speaking haltingly may confuse Siri, making it insert breaks in a query where you don't intend.

If you're planning on using Siri a lot, speak to it normally, in your regular cadence. Your patience will be rewarded by more accurate interpretation the more you use it.

Messages

One of the most obvious uses of Siri is in a moving car. After invoking Siri by whatever method you choose, Messages can be invoked by using "tell," "send," or "text."

For instance, If you tell Siri to "Send a message to 867-5309" then it will ask you next what you want to tell that recipient -- presumably Jenny.




If Jenny is already in your contact list, You can say "text Jenny I lost my nerve" -- note the lack of any connective phrasing between "text Jenny" and "I lost my nerve."

As Siri's training advances, a phrase like "Send a message to Jenny saying don't change your number" is quicker than in the early days of training. In this case, Siri will send "don't change your number," identifying the word "saying" as a connector.

Responding, and finding Messages is simple. The best way to hear all of your new messages is simply to ask Siri to Read my new messages. You can interrupt the stream by saying Read it again, where "it" is the last message you just heard.

If there is a single sender you want to hear from, you can ask Siri "what is my latest message from Jenny" and Siri will read it off for you.

Calendar

Siri still has a big limitation with Calendars. While it can draw data from any synced calendar, it will only add an appointment to the default one.

As with messages, you can tell Siri to "set up a meeting at 4" -- and Siri is smart enough to not put that at 4 a.m., and will ask for more details of the meeting. If you actually want it at 4 a.m., you can add "in the morning" or "am" to the query.

Alternatively, you can say "Meet with Jenny at 3:09" and Siri will inject that into your calendar, auto-filling Jenny's information.

Siri is sufficiently aware enough that if you say "reschedule my meeting with Jenny to August 6 at 7:53" that it will take the next meeting with Jenny and move it to when you specify -- but it will ask you for confirmation that what it has interpreted is accurate.


Apple Music

Siri's integration with music really works best with Apple Music -- and this will pay off in the HomePod later in 2017. We have also found that the iPhone microphone sometimes gets drowned out by the music -- so voice commands work the best with audio from your phone playing on a different speaker or headphones.

If you say "Play 867-5309 by Tommy Tutone," it will either play it from your library, or go get it from Apple Music. As a general rule if you leave the artist off, Siri and Apple Music default to the most popular version.

If you've done some work with Playlists either stored locally or distributed through iTunes Match or Apple Music, you can say things like "Shuffle After The Rain" and then "Pause," "Skip," or "Play."




If you're playing an Apple Music station, can you tell Siri "don't play this song again," or "I like this song" to tailor a station.

And, of course, you can say "Play Beats One" to bring up Siri's favorite radio station.

Siri does sometimes get confused with other words it seems to have reserved. In the Tommy Tutone song's case, without the artist named, and just asking Siri to "Play 867-5309," it wanted to read back some of our voicemails. As another example, it appears to interpret the phrase "on tv" as a possible location for playback, as opposed to part of a song's title.



Siri is still not perfect, obviously, and we're hoping for improvements here with the HomePod.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 24
    sanssans Posts: 56member
    I have some playlist with asterisks in them, how would I get Siri to play those?
  • Reply 2 of 24
    Compared to even Cortana, Siri is so stupid , compared to Bixby from Samsung, there are HUGE differences, Apple has a LOT of ground to cover before even coming close to Bixby (Viv). Cannot understand why Apple with their 700+billion cash cannot do what others can,,,,
  • Reply 3 of 24
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 9,450member
    I have watched and listened to people talking to Siri and Alexa. In every instance those people speak haltingly and treat the AI as if it doesn’t understand english, like you might talk to a non english speaking person. Some even use hand gestures. And the more they fail the louder they get. Siri...what...is...the...weather...to...day? Some even pronounce the “question mark”. I have personally found that speaking normally and at a normal volume gets the best response from both Siri and Alexa. As an anecdotal funny story we were watching a WWE pay-per-view event (Yes, I and my daughter-in-law are Pro Wrestling fans. Deal with it.) The current women’s champion is, wait for it, Alexa Bliss. Every time Alexa Bliss’ name was mentioned our AI Alexa tried to respond. Some of the responses were hilarious. I had to say, “Alexa, stop.” more than once. I just hope the AI Alexa didn’t order a bunch of WWE stuff from Amazon. :p
    edited October 2017 lolliverRayz2016jony0
  • Reply 4 of 24
    Yes, this article explains how to use Siri, BUT how do you actually train Siri when the voice assistant consistently gets things wrong? Like mispronouncing street names or misinterpreting contact names? I get so annoyed by when use my doctor’s name Isalia in a query and Siri misinterpreted the name, instead saying “Celia.” Boils my blood. 
    SpamSandwich
  • Reply 5 of 24
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 9,450member
    sans said:
    I have some playlist with asterisks in them, how would I get Siri to play those?
    Are you serious?
    lolliverjony0
  • Reply 6 of 24
    Yes, this article explains how to use Siri, BUT how do you actually train Siri when the voice assistant consistently gets things wrong? Like mispronouncing street names or misinterpreting contact names? I get so annoyed by when use my doctor’s name Isalia in a query and Siri misinterpreted the name, instead saying “Celia.” Boils my blood. 

