Siri at 10: Our 10 favourite ways to use Apple's voice assistant

Thought Siri was just a joke machine? Here are our favourite practical uses for Apple's voice assistant...

Is Apple's voice-controlled assistant useful for anything other than one-liners and pop culture easter eggs? It sure is, as we found when we polled the Stuff team on how we use Siri to help us in our daily lives. Since Siri debuted in the iPhone 4S and the iPhone 6S introduced hands-free 'hey, Siri' mode, we've called on Siri in all sorts of everyday situations - here are our favourites:

1. Setting cooking timers

Say this: "Hey Siri, set a timer for five minutes'

Long before the Cookie Monster discovered Siri, we were bellowing at her to set oven timers as we rinsed marinade from our fingers. 

It's not the kind of functionality that'll give Google Assistant or Amazon's Alexa sleepless nights, but it is surprisingly useful once you make it a kitchen habit.

2. Instant Shazam-ing

Say this: "Hey Siri, what's this song?"

We still regularly call on Shazam's ability to name any song that's playing within earshot, but sometimes the few seconds it takes to find and open the app can be enough to miss out on putting a name to that melody.

That's why this is one of our favourite Siri commands – whether you're driving, cooking or just tuned into the last few seconds of a radio show, it'll speedily hunt down the song's info and, if you're an Apple Music user, file it in your collection if you say "add to my music". Of course, Apple now owns Shazam after buying it in 2018. 

3. Turning out the lights and much more

Say this: 'Hey Siri, time for bed'

You can get Siri talking to numerous home devices thanks to Apple HomeKit and using the Home app you can customise the phrases that prompt Siri to turn out the lights. Scenes and Rooms help you control multiple devices, too, while you can enable 'Hey Siri' for other accessories and automate things, too. 

4. Avoiding a soaking

Say this: "Hey Siri, should I bring an umbrella?"

Sure, you could fire up your weather app to find out whether those clouds pose any genuine threat, but that's easy on a weekday morning when you're attempting to simultaneously locate your keys and rescue some burnt porridge.

Say this command in a pleading tone, and Siri will tell you whether or not to reach for the brolly in a chirpy fashion that masks her deep disappointment in your deficiencies as a human being.

5. Beating indecision

Say this: "Hey Siri, roll a six-sided die"

Our brain is frequently cursed by human 'spinning beach ball', rendering us incapable of making even simple decisions. Paella or sushi for dinner? Firefly or Narcos on Netflix? Tesla Model 3 or fancy wedding?

Okay, it might not be a good idea to consult Siri for the last one, but for everything else you can ask her to 'flip a coin' or 'roll a die'. It's so addictive we might use her to help us write a 21st-century version of The Dice Man.

6. Finding out the score

Say this: "Hey Siri, what was the [insert team] score?"

We're not sure if it's because Siri has been eavesdropping on us banging on about 'the big game' a lot lately, but she's able to very quickly deliver us football scores without even us even mentioning the sport in our question.

Not only that, she even outdoes Jeff Stelling by embellishing her response with choice phrases like "soundly defeated" and "crushed", making it our favourite way to get the footy scores (at least when our team wins).

7. Understanding mumbling TV characters

Say this (for Apple TV only): "What did he/she say?"

How we wish this had been around for Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. One of the best features of the Apple TV, this command prompts Siri to skip back 15 seconds and temporarily turn on the subtitles so you can catch any missing dialogue.

You can also skip forwards or backwards through a show with a simple voice command, safe in the knowledge that the Apple TV's quieter Siri won't destroy the atmosphere of your Nordic thriller with her signature 'ding'.

8. Turning on Night Shift

Say this: 'Hey Siri, turn on Night Shift'

One of our favourite features of iOS is the Flux-aping Night Shift mode, which lowers the screen's levels of blue light towards the end of the day to (supposedly) help keep your circadian rhythm on track.

It works automatically using your time and geolocation, but sometimes we ask Siri to tweak it when we need an early night or want to beat jetlag. 

9. Tracking down old photos

Say this: "Show me my photos from [insert date or place]"

Even if you're organised enough to use albums in Apple's Photos app, tracking down a particular snap to show friends can result in an awkward silence while your swipe through all those shots of your favourite culinary creations.

Which is why it's sometimes easier to ask Siri, who can find photos by place, date or even photo type (go on, ask her to "show me my selfies", if you must).

10. In-car phone calls

Say this: "Hey Siri, call my [insert relation]"

One of the places where Siri comes in particularly handy is the car, where we often call on her to make phone calls while we keep our hands at '10-and-2' just as we told in our driving lessons. 

To make things more natural, you can assign informal labels to names in your contacts by saying "Anthony Gailbraith is my brother", allowing you to then command "call by brother" instead of having to remember his name.