Getting Things Done with Siri for iPhone

Siri is Apple’s new personal assistant and major feature of the new iPhone 4S. She (yes, I will continue to refer to her as a “she”) is already the most talked-about feature of the new phone as users begin to understand her potential.

There is a long list of things Siri will become invaluable for, however the initial novelty of having a digital personal assistant has not been lost on the comics. For example, Conan has created a version of Apple’s commercial with the painfully true tagline of “we know how you’re really gonna use Siri”, Mashable has a list of absurd questions, and the STSS blog is also quickly becoming popular.

Natural Language = Personality

Part of the reason she has captured so much attention is because of her personality that comes through in her responses. This is more than just speech recognition and better than those horrible features of previous technology where you had to speak in tech language with only certain words it understood. Siri uses natural language where you speak in normal sentences and her responses include things like “It looks like rain!” rather than a plain robotic “Rain: yes”.

In most cases, she understands what you mean, not just what you say. For those of us of a certain generation, she is all too reminiscent of R2D2, C3PO and HAL. As a matter of fact, when you ask her to “open the pod bay doors”, she gets quite annoyed.

What Siri Does

She is built in to the keyboard so the iPhone 4S supports dictation in any app that has a keyboard and she’s amazingly accurate. At the moment, she is mostly tied to all of the built-in apps on the iPhone 4S such as the phone, maps, weather, messages, emails, etc. This demo video shows what the interaction is like for a few of the most popular functions:

  • Wake me up. Avoid those tedious seconds it takes to click over to the clock and scroll through the alarm settings. Siri will figure it all out by just commanding “Wake me up in an hour”.
  • Send a Tweet. Since Twitter is now a built-in function, you can teach her to Tweet.
  • Where am I? She integrates with the maps app, so will help with addresses and turn-by-turn directions.
  • Send a text to my sister. Siri can read and send text messages. She will also learn who “mom” or “sister” are after you use those phrases the first time and assign titles.
  • Call me Karin. Siri uses your name in her responses, so it only makes sense that you can teach her how to pronounce it.
  • Remind me when I come back here. She definitely understands “here” — your current GPS coordinates. This is amazing when combined with reminders so that she will remind you of a certain thing when you are at a certain location. For example, by telling her where the grocery store is, you can have her remind you to buy milk once you arrive.
  • Schedule a lunch meeting with John on Tuesday. Siri knows who’s your address book and what is scheduled on your calendar, so she will schedule, remind, and let you know about conflicts.

Did I mention she’s hilarious?

Conan has nailed it with his fake commercial. What most of us all love about her right now is what makes us love any of our friends at first: the hilarious banter. I do not mean to take away from her functionality or potential for greatness, but in my humble opinion this is what makes her really great and another true example of what makes Apple different. I’m curious, how do you expect to use Siri in your law practices?


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