Quick guide: How to improve Siri in iOS 7

We spent the evening trying to get sense out of Siri last night, which kept my girlfriend briefly entertained before she grew frustrated it wouldn't pronounce her name. Here's how to train Siri.

iOS 7 quick guide: Making Siri work better

It gets smarter

Siri may be your incompetent assistant today, but one day it's going to get smarter than you are. Apple's plan is most clearly articulated in a recent patent office filing describing ways in which Siri interrogates crowdsourced data (such as Quora questions) while maintaining a log of previous right and wrong answers.

That's the future, but Siri is infuriating when you attempt to ask it something it just won't understand. That's why most Siri user's initial enthusiasm quickly coalesces around asking it dumb questions and sexual favors.

You can improve Siri using these hints:

Speak that name

If Siri keeps getting the name wrong, just say "learn how to pronounce [person's name]" and then follow Siri's steps to show it how it is done.

Who people are

Siri will associate most terms with a person, so you can tell it "Jonny is my brother", after which you'll be able to tell Siri to "Call my brother". (You can describe friends, colleagues, spouses in this way).

Now you can ask Siri to remind you of birthdays, addresses of the people you care about. You can add nicknames for contacts by selecting them in Contacts, tapping 'Edit', 'Add New Field' and 'Nickname'.

How to say it

If you hate the way Siri says people's names, then add a phonetic spelling to their Contact card.

Find the person with the name, tap 'Edit' and scroll to the bottom of the list. Choose 'Add New Field' and select 'Phonetic First Name', (or last name). Type the name in phonetically, then select the word and tap the right hand arrow in the dialog that pops up -- get your phone to speak the name to check the pronunciation sounds right. You can also do this for place names.

Hear better

You can help Siri listen better by correcting its mistakes. When you issue a command take a look at the speech bubble that shows what you said. Siri underlines words it's unsure of in blue. Tap that word and a dialog box offers you alternatives or lets you speak the word once again. This is tedious at first, but eventually Siri becomes more sensitive to your own unique pronunciation.

Finding home

Integration between Siri and Maps is a key feature. It means you can invoke Siri and ask it: "Give me directions home" and it will know where you are….

Or will it?

  • Here's one simple way to teach Siri where you live
  • Open Maps and find your address
  • A blue dot appears on the Map
  • Click on the Map and a dialog box appears
  • Scroll to Add to Existing Contact
  • Add the address to your existing contact record (this has 'me' beside it in your contacts book).

Now Siri should be able to remind you about things you need to do when you get home, or even how to get home. (This feature doesn't work in every country).

Siri the teacher

You can learn more about Siri from Siri. Each time you enter a Siri dialogue you'll see a small '?' (an 'i' on older versions) icon to the bottom left of the screen. Tap it and explore an extensive library of Siri tips. Don't want to use your phone? No problem: you can also read them here.

Google+? If you're one of those who likes to use social media and also happen to be a Google+ user, why not join AppleHolic's Kool Aid Corner community and join the conversation as we pursue the spirit of the New Model Apple?

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Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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