Get to know Apple’s Siri for better organized communications

Apple released a major update to its mobile operating system two weeks ago, called iOS 7. In addition, the company released two new iPhone models — the iPhone 5c and the iPhone 5s — on September 20. Many customers have already and will upgrade to a new device, and others will purchase an iPhone for the first time. With the latter group in mind, I’ve written this post on how to introduce yourself to Siri, the “electronic assistant” that is one of the iPhone’s marquee features and actually a useful communication organizing device. But first, if you’re an iPhone user, you can share some information with Siri to make working with it more pleasant and productive. Here’s how to get started:

Create a contact record

Tell Siri who you are. You can identify other important people, like a spouse, in this way, too. It’s really better to do this via Contacts. To begin, launch Contacts and create a record for yourself if you don’t have one. Include any phone numbers you use, email addresses, mailing addresses (work vs. home) and so on. Be as thorough as possible. The more info you enter, the more you’re providing to Siri.

Make sure your preferred contacts (spouse, co-workers, kids) have thorough records as well. Once you’ve created all the contact records you need, it’s time to identify who’s who.

Define contact relationships

Here’s the good part. Now that you’ve created a Contacts record for the people you contact most often, it’s time to define their relationship(s) to yourself. Again, this is managed through the Contacts app. When Siri looks at your record, she (or he) will notice these relationships. To set it up, find your record in Contacts, tap Edit and then follow these steps:

  1.  Scroll down a bit until you see a field labeled “spouse.” Tap it the blue arrow on the right-hand side.
  2. A list of contacts appears. Navigate to your spouse’s record and tap it. That person is now identified as your spouse.
  3. A new field appears beneath Spouse, labeled Mother. Again, tap the blue triangle to identify your mother’s record.
  4. A new field appears labeled “Father.” Repeat the process.

There are a couple of things to note here. The first is that you can change a contact’s name at this point. While in edit mode, tap the name to the left of the blue triangle. A cursor appears. Enter the new name (perhaps a maiden name has given way to a married name) and then tap Done.

Also, you can change the label to reflect the nature of your relationship easily. Simply tap the label (“Mother”) to reveal a list of available labels. These are divided into two categories, which I think of as “personal” and “general.”

The personal list contains options like “mother,” “father,” “child,” “friend” and “manager.” The final option, “other,” lets you create your own.

The general list contains options like “Blog,” “Google Talk,” “URL” and “Twitter Handle.” Tap “Add Custom Label” to create your own.

At this point, you’ve created a record for yourself, for your preferred contacts and told the Contacts app how they relate to you. Now it’s time to let Siri in on it.

Give Siri the details

Again, it’s best not to use Siri for this process (though still possible with Siri). To let Siri know who everyone is, launch the Settings app and then follow these steps:

  1. Tap General, then Siri.
  2. The Siri settings page appears. First and foremost, make sure the Siri slider is in the On position.
  3. You’ll find four settings: Language, Voice Feedback, My Info, and Raise to Speak among others. Tap My Info.
  4. A list of all contacts appears. Find your record and tap it. Siri will now consider that “you,” and notice all the relationships you added earlier.

That’s it! You’re done. Now you can tell Siri, “Call my husband” or “Remind me to text my partner when I get home” and it will know what to do.

Bits and bobs

As I said, you can do this with Siri itself, but it’s a bit more time consuming. When I started using Siri, I told it, “Call my wife.” It responded by asking who my wife is, and I told it. It then asked, “Would you like me to remember that [wife’s name] is your wife?” “Yes,” I said, and since then, I can use the variable “my wife” and her actual name interchangeably with no problem.

You can also tell Siri directly how you like to be addressed. Simply launch Siri and say, “Call me [your name here].”

One last trick. If one of those identified contacts is also in Find My Friends on your iPhone, you can ask Siri, “Where’s ‘Jane’?” and it will use data from that app to help you find her.

3 Comments for “Get to know Apple’s Siri for better organized communications”

  1. posted by Sarah B R on

    However if a bad person gets a hold of your phone they now now can text your spouse/parents and ask for private info such as pin numbers or bank account numbers etc so be careful.

  2. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Sarah B R — There are features now on the iPhone where it can be locked remotely, so if someone does steal your phone this can’t happen … or at least it can happen much less easily. I’ve had a friend use this feature very successfully in the past week. And, the new iPhone 5s have the option for a specific fingerprint to be able to open it.

  3. posted by Erin Doland on

    In light of this post, I thought this news item from today was awesomely relevant. “Meet the Woman Behind Siri” —

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