How to make the Apple Watch Raise to Speak feature work every time

Posted:
in General Discussion
The ability to just raise your wrist and speak to your Apple Watch without the words "Hey, Siri," is brilliant. What was initially a convenience is now increasingly useful, too, and yet it's extraordinarily unreliable. Here's how to make it better -- and why you need it to.




We must call out the phrase "Hey, Siri," twenty times a day and there is not a single thing we don't like about it -- except those words. The ability to have your iOS device send messages, tell you the news, answer calls, play music and countless more things, without even touching it is astounding. Having to prefix every single request with "Hey, Siri," is not.

If you're a heavy user of Siri, those words become a chore and you end up saying them so often that they turn to meaningless syllables that you rush through. Don't get us wrong, the idea of going back to pressing the Home button before you speak would be like returning to the Bronze Age.

Yet when Apple introduced Raise to Speak with watchOS 5, it was clearly the next step. Just raise your wrist, speak to your Watch and Siri would go do what you ask without you ever needing to say, "Hey, Siri." Okay, Siri might misunderstand you, but that's Siri, it's nothing to do with how you invoke it.

When it works

If there's anything more exasperating than Siri offering to send a text to your ex instead of playing the "Texas Essentials" playlist on Apple Music, it's Raise to Speak doing nothing at all.

Before we were driven to figure this problem out, we were getting Raise to Speak reacting perhaps one out of twenty times. In regular use, we quickly got to the stage where we didn't bother and instead just always said, "Hey, Siri," regardless.

Now after practicing an awful lot, we're getting it working about nineteen out of twenty times.

How to do it

You do have to have this feature switched on or you'll be fruitlessly shouting into your Watch forever. On the Watch, go to Settings, scroll to General and tap on Siri. If your Watch can do this, so if it's a Series 4 or later one, then you'll have a Raise to Speak option.

You have to set up Raise to Speak before you can use it. Only Series 4 or later have this setting, though.
You have to set up Raise to Speak before you can use it. Only Series 4 or later have this setting, though.


Switch that on and many happy hours of trying to get it work lie ahead of you.

The trick is to remember that the Watch is not listening out all the time. It will listen for "Hey, Siri," as soon as you turn your wrist, but that's not Raise to Speak.

Clearly, given the name, it's no surprise that you have to raise your arm in order to make this work. It's the specific motion and perhaps also positioning that makes the Watch start listening to what you're saying.

However, what is surprising is just how much you have to raise your arm. We find that it works most consistently when you raise it so high that the Watch is in front of your face.

It seems to help most if the Watch face is close to perpendicular to the ground. Raise it and tilt the Watch so that it is directly face-on to you, and then it works.

You have to raise it and start speaking pretty much immediately, but as you do so, you will get the screen changing to show the words "What can I help you with?" and the Siri symbol reacting to your voice.

Basically, act like you're about to start dancing an Argentine Tango and you're sorted.

Your first clue that Raise to speak is working is when the Watch changes from your regular face (left) to listening to what you're saying (right).
Your first clue that Raise to speak is working is when the Watch changes from your regular face (left) to listening to what you're saying (right).

Practicality

Compare that to how you can just turn your wrist enough to light the screen and then say "Hey, Siri." That always works and it always works quickly and you can do it without even raising your arm an inch.

As much as we like the idea of never saying that trigger phrase again, and as much as we will never change our mind about wanting that some day, we haven't got it now. Not effectively, not practically.

Which is more than a pity, it's increasingly a hindrance. Even when watchOS 5 was officially released to the public in September 2018, it was highly likely that you had many devices that could react to "Hey, Siri."

It was remarkably easy to have a situation where you're in a place with an iPhone, an iPad and even a Mac that are all listening out for the words. Then, of course, you could also have a HomePod or do, and the only difference with those is that they have better microphones. We have been two rooms away, talking to our Apple Watches, and the HomePod has reacted instead.

Consequently, we might, for instance, successfully set an alarm on our Apple Watch but the HomePod in our office is set too.

Left: using Hey, Siri. Right: using Raise to Speak. It doesn't look like much of a difference, but when you use Siri a lot, it really is.
Left: using Hey, Siri. Right: using Raise to Speak. It doesn't look like much of a difference, but when you use Siri a lot, it really is.


