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Say hello to Siri for iOS 7

Mark Hattersley | Jan. 2, 2014
Introducing the new version of Siri for the iPad and iPhone

There are a few scenarios in which Siri truly excels. The first of those is when you're in a hands-free scenario, mostly likely when driving a car. (The iPad knows when you're in a hands-free situation and becomes more chatty, reading text aloud that it might not if it knows you're holding it in your hand.) Siri is also deeply integrated with the directions feature in Maps, and the iPad works as a fantastic (if slightly large) voice-activated satnav.

When you get a message, you can instruct Siri to read the message, and it will. You can then tell it to reply to the message, dictate the entire message, have Siri read it back to you to confirm that it makes sense, and then send it. You can also ask Siri to read out your Mail messages and it'll let you know who sent you a message and what the subject line is.

There are still some gaps. Siri won't read your emails to you and it'd be great if you could get it to read out whole books and web pages. And while iOS has the nifty Notification Centre, which gives you granular control over how different apps notify you about what's going on, there's no option to read alerts out loud when you're in hands-free mode. A missed opportunity.

Talking clocks

Siri can now access the iOS 7 Settings, which makes it much easier to quickly make changes. You can also ask it to search Twitter.

If you aren't driving, Siri can still be useful. In fact, the feature proves that some tasks can be done much faster through speech than through clicking, tapping and swiping. It's much easier to set an alarm or timer using Siri than it is to unlock your tablet, find the Clock app, and tap within the app. Just say, "Set a timer for three minutes," and your iPad begins to count down until your tea is ready. "Set an alarm for 5am" does what you'd expect, instantly. "Remind me to record my favourite show" and "Note that I need to take my suit to the cleaners" work, too. These are short bursts of data input that can be handled quickly by voice, and we've found they work well.

It's also much faster to ask Siri to access settings than it is to dive through the menu. You can just say "Change wallpaper" rather than opening Settings and tapping Wallpaper.

You will soon become impressed by Siri's ability to understand the context of conversations. It doesn't always work, but when it does, it's magical. We asked Siri for suggestions for places to have lunch and it provided us with a list of nearby restaurants that serve lunch.

 

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