multiple Siri's

My Biggest Hope for Siri at WWDC 2016

I recently published a blog post containing my predictions for Apple’s WWDC 2016. I touched on some of my wishes for all of their current hardware devices and operating systems that run on them. What I mention here isn’t necessarily a prediction, but rather a hope – or a plea – for something that I think is drastically needed.

Whereas one of my long shot predictions centered around a new hardware device that acts as a speaker or hub for the home, and is completely governed by Siri, this request – I think – can be much simpler than that. I don’t think it requires a new device, though I admittedly have no idea about how complex it could be to make it work.

What I want is for when I say “Hey, Siri!” that only the nearest or current device that I’m using responds!

Right now in my house, I have an iPhone 6S, an iPad Pro, my wife’s iPad Air 2, and her iPhone 5S. Two of those devices (the 6S and iPad Pro) have “always-on Hey Siri,” while the other two have it active only when the device is charging. The iPhone 6S only responds to my voice, though all of the other devices will respond to whatever voice speaks the “Hey Siri” command. It is not uncommon for the 5S and Air 2 (the older two devices) to require more frequent charges, and so will be plugged in. All of these devices will frequently be in the same room. So, a worst case example of what can happen right now is that, using my own voice, I will trigger all four devices to respond to my “Hey Siri!”

This is not helpful. And it gives the illusion of there being multiple Siri assistants, when I don’t think that should be how we view Siri.

(And I imagine it only getting more confusing if, as rumoured, Siri comes to the Mac next. If the function works the same way as on iOS devices, then we might assume that “Hey Siri” will also come over, and will work on the Mac while it is being powered.)

First of all, the devices don’t all reply with a perfectly synchronized voice. There is always a delay on some of the devices. So, even if all of them are saying the same thing, the reverberation or echo effect I get means that the response is next to useless to me. Secondly, and to complicate matters further, “Hey Siri” does not have an amazing track record for accuracy, so more often than not, at least one of the devices will hear me wrong. What happens is that I suddenly feel like I’m in the middle of a room hearing multiple conversations, unable to parse what any one in particular is saying.

I am not a programmer and don’t claim to have any idea of what goes into making these extraordinary devices work as well as I do. But in my mind, here is an idea: have all of the devices that get triggered initiate some kind of rapid communication between them that designates one device as the “responder.” How this responder device gets chosen could happen in a few ways. If I’m using one of the devices at the time, then clearly that device could take command and override any of the others. Alternately, if I just walk into a room and shout my command without actually using any device, then proximity could be assigned by how loudly my voice is detected. Nearer devices will detect my voice louder than devices on the other side of the room. All the devices can hear me, have a brief conversation amongst themselves about which unit heard me the loudest, and then only that device would respond to me.

I have no idea if this particular idea would work, but I know that there is a solution out there somewhere!

Siri Doesn’t Work In iOS 9.0

Like many people around the world, when Apple released their iOS 9.0 update last week, I jumped to update my iPhone. So many of the features are awesome, and I can’t wait to test out some of the new devices! However, one unexpected side effect of my early update to iOS 9.0 was that I have lost a functioning Siri! Here’s what I can figure out.

I first noticed that Siri wasn’t working when I was not getting turn-by-turn navigation directions in Maps. I found that odd, but since I was driving at the time, I was not able to investigate any further. However, I did also notice that my “Hey Siri, what are my upcoming appointments?” command flashed something on the screen briefly, though I did not get the usual audible response.

When I got home, I tried some more things. I tried to plot a new course in Maps, and once again, I had no Siri directions. When I tried asking for upcoming appointments, I could see that the Siri screen did come up and it had the text that she would usually read aloud (i.e. you have an appointment tomorrow at 10 AM).

Since I had gone through the voice training to enable the updated version of “Hey Siri,” I thought that maybe this had messed things up somehow. So, I disabled it. That did not solve my problem, nor did reenabling and retraining it.

I flipped through the options on the Siri settings page. I tried tapping on each of the different voices, but each time I selected a new one, I heard “Hi, I’m Siri, your personal assistant” with whichever accent or gender I had chosen. So this didn’t seem to solve things. However, I inadvertently left Siri on the British female voice, and continued my testing, and then realized that I had my responsive Siri back!

