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).

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