Siri trou­bleshoot­ing tips

From fail­ures of un­der­stand­ing to dif­fi­culty with ac­cents, David Price lists the 14 most an­noy­ing Siri prob­lems, and how to fix them

iPad&iPhone user - - CONTENTS -

Isn’t Siri rub­bish? Well, that’s a mat­ter of opinion, but Ap­ple’s voice-ac­ti­vated ‘per­sonal as­sis­tant’, in­tro­duced with the iPhone 4s and later made avail­able on iPad, cer­tainly isn’t ev­ery­one’s cup of tea. Back in 2013 we went on to Twit­ter and asked iPad&

iPhoneUser read­ers about their ex­pe­ri­ences with Siri, and the things that they love and hate about Ap­ple’s voice­con­trolled per­sonal as­sis­tant. In those early days, only about half said they use it, but while some of those used it fairly rarely, oth­ers de­fended the fea­ture staunchly. Over

the fol­low­ing pages we talk about Siri’s prob­lems and an­noy­ances, and how to fix them.

1. Siri isn’t work­ing

If Siri isn’t work­ing for you, the first thing to check is whether your de­vice is able to run Ap­ple’s voice as­sis­tant.

It’s avail­able on the iPhone 4s and later, on the iPad 3 and later (in­clud­ing all iPad Pro, iPad Air and iPad mini mod­els, and the iPad 2017) and on the 5th- and 6th-gen iPod touch mod­els. Plus every Ap­ple Watch model and the 4th-gen Ap­ple TV, and any Mac able to run macOS Sierra.

If you’ve got an iPhone 4 or ear­lier, or an iPad 1 or iPad 2, you won’t be able to run Siri, although there are some al­ter­na­tive voice-con­trol apps on the App Store that you might like to try.

2. How to turn Siri on

If it’s not work­ing at all, Siri might be switched off. In iOS, go to Set­tings > Siri (in ear­lier ver­sions of iOS you had to se­lect Set­tings > Gen­eral > Siri) and make sure the top slider, la­belled Siri, is on, and green.

3. Don’t know what to ask

Don’t be put off by one bad ex­pe­ri­ence. Siri can do lots of stuff, but it takes a lit­tle while to get used to its way of work­ing. Bear in mind that it is con­stantly im­prov­ing: Ap­ple is con­tin­u­ally adding fea­tures, and it should get bet­ter at in­ter­pret­ing your wishes the more you use it.

There are many, many use­ful ques­tions you can ask Siri. For ideas, press and hold the Home but­ton to ac­ti­vate it, but don’t ask it any­thing. Af­ter a short wait Ap­ple’s as­sis­tant will start cy­cling through sev­eral pages of sam­ple ques­tions.

If your is­sue is that Siri can’t un­der­stand your re­quests, rather than not know­ing which ques­tions are likely to pro­duce use­ful re­sults.

4. Siri can’t un­der­stand your ac­cent

We’re very sorry to say this – firmly op­posed as IPad&

iPhoneUser is to the ho­mogeni­sa­tion of Bri­tish ac­cents – but it may be worth de­vel­op­ing a ‘Siri voice’ in the same way our par­ents’ gen­er­a­tion had tele­phone voices. Just talk a bit posher. (More poshly?) And try speak­ing very clearly and slowly. (Find that em­bar­rass­ing? We deal with that later on.) On a less class-con­scious level, check the mi­cro­phone on your iOS de­vice is clear and that you’ve re­moved the case if it blocks this. Ap­ple has a handy Siri trou­bleshoot­ing guide with some more ad­vice re­lated to this at tinyurl.com/m2j3egj.

5. Siri can’t hear me

Siri is de­pen­dent on be­ing able to hear you, so the mi­cro­phone on your iPad or iPhone is cru­cial. If Siri is ac­ti­vat­ing – you’re see­ing sound wave graphic and “What can I help you with?” text, but Siri can’t make out what you’re say­ing, there could be an is­sue with the mi­cro­phone. Here are some things to check: Case: If you’ve got a case or cover, this could be ob­struct­ing the mic. Take the case off and try again. Any bet­ter?

