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
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: