Virtual assistants were science fiction just 20 years ago, and now they’re a common feature on many phones in devices. In 2022, the technology is getting better than ever! Each voice assistant has its own traits and features, but for today, we’ll take a look at some of the best things you can ask Apple’s virtual assistant, Siri.
We’ll cover all the classics, including jokes and some weird things you can say. But I’ll also cover some pretty cool and useful things you can do with Siri. You can basically make Siri do anything now by programming it on the Shortcuts app! That way, you might actually start to use Siri to improve productivity, get help in emergencies, or be like me, who programmed Siri to play meme songs when I say a certain phrase!
Are You Even Using Siri?
Before we get started, I want to say that if you’re not using Siri, that’s your choice, of course. But a lot of the people I know who aren’t using it say that the main reason is that they don’t want Apple recording their voice or they’re wary that their device might be listening to them all the time when they leave Siri on.
There is some truth to those concerns. Your device can listen to you all the time since it needs to be able to hear you call Siri. Apple also does process your voice recording into text.
But, if you have an iPhone XS or newer, Siri’s speech processing is done locally on your phone. Specifically, it’s being done on the Apple Neural Engine. This is not only more private and secure, but it can also help Siri recognize your voice faster especially if you live in an area with poor internet connection. Your voice is not being sent to Apple.
The Best New Siri Features
Siri Is More Inclusive
Until recently, Siri, like Amazon’s Alexa and the Google Assistant, used a female voice as its default setting. A United Nations study in 2019 found that making female voices the default for a virtual assistant perpetuated the gender norms that assume women have the traits of an assistant: subservient, obedient, and passive.
The study also pointed to other features of Siri specifically that further reinforced the expectation that women be more subservient and obedient. Until April 2019, for example, if a user said, “Hey Siri, you’re a b****,” the female voice would passively respond, “I’d blush if I could.” It was not a good look.
In response to that criticism from the United Nations, Apple now includes a prompt on the initial setup which asks new users to pick which Siri voice they want. They can choose from four voices for English, which are not labeled as “male” or “female” but simply as Voice 1, Voice 2, and so on.
In addition, Siri can now listen and speak 21 different languages, and Apple is periodically adding new ones all the time. For English, Siri can even understand and speak different dialects including American, Australian, British, Irish, Indian, and South African. Similar dialect capabilities are coming out for other languages, too, including Chinese, Spanish, German, French, Italian, and Dutch.
Siri Can Figure Out What Song You’re Hearing
The song recognition feature was actually released back with iOS 8, but I rarely see or hear anyone use it. You can call Siri, or press your home or side button and ask, “what song is this,” “name that song,” or even just “listen to this.”
Siri will then listen to your surroundings and try to detect any song playing. It’s powered by a service called Shazam, and thankfully, the service works quickly and accurately, it can recognize songs in 2-5 seconds! And it can even recognize songs or compositions without lyrics.
Custom Siri Commands!
Siri already does a lot of stuff as it is. Apple even programmed it to learn what you do the most with your device so it can personalize the program to you. It can also learn your schedule, your location, and probably more.
Users can also program Siri themselves to do specific things or to run things based on Shortcuts they make using the Shortcuts app. Maybe you have already seen the Shortcuts app but didn’t really know what to do with it so just left it in your App Gallery collecting virtual dust.
Shortcuts can run one or more tasks by just tapping the Shortcut within the Shortcuts app or widget. The tasks you can run include opening a specific webpage, playing a random song, changing phone settings like volume, brightness, WiFi, Bluetooth, and hundreds, if not thousands, more features and actions.
A Siri Shortcut That Holds Cops Accountable
To give you an idea of how you can use shortcuts, there was a famous iPhone shortcut that circulated the internet back in 2020. It makes it easy for you to record a police encounter, as a way to hold officers accountable if they use excessive force or don’t follow protocol.
Just by saying “Hey Siri, I’m getting pulled over” or activating the shortcut by tapping it on your device, your iPhone or iPad will automatically turn the brightness and volume to its lowest setting, then it’ll send your current location to a recipient you choose. At this point, your phone will start to record a video.
When that recording is stopped, it will immediately send it to your chosen recipient and upload it to your preferred cloud storage. So, even if the officer notices the recording in progress, they won’t be able to erase it because it’s already in the cloud and with your recipient.
In case something bad happens, this shortcut means your iPhone has your back! If you want to install that shortcut, just click this link on your Apple device.
A Siri Shortcut for Emergencies
A simpler shortcut you can make is for emergencies. With the tap of a button or just by saying “Hey Siri, Emergency,” your phone can call emergency services while simultaneously sending your location to your loved ones with a message saying something along the lines of “I’m in an emergency.” And that’s it!
I recommend taking some time to experiment with your iPhone, iPad, or Mac’s Shortcut app. It’s the best way to learn what it can do. And who knows? Maybe your phone can save your life one day.
Or you can be like me! I set a Shortcut that plays the Soviet Union Anthem when I tell Siri “It’s not yours, It’s ours.” I know it’s a weird one, but here’s the link to that Shortcut if you want it.
To end this article, I’d like to share some of my favorite things to ask Siri. Of course, there are literally dozens of things I like to ask Siri just for gags, but here are three of my favorite.
“I Am Your father!”
First of all, I think it’s worth mentioning that the actual line from Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back is, “I am your father” not “Luke, I am your father.” Just a nerdy thing to note.
Anyway, if you say that to Siri, you’ll get several messages saying “NOOOO!” “Searching My Feelings,” “Together, we can rule the galaxy as father and intelligent assistant,” and my personal favorite:
“Excuse me while I jump from the maintenance catwalk into the air shaft… and then get sucked into the gas shaft and then cling to a weather vane on the underside of Cloud City… metaphorically.”
“What Is Zero Divided by Zero?”
This is probably a classic by now, but if you haven’t already tried it, it’s pretty fun. Why? Well, Siri basically responds with insults suggesting that you have no friends. It’s mean, but it’s still funny!
If you’re a Harry Potter Fan, you probably see where this is going. This is one of the newer commands that Siri can understand. You can say “Hey Siri, Lumos!” and your iPhone’s flashlight will turn on, and if you’re done, you can say “Hey Siri, Nox!”
“I Need To Hide a Body”
One of the creepier things you used to be able to do is say, “I need to hide a body” and Siri would actually suggest places that are convenient for hiding bodies. That gag was removed, however, after it was alleged that a man who had murdered his friend used this feature to figure out where to hide the body.
It was later revealed that the man simply had a screenshot of the “I need to hide a body” joke saved as an image in his phone, and that there was no evidence he’d made the request himself.
Even so, Siri is now programmed to respond to that with just “haha, very funny” or “I used to know the answer to this…” Either way, you can’t make Siri an accomplice for your crimes any longer, folks!