Fluff: Is there any fluff, gunk or de­tri­tus in the mi­cro­phone aper­ture? Lo­cate the mic – on your iPhone it will be on the bot­tom edge, although the pre­cise lay­out varies from model to model, while on an iPad it will be on the right-hand edge

– and ex­am­ine it for any ob­struc­tions. Blow­ing gen­tly, us­ing a can of com­pressed air and prob­ing very cau­tiously with a pin or sim­i­lar can all help clear away an­noy­ing fluff, but you must make sure you don’t dam­age the mic and ag­gra­vate the is­sue. Now try Siri again. Any bet­ter?

If Siri’s still not pick­ing up your words, there may be some­thing more se­ri­ous wrong with the mi­cro­phone. To iso­late this, you need to see if Siri works with a dif­fer­ent mi­cro­phone - you could plug in a pair of head­phones with an in­te­grated mic, for in­stance, or plug your iDe­vice into a CarPlay-equipped ve­hi­cle. Any bet­ter? If so, Siri is fine but the mi­cro­phone isn’t. You’ll need to take your iPhone or iPad into an Ap­ple Store and get the mi­cro­phone looked at.

6. Siri re­quires an in­ter­net con­nec­tion

We can’t get past this fun­da­men­tal lim­i­ta­tion of Siri’s tech­nol­ogy. But re­mem­ber that Voice Con­trol (which of­fers a few sim­i­lar func­tions, such as let­ting you dial con­tacts’ num­bers ver­bally) does work off­line. If you want

to use that in­stead, you’ll need to switch off Siri: Go to Set­tings > Gen­eral > Siri.

7. Other peo­ple keep turn­ing on ‘Hey Siri’ on your iOS de­vice

If this is driv­ing you to dis­trac­tion, you can of course turn off Hey Siri en­tirely – go to Set­tings, Siri and tap the slider next to ‘Al­low “Hey Siri”’ – but then you’ll miss out on a cool fea­ture. In­stead, as­sum­ing you didn’t do this when you first set up your de­vice, train Hey Siri so that he or she is at­tuned to your voice and only your voice. (And, in prac­tice, a few other peo­ple with very sim­i­lar voices, but you can’t have ev­ery­thing.)

Go back to Set­tings, Gen­eral, Siri and tap the slider next to ‘Al­low “Hey Siri”’ so it goes white, then tap once more so it goes green again. This will kick you back into the Hey Siri setup process that you pre­sum­ably skipped last time. You’ll be in­structed to say the words “Hey Siri” three times, then a cou­ple of more ad­vanced phrases, and this should be enough to get Siri used to your in­to­na­tions.

Turn off the de­vice’s screen and check Hey Siri works, but you should be good to go.

8. Keep ac­ti­vat­ing Siri on the wrong de­vice

A com­mon (and ex­tremely first-world) prob­lem among the tech-rich is that say­ing Hey Siri to one de­vice promptly ac­ti­vates the fea­ture on all the other Macs, Ap­ple TVs, Ap­ple Watches, iPhones and iPads within earshot.

You can keep the con­ve­nience of Hey Siri while lim­it­ing its ef­fects to the de­vices you’re cur­rently us­ing, how­ever. Open Set­tings on an iPhone or iPad and tap Siri, then tap the slider next to ‘Ac­cess When Locked’ so it turns white.

You’ll still be able to use Hey Siri on this de­vice (as­sum­ing the ‘Al­low Hey Siri’ slider be­low is green), but only when it’s un­locked.

9. Too much noise

We’ve heard from read­ers com­plain­ing that Siri’s au­di­tory fussi­ness means they can’t use it to work in the pub or other noisy lo­ca­tions.

Speak­ing slowly and clearly di­rectly into the mi­cro­phone (and, as we men­tioned pre­vi­ously, check­ing that the mi­cro­phone is clear and un­ob­structed) will im­prove your chances of get­ting Siri to un­der­stand you, but our ex­pe­ri­ence sug­gests that Siri is ac­tu­ally okay in mod­er­ately noisy places. Pub, yes. Late-night club, per­haps not – in those places you’re bet­ter off typ­ing out searches and us­ing menus man­u­ally.

