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My day with Siri

Lex Friedman | Oct. 3, 2012
I admit it: I love Siri. It helps that I work from home, so I can talk to my phone without inhibitions. It doesn't hurt that I generally crave pseudohuman contact. But the real reason is simply that I find Siri so useful. And in iOS 6, Siri has become even more useful than it was before.

The dinner hour

As dinner approaches, most nights, my wife tells me what she has cooked for that evening. Sometimes she comes into my office and says: "We're going out for dinner tonight." That's when I turn to Siri, which in iOS 6 lets you get amusingly specific: "What are the best kid-friendly Italian restaurants within 5 miles?"

In central New Jersey, where I live, Siri knows plenty about some restaurants, little about others, and nothing at all about a few too many. If we lived somewhere more metropolitan, I probably could use Siri to make reservations, but out here very few restaurants support OpenTable. You can find some of your nearby options with a phrase like: "Where can I get a reservation for five people tonight at 6 p.m.?" Siri will then gather what it can from Yelp; if that service covers your area well, you'll be in relatively good shape. But if it doesn't, Siri can't compensate for that subpar data.

Evening

Once the kids are asleep, my wife and I occasionally pick a movie to watch. Generally our choices are limited to what's streaming on Netflix or HBO Go, but we let Siri help narrow our selections: "What's a good comedy starring Jennifer Aniston?" More often, we use Siri to tell us whether a movie we're considering is worth watching: "Is the movie Rumor Has It any good?"

I have three young kids, so I only very rarely see a movie in an actual theater. When I do, though, I can now rely on Siri's knowledge of what's playing (which, like its knowledge of who stars in which movies, comes from Rotten Tomatoes). As with Yelp, the quality of the data you get from such queries will depend on how well Rotten Tomatoes covers your area. When I ask about movies playing near here, Siri performs beautifully. When a colleague in the San Francisco Bay Area asks for that information, Siri returns incomplete or erroneous data--more movies than the theater has screens, for example, or results for theaters too many miles away.

When it's finally time to retire for the evening, I don't use Siri to set an alarm for the next morning. I have kids for that. On those rare occasions when I need to wake up even before they do, or when I'm traveling, I turn to Siri one last time: "Wake me at 5:30 a.m."

Throughout the day

I like launching apps with Siri, because it's generally faster even than using Spotlight search. You can say "Launch Facebook," "Open Tweetbot," or "Play Angry Birds." If you want to open the camera, you can say "Take a picture," though that's not necessarily faster than using the Camera lock-screen shortcut.

 

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