Then we got AirPods 2 and now the very devices in our ears are listening out for the trigger phrase.

As good as these devices are at checking with each other and trying to reason which one you meant to call out to, they get it wrong. If you're wearing AirPods 2 and for some reason decide to say "Hey, Siri," into your Apple Watch, then the Watch, the AirPods and those nosy, eavesdropping HomePods are likely to respond.

All of that goes away when Raise to Speak works reliably. Use that to ask Siri something on your Apple Watch and no other device you've got will ever wrongly respond -- because none of them will even hear you.

The future

Apple is reportedly working on extending Raise to Speak and finding more ways for us to interact with our Watches by voice without the trigger phrase.

Ultimately, it would be great if you could cease ever having to say "Hey, Siri" again. To anything. It won't happen, and Raise to Speak won't get better enough to be useable, unless the devices always listen to everything we ever say.

Apple's not going to do that, not when there are such security issues around it.

Only, as good as Siri is and can be, there aren't that many things you can ask it or that many different ways you can put the same question. Perhaps Apple could have it listen for a number of specific phrases, not just this one.

Perhaps Apple could let us choose our own phrase to invoke Siri. It's already taken a step toward that with the way that you can record any phrase you like to trigger a Siri Shortcut.

True, we're an ungrateful bunch. The ability to talk to any device and have it ever understand you in any way is less computer science and more alchemy. It was the impossible dream for such a long time, and now it's an everyday or even every hour occurrence.

We just want more, and we don't want to have to strike a pose to make Raise to Speak work.



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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 22
    gutengelgutengel Posts: 255member
    Raise to speak works most of the time for me. It just requires a bit of practice. On the other hand using "Hey, Siri" on the Airpods2 is kinda of pain. I ask for HomeKit commands and take forever to work. Also the mic during calls works very choppy, not sure if it's my unit that came wonky.
  • Reply 2 of 22
    mike1mike1 Posts: 1,871member
    Personally, never had much use for Raise to Speak and turned it off. I would be doing something and engage Siri without meaning to. If I need Siri, I just hold down the crown.
    DanManTXcornchipequality72521steveau
  • Reply 3 of 22
    I thought I'm the only one with hard time getting siri to work with my S4. I got frustrated and I ended up disabling raise to speak/hey siri.
  • Reply 4 of 22
    Thank you for this -- the random appearance of Siri in the midst of a conversation or in the middle of a meeting was getting to be really intrusive and bothersome!

    By hindsight, I guess this should have been obvious, but this article does me great service.
    marcus1983
  • Reply 5 of 22
    It works about half the time on S4. When it doesn't, Hey Siri then works about half the time until I shout it. I'll try tilting wrist more and see how much it helps. Thanks!
  • Reply 6 of 22
    Thanks, AI, I learned something new about my Watch today.  Seems to work perfectly in a quiet room.
    chasmjbdragoncaladanian
  • Reply 7 of 22
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 1,296member
    Is it me or are a lot of Apple’s new features buggy and unreliable? They introduced seamless Universal Clipboard between your ios and MacOS devices which I’ve completely quit even trying to use because it was so unreliable. The same goes for using your Apple Watch to unlock Mac - half the time it works, half the time it doesn’t, and now I just use TouchID or enter the password manually because it’s easer than waiting to see if the watch will work or not. 

    I haven’t enabled raise to speak, but reading this article and the comments makes me think it will be the same. Cool when it works, but unreliable enough that it won’t be useful.
  • Reply 8 of 22
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 8,590member

    You have to set up Raise to Speak before you can use it. Only Series 4 or later have this setting, though.

    I just bought a Series 3 a few weeks ago and it works fine there too.

    I didn't even know about this "raise to speak" feature, but I just tried it and it worked. It was enabled by default, I didn't even have to turn it on in settings.
    cornchip
  • Reply 9 of 22
    dtb200dtb200 Posts: 37member
    apple ][ said:

    You have to set up Raise to Speak before you can use it. Only Series 4 or later have this setting, though.

    I just bought a Series 3 a few weeks ago and it works fine there too.