10. Not sure if Siri did its job or not

iPad&iPhoneUser reader, Rick Le­coat doesn’t yet feel con­fi­dent enough to de­pend on Siri. “Got ex­cited when I re­alised I could set an alarm or timer,” he says, “but in­evitably I then con­firm it’s set as in­tended, so ben­e­fit lost.” So­lu­tion: When you checked, Rick, did it turn out that Siri had done the job as ex­pected? From the way you de­scribe this, it sounds like it did. As with most of these is­sues, our ad­vice would be to keep on us­ing the fea­ture – con­fi­dence will come in time, af­ter Siri has done its job

five times, or 10 times, with­out a prob­lem. For sim­ple tasks it re­ally can be handy.

11. Too an­noy­ing to use

If Siri’s smug voice (and Bri­tish Siri, with no of­fence in­tended to the voice artist, can be a bit pompous) is wind­ing you up, put it on mute: go to Set­tings > Siri > Voice Feed­back and se­lect Hands-free Only. That way the re­sponses will ap­pear on screen rather than be­ing spo­ken aloud (un­less you plug in a hands-free kit).

12. Too em­bar­rass­ing to use

First, you can use Siri with a hands-free kit, such as a Blue­tooth head­set, which if you’re rea­son­ably sub­tle will make peo­ple think you’re hav­ing a real con­ver­sa­tion with a per­son. It’s also less likely to at­tract at­ten­tion from mug­gers.

Sec­ondly, surely the em­bar­rass­ment fac­tor de­pends on where you use Siri? Whip­ping out the iPhone for a word with Siri in a nice pub full of mid­dle-aged peo­ple with real jobs is prob­a­bly go­ing to make you look like a spiv, but a street in Dal­ston should be fine. A gen­eral rule is that if you’d feel self-con­scious tak­ing a photo with an iPad, us­ing Siri is prob­a­bly not on.

13. Dis­like Siri’s voice

If Siri’s voice is driv­ing you up the wall you can eas­ily change this. Go to Set­tings > Siri > Siri Voice and tap where it says Bri­tish (Male). In the next screen you’ll be able to switch to a fe­male voice, or get an Amer­i­can or Aus­tralian voice in­stead.

Siri’s lan­guage is changed in a sep­a­rate field on the same screen, so in the­ory you can stick to Eng­land (United

King­dom) while chang­ing Siri’s ac­cent to UK or Aus­tralian. But in our ex­tremely un­sci­en­tific tests US-ac­cented Siri seemed to strug­gle more with Bri­tish id­ioms and ac­cents than the UK de­fault, even though he was still set to the English (United King­dom) lan­guage. For this rea­son we’d rec­om­mend stick­ing to the gen­der change, but your mileage may vary.

If all six of the gen­der/ac­cent com­bi­na­tions get on your wick, you can al­ways con­sider putting Siri on mute, as ex­plained in the ‘Siri is an­noy­ing’ sec­tion.

Fi­nally, for the jail­break­ers out there (stan­dard dis­claimer: jail­break­ing your iPhone or iPad is likely to void your war­ranty, and may dam­age your de­vice), it’s pos­si­ble

to set a cus­tom wall­pa­per for when Siri is ac­tive. It’s hard to stay mad at Siri if he has Jesse Pinkman’s face.

14. Keep for­get­ting to use Siri

Is this Siri’s fault? Pos­si­bly – af­ter all, if it’s not pro­vid­ing a valu­able ser­vice, why would we re­mem­ber it’s there?

Start off with a cou­ple of things that you know Siri can do eas­ily – voice di­alling and dic­tat­ing re­minders and ap­point­ments, say. Af­ter a while this will be­come sec­ond na­ture. You can build up your reper­toire from there.

If you’re re­ally strug­gling to re­mem­ber that Siri is there, maybe you could change your wall­pa­per to this:

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