    minicoffeerepressthisasdasdAppleZulu
  • Reply 7 of 24
    One of the most obvious uses of Siri is in a moving car...Responding, and finding Messages is simple. The best way to hear all of your new messages is simply to ask Siri to Read my new messages. You can interrupt the stream by saying Read it again, where "it" is the last message you just heard.

    I would like is a voice cmd to override, "You must unlock your iPhone first" when I ask Siri to read a new msg while driving.

    dtb200
  • Reply 8 of 24
    jbdragonjbdragon Posts: 2,246member
    elfig2012 said:
    Compared to even Cortana, Siri is so stupid , compared to Bixby from Samsung, there are HUGE differences, Apple has a LOT of ground to cover before even coming close to Bixby (Viv). Cannot understand why Apple with their 700+billion cash cannot do what others can,,,,
    Cortana sucks. I gave it on my Windows 10 PC and rarely use it.  Bixby is a joke it's so bad.  First thing everyone disables.  Siri works great. I use it all the time.  It's fantastic at so many things.  I'm using it ask the time in my Apple Watch for controlling my HomeKit devices.  I can do just about anything I can think to do on my original Apple Watch.  Better then a echo as it works everywhere I'm at.


    equality72521ihatescreennameslolliversuperklotonrepressthiswatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 24
    hcrefugee said:
    One of the most obvious uses of Siri is in a moving car...Responding, and finding Messages is simple. The best way to hear all of your new messages is simply to ask Siri to Read my new messages. You can interrupt the stream by saying Read it again, where "it" is the last message you just heard.

    I would like is a voice cmd to override, "You must unlock your iPhone first" when I ask Siri to read a new msg while driving.

    I send messages via Siri while driving all the time and do not have to unlock my iPhone first.  Go to Settings>Siri & Search and turn on Allow Siri When Locked.
    lolliverrepressthisdtb200watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 24
    jbdragon said:
    elfig2012 said:
    Compared to even Cortana, Siri is so stupid , compared to Bixby from Samsung, there are HUGE differences, Apple has a LOT of ground to cover before even coming close to Bixby (Viv). Cannot understand why Apple with their 700+billion cash cannot do what others can,,,,
    Cortana sucks. I gave it on my Windows 10 PC and rarely use it.  Bixby is a joke it's so bad.  First thing everyone disables.  Siri works great. I use it all the time.  It's fantastic at so many things.  I'm using it ask the time in my Apple Watch for controlling my HomeKit devices.  I can do just about anything I can think to do on my original Apple Watch.  Better then a echo as it works everywhere I'm at.


    No, no, no. Bashing Siri is fun and cool! Siri always gets everything wrong, whereas all other assistants are KITT, Jarvis and MU-TH-UR all rolled into one. But better! /s
    lolliversuperklotonrepressthisjony0watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 24
    sanssans Posts: 56member
    lkrupp said:
    sans said:
    I have some playlist with asterisks in them, how would I get Siri to play those?
    Are you serious?
    Yes, I have one named 4* for "Four Stars"
    repressthis
  • Reply 12 of 24
    hodarhodar Posts: 337member
    sans said:
    lkrupp said:
    sans said:
    I have some playlist with asterisks in them, how would I get Siri to play those?
    Are you serious?
    Yes, I have one named 4* for "Four Stars"


    May I suggest you call your Playlist "Four Stars" and skip the asterisk crap?

