GTT Notes for April, 2017: Siri

Jason opened the meeting with a welcome. Tonight, Chelsea Mohler and Adam Strooth are here to talk about all the things you can do with Siri, using an iPad, Apple TV, and the iPhone. Next month, the topic will be podcasts. If there are topics you want covered, raise them, and we’ll find someone to present them. Maybe there’s something you know about that you’d like to present. There are no meetings in July and August, but we’ll b back in September. is the address for the group. If you’re not on the email list, send a request, and you’ll be added.


Chelsea began. She described herself as a technology trainer at Balance for Blind Adults, and a Siri enthusiast. She began with the very basics. Siri is the artificial intelligence Apple assistant. To access Siri, hold down your home button and give an instruction. She demonstrated opening settings this way. Within settings, there’s a Siri heading. One setting controls whether Siri is on. Check this if Siri isn’t working. There’s a setting concerned with whether or not Siri can be activated without unlocking your phone. The hands-free “hey-Siri” command  works on phones above a 6 when not plugged in, otherwise you need to be plugged into power. It’s a way to activate Siri by saying “hey Siri” without touching the home button. There’s also a setting to choose which voice Siri uses. To use Siri, you must have WiFi or data; it doesn’t work independently on the phone, but connects to the internet.

You can make phone calls. She spoke to Siri, directing it to phone another member. Theoretically, “hey Siri” recognizes individual voices, but a test showed that the words activated several peoples’ phones. When you set up Siri, it asks you to speak certain phrases in order to learn your voice. You can say to Siri, “Call using speaker phone,” or say, “Call my recent missed calls.” This will call the last missed call you had. It will prompt you by naming your last missed call and asking if you want to call that number. You can ask Siri to read your texts, or unread email. You can ask it to read the most recent. You can ask Siri, “Who’s iPhone is this.” For this to work, you have to enter yourself in your contacts. During the setup process, it should ask you for your name. If you subscribe to Apple Music, you can ask Siri to play songs from there. If not, you can ask it to play songs from your music library: whatever you’ve downloaded to your phone. You can ask by artist, title, or genre. You can subscribe to Apple music for $9.00 per month or so. You can make your own playlists.

Siri can be used to set an alarm or timer. Siri will tell you it’s done it. You can ask it to change an alarm that’s already been set. You can ask Siri “which alarms are currently active?” If you ask which ones are active, it will display all alarms and whether they’re on or off. Your wording can vary, “Wake me up at …” You can tell it to set alarms for specific days, for example “Wake me up at 7:00 a.m. Monday to Friday.”

Chelsea demonstrated using Siri for scheduling appointments. “Schedule an appointment …” using key words like “Titled” and the date and time. A member asked if you can incorporate reminders. Chelsea recommended going into the calendar ap to do this for specific appointments. She believes that reminders are better for tasks. Her example was that you can tell Siri to remind you to do something when you get home. You must have your geo tracking on and your address in your contacts in order for this to work, so that Siri knows where “home” is. Chelsea clarified that Siri is a part of the phone, not an ap.

Chelsea demonstrated using Siri for random choices such as picking a number between 1 and 100. You can ask Siri itself to tell you what it can do. A member highlighted that you can ask it for restaurants or businesses nearby, and sometimes make a reservation using an ap called Open Table. Chelsea demonstrated a dialogue concerned with finding a coffee shop.

You can use Siri to open aps, do a web search, as a quick calculator, as a way to check stock prices or do currency conversion. All of these, except the calling options, can be done on an iPad. Siri has a relationship field, so that you can say something like, “Call my brother.” If you’ve identified someone as being in a specific relationship to you, it will work. You can also give it phone numbers. A tip is that when dictating, it’s useful to hold down the home button until you’re finished speaking so that you don’t get cut off. You can send texts with Siri in one step, eg; “Text Mary, I will be late.” Siri can also be used from an Apple watch. You can activate it with the words “hey Siri,” or by pressing the round button. When it vibrates, it’s listening. You can connect a Bluetooth ear piece to the watch and interact with it that way.

As a side-note, she said that the Apple Watch is extremely handy for using Apple Pay. Apple Pay is an electronic alternative to using a card. You link a card to your account, then wave your Apple device at any machine that accepts tap. You can attach more than one card, and swipe to choose.

A member contributed that environments with a lot of background noise aren’t ideal for using Siri.


Adam took over to talk about using Siri with Apple TV. Apple TV is a set-top box that streams to whatever device you have it connected with. It’s probably the most expensive, at several hundred dollars. The latest generation has a Siri remote. This has 5 buttons, and a track pad you can use the rotor on, as well as a Siri button. On the rotor, there are some extra options related to navigating the touch screen. Siri on the Apple TV is limited to media-related questions, and can’t do all the other things Siri on the iPhone or iPad can do. You can ask for recommendations. You can activate Siri without speaking, which will prompt it to offer suggestions about what kinds of questions you can ask. You can use Siri to dictate into an edit field rather than hunt-and-peck on the keyboard. You can spell the words as well, if you’re dictating an email address or password.

Adam demonstrated using Siri to open Netflix, and play the last episode of a specific TV show, or for example, “Play the Friends episode with Robin Williams. You can ask it to start an episode from the beginning, skip ahead by a defined amount of time, or turn on closed-captioning. The Apple TV has its own operating system, so the interface is a little bit different. You can ask questions specific to what you’re watching, such as, “Who stars in this?”

You can also use Siri to search Youtube, eg: “Search Youtube for funny dog videos.” It populates the search field for you, then displays the results. You don’t need to have Youtube open to do this. You can ask Siri to switch the language of your show or movie. The Apple TV remote is very small compared to a phone or iPad. It has a great battery life. Your phone can also function as a remote for the Apple TV. The Apple TV is a way to stream music from your phone to a nice stereo. One good reason you might want to do this is that you’ll get music through your stereo, but voice-over still through your phone.


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