    I didn't even know about this "raise to speak" feature, but I just tried it and it worked. It was enabled by default, I didn't even have to turn it on in settings.
    I also have a series 3 and that has Raise to Speak too. It works much better following your advice though and yes, “Hey siri” set my phone off too..
  • Reply 10 of 22
    cornchipcornchip Posts: 1,290member
    mike1 said:
    Personally, never had much use for Raise to Speak and turned it off. I would be doing something and engage Siri without meaning to. If I need Siri, I just hold down the crown.
    Same here. Battery lasts almost twice as long too.
    steveau
  • Reply 11 of 22
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 577member
    If your Watch can do this, so if it's a Series 4 or later one, then you'll have a Raise to Speak option.
    I thought the Series 4 was the latest one?
  • Reply 12 of 22
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 8,590member
    This is actually a pretty cool feature, and I've been testing it a few times and it works good most of the time.

    I'll be making good use of it, as I occasionally do use Siri to set small timers and ask a few questions or convert measurements from time to time. It's a very quick and convenient way to get answers to certain things, or to carry out tasks, like setting timers, which I find useful when cooking for example.

    I don't need to say "hey Siri", I just lift up my arm and ask whatever I want and Siri will give me the answer, if they know the answer.

    I asked Siri - Who is the CEO of Apple? And nothing happens. I tried it a few times, same result.

    I asked Siri - Who is Steve Jobs? Same result as above, nothing happens.

    I asked Siri - Who is the President of the United States? And a nice pic of the Donald shows up on my watch display. :# 


    edited April 19
  • Reply 13 of 22
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 8,590member
    DAalseth said:
    If your Watch can do this, so if it's a Series 4 or later one, then you'll have a Raise to Speak option.
    I thought the Series 4 was the latest one?
    It is indeed. Maybe it's a typo, seeing as this feature works on series 3 and later, so perhaps they meant to write 3 instead of 4.
  • Reply 14 of 22
    It works for me without a visual indicator.
    If I raise my wrist, it does not switch to the Siri screen until I start talking.

    But it hears what I was saying even before it gives me any display on the screen.
    marcus1983
  • Reply 15 of 22
    brertech said:
    It works for me without a visual indicator.
    If I raise my wrist, it does not switch to the Siri screen until I start talking.

    But it hears what I was saying even before it gives me any display on the screen.
    Yeah, it’s not very well-implemented. 
  • Reply 16 of 22
    I find this feature unreliable, that I don't bother trying to do it without saying "Hey Siri" first - it works best as a catch-all for those times when I may forget to say Hey Siri.
    Meanwhile, if the watch is in any way taxed (e.g. processing an incoming notification) then even Hey Siri will have difficulties registering. Additionally cellular reliability is also a factor - often a Siri command will time out, but if I stop the first, and try it a second time it'll work fine.

    The award for most poorly implemented Siri goes to the AirPods, when it works, it works great - even in noisy environments like when I'm riding my bicycle. When it's choosing not to work I can try it again and again and get nothing. I actually wish there was a way to turn it off because other methods of engaging Siri work much faster.
  • Reply 17 of 22
    FranculesFrancules Posts: 110member
    I’m sure engineers will love the raise to speak feature on Apple Watch
  • Reply 18 of 22
    macguimacgui Posts: 1,183member
    Only Series 4 or later have this setting, though.

    It would have been helpful to have said this earlier in the article. For instance- On a Series 3 or later Watch, go to Settings, scroll to General and tap on Siri... instead of-  If your Watch can do this, so if it's a Series [3] or later one



  • Reply 19 of 22
    Hold on...

    that’s what I get when I try and get Siri working on my AWS4 cellular almost every time. 

    Different Wifi, or cell.  Always the same result. If I reboot it usually works first time. 5 minutes later: hold on...

    i’ll tap you when I’m ready 

    Hold on...

    hold on...








    netmage
  • Reply 20 of 22
    macguimacgui Posts: 1,183member
    arthurba said:
    Hold on...

    i’ll tap you when I’m ready 

    Hold on...

    hold on...
    Nothing makes me want to yell 'Fuck you Siri!!' more than that 'tap you when... if ever..' bit.

    Hm. There's also the 'Go ahead... I'm listening...' when she clearly isn't. And like a fool, I go ahead and am met with 'Here are some things you can try' or whatever.

    Once I'm in that trap, I'm going nowhere. Then I'll use my Watch and Siri does my bidding. WTF?? There are days when I love tech less than on other days.
    arthurba
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