    For example, I have playlists called "Three Stars or more", and "Top Rated".  Siri doesn't pronounce the Asterisk, it's a "wild card" symbol.

    lolliverrepressthis
  • Reply 13 of 24
    Siri's voice recognition is truly terrible. It has big problem understanding names. Even the names that are in my contact list it has a lot of problem understanding when I say them. Don't get me started on people's name on the Internet like basketball and soccer players. I asked Siri a simple question such as how tall is Giannis Antetokounmpo and Siri came up with some random words. I asked the Google Assistant the same question and it had no problem finding the answer but also understand the questions. Apple has a lot of work to do on this front.
  • Reply 14 of 24
    sans said:
    lkrupp said:
    sans said:
    I have some playlist with asterisks in them, how would I get Siri to play those?
    Are you serious?
    Yes, I have one named 4* for "Four Stars"
    Just train Siri on ascii and Unicode. 
    repressthis
  • Reply 15 of 24
    It's been a while since I used Siri actively. I am curious - if Siri adapts to me over the course of my phone usage, would that history be carried over to the new iPhone I buy, or am I back to square one?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 24
    foggyhillfoggyhill Posts: 4,767member
    elfig2012 said:
    Compared to even Cortana, Siri is so stupid , compared to Bixby from Samsung, there are HUGE differences, Apple has a LOT of ground to cover before even coming close to Bixby (Viv). Cannot understand why Apple with their 700+billion cash cannot do what others can,,,,
    Funny how it is "stupid", yet Cortana can't do a huge number of tasks correctly and understand near nothing on my computer (I speak french and english) (and I've had it since the start).

    How "stupid" those things are depends more on one's use than on their "stupidity", yet I hear comments like yours all the time.
    If 90% of your queries are searches, then yeah, Siri will not be as good as a Google solution.
    If your queries are running home automation, Siri will do a lot better.
    edited October 2017 watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 24
    foggyhillfoggyhill Posts: 4,767member
    Siri's voice recognition is truly terrible. It has big problem understanding names. Even the names that are in my contact list it has a lot of problem understanding when I say them. Don't get me started on people's name on the Internet like basketball and soccer players. I asked Siri a simple question such as how tall is Giannis Antetokounmpo and Siri came up with some random words. I asked the Google Assistant the same question and it had no problem finding the answer but also understand the questions. Apple has a lot of work to do on this front.
    So, searches, something Google is hyper specialized in, worked better on Google... Well heh.

    Google's assistant works pretty badly for me in general (I speak in french); works a bit better when doing searches specifically.

    I'd expect most names google works better on, are those that people have searched most often and corrected the result off if people didn't get the right one; so its a direct extension of search rather than being them understanding a particular langage correctly (basically, they understand the sound of the name rather than the language in this case), that's particular the case when the names are not in the current interface language.

    watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 24
    croprcropr Posts: 1,050member
    Siri's voice recognition is truly terrible. It has big problem understanding names. Even the names that are in my contact list it has a lot of problem understanding when I say them. Don't get me started on people's name on the Internet like basketball and soccer players. I asked Siri a simple question such as how tall is Giannis Antetokounmpo and Siri came up with some random words. I asked the Google Assistant the same question and it had no problem finding the answer but also understand the questions. Apple has a lot of work to do on this front.
    I am Dutch speaking.  Did a small test asking the Dutch version of Siri the route to 5 big streets in Antwerp, the biggest Dutch speaking city in Belgium.  Results were terrible bad:  Siri only recognized 1 address (Noorderlaan), but failed for 4 others (Meir, Amerikalei, Grote Steenweg, Desguinlei).  Google recognized 4, only failing on Desguinlei which is a tricky one as the first part of the word (Desguin) is a French name and the second part (lei) is a normal Dutch word.  If I pronounced the word Desguinlei as a normal Dutch name, Google recognized it as well, but of course this is slightly cheating.

    This is really, really bad of Apple. Or you don't provide a Dutch speaking Siri or you make it work   
  • Reply 19 of 24
    hcrefugee said:
    One of the most obvious uses of Siri is in a moving car...Responding, and finding Messages is simple. The best way to hear all of your new messages is simply to ask Siri to Read my new messages. You can interrupt the stream by saying Read it again, where "it" is the last message you just heard.

    I would like is a voice cmd to override, "You must unlock your iPhone first" when I ask Siri to read a new msg while driving.

    You want an easy way to defeat your phone’s security? Why not just leave your phone completely unlocked instead? Absurd.
  • Reply 20 of 24
    hcrefugee said:
    One of the most obvious uses of Siri is in a moving car...Responding, and finding Messages is simple. The best way to hear all of your new messages is simply to ask Siri to Read my new messages. You can interrupt the stream by saying Read it again, where "it" is the last message you just heard.

    I would like is a voice cmd to override, "You must unlock your iPhone first" when I ask Siri to read a new msg while driving.

    Yes - if you turn Siri off and use 'old-fashioned' voice recognition, you don't get this. Actually it's also the case if I have the phone in a pocket which I often do whilst using headphones. V annoying.
    edited October 2017
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