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Day One with Siri

personal assistant siri

I was having a few problems with my 4S pre-order earlier today, and so I decided to head out at 10:15 in the morning to try my luck at the Apple Store in the Eaton Centre. I’d heard of line-ups of at least 40 people at 6:30 PM on Thursday, and so I tried to keep my expectations low. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that there were still 32GB iPhones left over, and, furthermore, that the line for said iPhones was really only an hour long. That’s an hour from the time I stood in line to the time I walked out with an activated iPhone 4S. Not too shabby!

After a day of playing with the latest-gen device, the three takeaway points are “Bloody hell, this kills the 3GS” and “Ooo, it fits in my Original iPhone dock!” and “Siri, I love you”. The first two points are ridiculously obvious, and while the third point is already a little worn by this point, I’d like to address it anyway, because there are simply so many directions in which to take Siri.

Siri, as has been pointed out by Shawn Blanc, could be the fourth great Apple interface after the mouse, click wheel, and multi-touch display. It is also, as stated by John Gruber took in his iPhone 4S review, “a completely different interface for interacting with your iPhone”. Siri isn’t just Voice Command Plus or built-in Dragon Dictation – it’s a fantastic new way of interacting with data on the iPhone.

Siri Breathes New Life into Old Apps

There are ten gajillion apps available for the iPhone at this point, and many of the more enthusiastic iPhone users have already replaced default apps like Notes, Weather, and Calendar for prettier or more powerful third-party versions. However, now that you can both access and add to many of Apple’s default apps through natural language, there’s suddenly a great reason to give these older apps another shot.

Even if you don’t want to use Notes for drafts and keeping account information, it now handles lists beautifully through Siri.

“Create Note: Super Dogs”
[a note called Super Dogs is created and the line is displayed]
“Add ”Super Cats”
[“Super Cats” is added to that note on the next line]

Then, as is wont to happen, you do a whole bunch of other stuff and don’t have time to add to your note until two days later. By this point, you’ve told Siri many other things and the context for the note has been lost…or has it?

“Add Elephant to my Super Dogs note”
[Super Dogs gets updated with a third line mentioning elephants]

You get the picture.

There are also a couple of other uses and commands that haven’t gotten much time in the spotlight:

  • Any Messages from [Contact]?
  • Show the email from [Contact] from yesterday

These aren’t just alternate ways of accessing your information, but completely new filters for drilling right down to the content you want. I also love how you can check for new messages by just asking for them.

Faster Access

Siri can save time by letting you talk instead of tap – and this can be a dramatic difference in certain apps. It normally takes three taps and one swipe to set a timer in the Clock app, but Siri boils it down to just one. It’s an even more dramatic difference when you consider the Reminders app and all the taps you save for creating a task, naming it, setting an alert, and then saving it.

Seamless Access

The other thing that occurred to me after just one day with Siri is how beautifully it allows me to do other things without breaking my concentration. Using Siri to reply to a message, re-schedule an appointment, or quickly retrieve information from Wolfram Alpha never requires me to leave the app that I’m in. I simply summon Siri, get something done, and return to my application.

I think it will take a while to get used to Siri’s presence and take full advantage of my new humble personal assistant, and I’m still freaked out every time it says “Thomas”, but I’m really looking forward to the way it will change my thinking and my workflow. I also really, really, really hope this technology hits the iPad in a few months time.

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  • Tom Burke

    I just started using Siri and I have a problem with my contacts. When I wanted to tell Siri who my sister is, it brought up two contacts for her name. I wanted to delete one of them, so I went to Contacts on my Mac, deleted one, and re-synced my iPhone. I confirmed that the contact was missing from Contacts on the phone. But when I went back to Siri, it kept asking which contact I wanted to use for my sister. How can I make Siri forget about a deleted contact? I tried asking it in various ways to forget, delete, etc. the contact, but none of that worked. Some people have said that disabling then re-enabling Siri in Settings will make it forget previous information, but that didn’t work for me (I guess Apple has recently fixed that “problem”).

    • Steven Lin

      You can try editing the contact for yourself on the iPhone and linking it to your sister’s contact.

  • Jackie

    I had the same problem. You go into your own name in your contacts and scroll to the bottom to see all your relationships you’ve asked Siri to remember. Even contacts you have deleted will still be there so just delete the one you don’t want and it should work fine after that! Good luck!