Siri: Using It in Real Life

The big feature in the iPhone isn’t the better camera or the faster processor, it’s a piece of software called Siri, and it’s very popular. Just by hitting a button you can speak whatever you want into the phone and get your answers in just a few seconds. “What time is my next appointment?” “How do I get to mom’s house?” “Where can I get a piece of pizza?” It’s quite the amazing piece of software.

But with any type of new technology, there are a few hiccups in the road. Siri isn’t perfect at answering every question, but that’s not even the most important part. Frankly, you can kind of look like a douche using it.

So how do you avoid looking like a jerk while still using the service? And is it useful enough to use every day? We’ve lived with Siri for a few weeks now, and we’ve got some answers.

Proper Phone Etiquette

Remember when the Bluetooth headset first hit the market? People were walking around all day seemingly talking to themselves, causing awkward moments in conversations and fodder for comedy movies made in the last five years. Even though the technology was really cool (and required use in some states) it’s still hard to have one out in public without looking like a jerk.

So we have Siri, which has the same issue as the Bluetooth headset. Just push the button and talk to Siri, and she’ll answer out loud using the iPhone’s built-in speaker. Do that in a crowd and just wait for the eye rolls.

Fixing that problem is pretty easy, and all it takes is changing a setting.

Adjusting Siri for non-jerk status.

Adjusting Siri for non-jerk status.

First, navigate to Settings > General > Siri. There’s a little switch on the bottom of the screen labelled “Raise to Speak.” By enabling this switch, all you have to do is lift the phone up to your ear and hold it there until you hear that familiar Siri tone. Ta-da — now you’re no longer a jerk.

Being Appropriate

Now comes the other big part of the whole Siri equation, figuring out when it’s appropriate (and more importantly, not appropriate) to use Siri. Just like FaceTime, there’s a right and wrong time to use it.

In Private

It’s 5 am, no one is around and you want to ask Siri where the nearest coffee shop is because your Friday night has turned into your Saturday morning, and you’re starting to feel like a hangover is looming. Feel free to whip out your iPhone 4S and get some java, because there’s nobody to embarrass yourself in front of, and no fear of someone thinking you’re a jerk.

With a Friend (or Friends)

You’re with your good buddy from freshman year, his brother and a mutual friend, talking about the good old days. You want to put on a special playlist from your iPhone, and show off at the same time. Do you use Siri?

Sure, why not. If you’re among friends, there really is no reason not to pull out Siri. It’s the strangers part you have to look out for, because douchiness creeps around every corner. You don’t want to be “that guy.”

In Public

You’re at the local hardware store and you’re trying to find a specific type of mortar to use in a tiling project you’re working on at home. You can’t find it there, so you need to find the nearest store. Out comes the iPhone, and now you ring Siri via speaker. Cool or no?

If you’re anywhere near someone who’s a stranger, don’t use it. You’re just going to look like a jerk who’s trying to show off their fancy new iPhone, and nobody likes that. The only exception to this rule comes to play if you’ve activated the Raise to Speak feature, and even then you should probably either talk quieter or try to be stealthy about it.

Learning the Ropes

Once you’ve figured out how not to look weird talking to yourself, the next step is to start figuring out how to use Siri and how to make it work for you. Again, this thing isn’t perfect; Siri doesn’t know the answer to everything, and it will probably be a bit before it does. But the best way to learn how to use it is just to give it a shot.

Let me give you an example. The other day I wanted to take a nap, but I didn’t want to wake up 4 hours later wondering where my day had went. I figured I’d ask Siri to set an alarm for me, but instead of asking it in a traditional way like “Set my alarm for 1 hour” or “Set a timer for one hour,” I just asked it what I was thinking. “Wake me up in an hour.” Here are the results:

Oh look, it set an alarm for me.

Oh look, it set an alarm for me.

Now I’m not going to say that Siri is perfect, not by any means. More often than not, Siri doesn’t get when I’m trying to tell her to do something, and I’ve never gotten her to successfully play a song or album. But point is, try it out and see what happens.

Final Thoughts

Siri is an amazing application with a lot of promise for the future. But as with all new pieces of technology, it’s going to take a little bit of time for the world at large to catch up. In the meantime, use your Siri carefully, and get to know her slowly, just like you would a new pet. Make sure to try new things every so often to see what happens, use the app in private or among close friends, and try not to be a douche.

Huh. Now that I think about it, those are pretty much words to live by.