Siri has become one of the iPhone’s defining features, but many people don't see it as a very useful one. While some of this is due to the limitations of voice recognition, it's also down to the fact that most iPhone users don't realize all the different things Siri can do.
It's easy to assume Siri isn't good for much more than finding directions or calling contacts. That couldn't be further from the truth.
Here are the most surprising things to do with Siri that take your virtual personal assistant to the next level.
Everyone knows you can use Siri to call people, but it feels a little strange using someone's full name to do this if you usually call them Mom or Dad.
What you might not know is that you can teach Siri your relationship to other people. Then you can use those relationships for more natural-sounding voice commands, like "Hey Siri, call my dad" or "Hey Siri, call my boyfriend."
Siri won't know who your dad or your boyfriend is unless you tell it, which might explain why Siri doesn't find those contacts at the moment.
But all you have to do is say "Hey Siri, John Smith is my father," for example, and Siri adds that information to the relevant contact card.
For this to work, you need to make sure there's a contact card for yourself on your iPhone. It should appear at the top of the Contacts app saying My Card. If it doesn't, create a new contact card and go to Settings > Siri & Search > My Information to make it your own.
Siri is hooked into Wolfram Alpha, which makes it capable of working out a wide range of math problems. All you have to do is tell Siri the problem you need solved and wait for it to spit out the answer.
So if you want to figure out an 18 percent tip on a $55 bill, just ask "What is 18 percent of 55 dollars?" You could also specify different currencies or even convert from one currency to another.
But Wolfram Alpha makes it so Siri can do more than just calculating a tip. As long as you know how to ask it, Siri can handle just about any math problem you might throw at it.
That includes working out the square root of a number, plotting exponential graphs, or even calculating the volume of a simple shape.
When you're using your iPhone to find some food, Siri can suggest nearby restaurants to suit your tastes. Just ask Siri to find an Indian restaurant, takeout food, Italian cuisine, or whatever meal you're in the mood for.
Once you've done that, tell Siri to make a reservation by saying “Book a table.” Siri will make sure the restaurant is reservable, then offer to start a phone call to make your reservation.
With the OpenTable app, Siri can even make reservations on your behalf. Install OpenTable from the App Store and set up an account to try this for yourself. The next time you book a table with a supported restaurant, Siri can do it all for you without needing to speak to any real people.
Download: OpenTable for iOS (Free)
Perhaps after dinner with friends, everyone decides catching a movie would be great. But what should you watch? Ask Siri what movies are showing at the moment to check the local showtimes and get a rundown of your movie options.
If you still can't decide what to watch, Siri can play you the movie trailers as well.
Ask Siri to “Play the trailer for [movie name].” Provided it's a fairly recent movie, Siri will find and play the trailer almost instantly. Siri pulls trailers from a few select websites, so if there's nothing on those sites, Siri won't be able to find anything either.
You could even use the trailers to decide what to watch before downloading a movie on your iPhone. This is a good alternative if going to the theater isn't an option, or if you simply don't want to leave the house.
Talking to Siri feels a little bit awkward when you're in public, especially if everybody can hear the full back-and-forth between you and your iPhone. Heck, it might even earn you more judgmental looks than using a Bluetooth headset in a crowded elevator.
But don’t worry, you can talk to Siri discreetly as well.
Open the Settings app and go to Siri & Search. Then change the Siri Feedback option to Only with "Hey Siri". It may appear as Voice Feedback > Hands-Free Only instead depending on your iOS version, but achieves the same result.
This option means Siri won't speak out loud for other people to hear unless you activate it using "Hey Siri." Instead, you can read Siri's responses in the text displayed on the screen.
To keep your half of the Siri conversation private as well, activate Siri and say "Type." Siri won't understand what you want, but you can tap on the response to open a keyboard and type your commands to Siri rather than speaking them.
You probably know that Siri can search the web. Siri usually tries to do this when it doesn't understand your initial command. But you can intentionally tell Siri to search the web as well, which saves opening a web browser and typing a search term yourself.
Tell Siri to "Search the web for [your search terms]." Or if you’d rather use a specific search engine, say "Search Bing for [your search terms]."
Another way to narrow results is to specify the particular site you want to search. The phrase “Search for the American Revolution” will bring up results from your default search engine. But if you say “Search for the American Revolution on Wikipedia,” it will bring up the specific Wikipedia entry instead.
And this tactic doesn't just work with Wikipedia. You can search many other websites as well, although you may need to tell Siri the specific URL with less common sites.
Siri is always getting better at learning new words and commands, but it still might have trouble pronouncing people's names correctly. To be fair, real people mispronounce names all the time as well. At least Siri has the capacity to remember the correct pronunciation forever, which is more than we can say for most humans.
Tell Siri, "Learn how to say my name," or try teaching it someone else's name instead.
Siri asks you to say that person's name first, then it mimics your pronunciation. You can choose between a few different pronunciation options each time, making it easy to get Siri sounding just right.
After you teach Siri how to say someone's name, it'll remember that pronunciation forever. You could also use a similar trick to change what Siri calls you by saying "Call me Mr. Fantastic" or whatever other nicknames you prefer to go by.
Whether you lost the die in your favorite board game or you're getting into Dungeons & Dragons for the first time, Siri can make rolling dice far easier throwing the bones yourself.
This is one of the most surprising things Siri can do because it's such a comprehensive command. Ask Siri to roll a regular die, a 3-sided die, 20-sided die, or whatever size you need. Siri will give the result in an instant, much quicker than actually tossing one.
You can use this command to make board game night go smoother or to help you make difficult decisions. Asking Siri to flip a coin might be the more traditional route for the latter option, though.
The surprising Siri commands above should give you a small taste of all the different things Siri can do. But this is only the tip of the iceberg.
Siri is an immensely powerful iPhone feature when you learn to use it properly, and there are plenty more commands to learn.