I tried a bunch of questions and commands, and each time, she responded as I would have expected her to all along, albeit with this new, different voice. I have always had the default American female Siri voice. When I switched it back and then tried all these commands again, I got the same quiet Siri again. I found that male or female of British or Australian Siri worked fine, though neither the American male and female voice work properly.

So, to make a long story short. I updated my iPhone 5S to iOS 9.0. In doing so, my female American Siri became non-responsive, with no obvious way to make her talk again. By changing the voice, I was able to get vocal responses again, though never in the same American female (or male) voice that I am accustomed to. So, it seems to me that there is a bug in this new, upgraded Siri, specifically in the American settings. Hopefully they fix it quickly in the next iOS update! Maybe it’s a device-specific bug, as it seems that she works the same as before on my wife’s iPhone 5 and our iPads…

Have you noticed this same bug? Does Siri still work for you, the same as always? Let me know in the comments!

Movie Trailers Icon

How to Use Siri to Watch Movie Trailers

Siri has been a very important part of iOS since its introduction with the iPhone 4S. This personal digital assistant is able to do all sorts of things for you at your command, such as place phone calls, send text messages, set up reminders, or make dining reservations… among many other, lesser-known things. One of these less commonly used features is to find and play movie trailers! Movie trailers have had a special place in Apple’s heart for many years, going back to their Apple movie trailers website, and extending into modern times with dedicated apps on our iOS devices and Apple TV to play these video clips. They have a great resource to find the latest clips or some classic favourites. Considering this historical relationship, it should come as no surprise that finding and playing a movie trailer can be as simple as asking Siri to do it for you!

Here’s how to use Siri to watch movie trailers:

  1. Launch Siri by pressing and holding the Home button on your iOS device. (Before iOS 7, you could let go of the button and Siri would begin listening. However, from iOS 7 and onwards, you can continue to hold the button for as long as you have something to say to Siri, so that she won’t cut you off before you are done!)
  2. Ask Siri to play a movie trailer for whatever movie you are interested in. Try something like “Play the trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy.” Interestingly, Siri replied that she can’t help me with videos if I worded my request as “Play the movie trailer…” It has to be “Play the trailer…” Correct me if I’m wrong!
  3. If Siri understood exactly what movie you were referencing, she will start playing the trailer right away, completely automatically!
  4. If Siri requires more information, you will be presented with a list of movies from which to make your choice. Try “Play the trailer for Transformers” or “Play the trailer for Superman”. You can tap to make your selection, or you can tap the Siri button again and just speak your selection!
  5. If there is no such movie trailer available, Siri will simply tell you “There’s no trailer available for…. ”, and instead just serve up a movie poster and some information about the movie.

This is another great example of how Siri can take a multi-step process, such as searching for, finding, and selecting a movie trailer, and reduce it down to often a single voice command. It certainly is a great example of how using an app can simplify your life!

Siri

The Ultimate Guide to Using Siri to Find Restaurants

Since Siri was first introduced on the iPhone 4S, one of her key features has been being able to provide you with information from a huge database of restaurants and eateries. Typing and doing a web search for this kind of thing on a desktop computer is easy. Asking Siri through conversation and getting meaningful information in response is even easier! Keep reading to find out all of the amazing things that Siri can do to help you find good food on the road!

Here’s how to find a specific restaurant with Siri:

If you’re new to an area, and you know exactly what you want to eat but don’t know where to find it, Siri can help you to find that specific restaurant you have in mind.

  1. Press and hold the Home button on your iPhone or iPad to launch Siri. Prior to iOS 7, Siri will try to detect when you finish speaking, so don’t pause to think about something or she’ll cut you off! However, in iOS 7, she will continue listening to you for as long as you hold down the Home button! A very helpful tweak for the deep-thinkers among us.
  2. Tell Siri what restaurant you have in mind. Try variations like “Where is the nearest McDonald’s?” or “How do I get to Starbucks?”
  3. If there is only one nearby location of your particular restaurant, Siri will automatically plot a course for you in the Maps app, and begin navigation for you. If there is more than one location nearby (hello, Starbucks!), Siri will first present you with a list of the nearby locations and ask you to tap on the one that you want to visit. She will then take your response and plot a course for you based on that.

This is super easy to do, and will actually work with any business or address that you ask Siri about!

OK, that’s great if you have a craving for a Big Mac. But what about if you want something a little less specific. Perhaps you just want some Indian cuisine or Chinese food? Anywhere nearby will do – it’s doesn’t have to be from a particular restaurant. As long as you can get some butter chicken or sweet & sour pork, that’s where you want to go. Of course, Siri can help you with this request as well!

