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Make Siri Understand
If you're feeling frustrated with Siri not understanding you, then do not feel robo-rejected -- you are not alone. There is one easy option you can choose from the start to make sure Siri understands who you are, and the names of people you are likely to call or text most often.
Obviously the way Siri hears things is phonetic, so a lot of misunderstanding comes from names that are similar, or that do not follow a conventional phonetic pattern. For example, we would know how to pronounce Angelina, but Siri would think of this as An-G-ell-eena. So you need to make some phonetic examples so that she understands who you mean. If you go into your Contacts, click Edit, and then page down to the bottom and tap Add Field, you then get faced with some choices, two of which relate to phonetics - Phonetic First Name & Phonetic Last Name. So in our example here, you would put in the first name field Anjeleena and then Save.
It won't work for all names, and sometimes you'll need to play around with how you've entered the information, but it works in most cases. If you are still having difficulty then you might need to opt for a nickname, or a relationship name (see below).
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Who do you Mean? The Business of Relationships
One of the most common annoyances of using Siri is having to repeat the same information over and over again, as Siri doesn't seem to remember things you've said before. Actually, she does if you set things up right from the beginning. For example, rather than go through the process of "text my husband", "who's your husband?" etc., you can set up relationships to save you time.
The relationships will only be recognized and saved, if Siri knows who you are to begin with otherwise it has nothing to link to, so make sure your settings in General > Siri have all the "My Info" information that is required. Then under the relevant contact, choose a relationship category and save.
It also seems that this process works a little more smoothly if you are using iCloud to sync rather than Gmail or Exchange so try altering that if you are still having problems.
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Train Yourself - Give Clear Instructions
OK, so you training yourself to use Siri differently isn't exactly what you were after -- obviously the ultimate goal would be for Siri to understand what you said no matter how you said it or in what order.
One major pitfall of Siri is the use of accents -- this really foxes him when away from US shores. We've documented that one of the reasons not everyone loves Siri is that not only do the location functions not work outside of the US, but try throwing a strong Scottish accent in there and you have no hope. So if you think your accent is the reason Siri doesn't understand you, then maybe try a bit of an American accent -- not ideal, but it just might work.
Another method to make Siri understand you better, which works for everyone, is in the way that you give instructions. When wanting to reschedule an appointment for example, you need to give more information than 'change an appointment' as Siri does not understand that. You need to be really precise here, so something like "Change my calendar on 10th November. I have an 8.30 appointment, it's now at 9.30." Siri needs all the information clear, concise and up front; otherwise it gets confused about what you are asking of it. By mentioning calendar at the start, it's clear what you are asking, then following with date and time -- all in a logical order. Think about how you would perform the operation if you were to do it yourself -- find the app, find the date, find the time and so on.
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One of the big fails of Siri at this time, is that it doesn't work with most of your other apps. Notably, regular apps you probably use like Twitter and Facebook aren't Siri supported, which is a little odd considering the hype around the Twitter integration in iOS5. So if you usually use a regular app for booking a restaurant, Siri won't be able to open that app up and then do what you ask. By default though, if you ask Siri something she understands but cannot complete, you will be offered a web search which is one way around the problem. You would then need to use the voice recognition to carry out the search on Safari.
We should remember that Siri is still in beta, so of course there are going to be annoyances here and there, but a lot of it is down to the way you give instructions. Think about how rubbish voice recognition was not so long ago and see how far we've come. It can only get better, and remember, the more you use Siri the better it will become. The big advantage here of course is that Siri is server based, so all the lovely data she collects on failed queries gets sent to the Apple tech guys to make future improvements.
If you have any other tips we haven't covered here, that you'd like to share then please leave a comment.
- Siri images and additional information - http://www.apple.com/iphone/features/siri.html