Here’s how to find a specific type of restaurant with Siri:

  1. Press and hold the Home button to launch Siri.
  2. Tell Siri what you are craving. Try things like “I want ice cream” or “Where is the nearest Chinese food?” or “Find me an Indian restaurant nearby” or “Find me a sushi place in Vancouver.” Even just the basic “I’m hungry!” will get you a list of suggestions.
  3. Siri will show you results, and you can tap to get navigation instructions as before. By default, she will present her finding to you based on what is closest to you. However, if you specify where to look, the results will come back sorted by rating (I think). If there is more information available, you can tap on the result and it will give you more detailed information about that restaurant, in addition to it’s location.

Now that you know how to find specific restaurants and restaurants of a particular cuisine, what if you want to know what other people think of these suggestions? Maybe getting some reviews first might help you to decide where you want to spend your money and be confident that you’ll get a good meal in return. Siri can help you with this too!

Here’s how to get reviews of restaurants with Siri

  1. Press and hold the Home button to launch Siri.
  2. Ask Siri “Show me reviews of restaurants in Vancouver” or “Find reviews of Chinese food restaurants nearby.”
  3. Siri will present you with a list of her search results. You can see the star rating next to the name of each restaurant, or you can tap on an individual result, and Siri will read you that rating out loud. (If you tap on the star rating next to the name, I believe it is supposed to take you to the Yelp listing for that location – assuming you have the Yelp app installed – though for whatever reason, it is not working for me now, and so may have been disabled in an update).

If you’ve finally decided what food you want to eat, and have a good feel about a restaurant based on its reviews, it’s probably a good idea to find out if they are open when you plan on visiting. Also, how much money can you expect to pay, and is there any contact information if you need call them ahead of time (perhaps to discuss a food allergy). Siri is there to provide a helping hand for this as well!

Here’s how to get hours, pricing info, and other restaurant information with Siri:

  1. Press and hold the Home button to launch Siri.
  2. Ask Siri about the particular info you are looking for. Try “How late is the nearest Chinese food restaurant open?” or “What is the price range of the nearest sushi restaurant?” or “What is the phone number of the nearest pizza restaurant?”

This is a quick and convenient way to get a basic overview of a particular restaurant. And now that you have confirmed that they’re still open, it’s probably best that you make a reservation. Nothing worse than showing up to a restaurant and having to wait for half an hour! For Siri to handle this request, you need to have installed the free OpenTable app. Best to download and install this before you get hungry!

Here’s how to make a restaurant reservation with Siri:

  1. Press and hold the Home button to launch Siri.
  2. Ask Siri to make you a reservation at the restaurant of your choice: “Make a reservation for two at Onyx Steakhouse tomorrow at 7:30.”
  3. Tap on the button that says “Make Reservation” to be taken into the OpenTable app, where you can confirm the reservation.

These are some of the fantastic ways that Siri makes your life easier. From finding a restaurant of a particular cuisine, or navigating you directly to a specific restaurant, to booking reservations for a fancy night out, Siri is there to make the process a whole lot easier.

Reminders

The Ultimate Guide to Using Siri to Set Reminders

Siri on the iPhone and iPad is an incredibly useful virtual assistant, often being able to reduce multi-step actions down to a single spoken command. One of these ways that Siri can help you to save some time is in creating reminders and managing reminder lists in the iOS Reminders app.

First of all, you need to create your list in the Reminders list manually. If you ask Siri to create a list, she will simply tell you that she cannot, and tell you to go into the app to do it. Fortunately, this is a very easy task to perform, and then once you have created the list, you can add and manage it directly via Siri. To create a new Reminders list, simply open the Reminders app, and then tap on the + at the top, next to New List. You can then tap to edit the title or select a colour for your list, and then tap done. That’s all there is to it to set up a new Reminders list. You can create as many lists as you’d like, each for their own purpose and which will hold their own set of reminders.

With multiple reminders lists, you may want to change the default reminder list. This is also easy to do. Go into the Settings app, then tap on Reminders, and then you can tap to select which list is the default one. The purpose of doing this is that when you have multiple reminders lists, if you don’t specify what list you want to add a reminder to, Siri will add to this default list automatically. It’s a time saver, but if not set up correctly, can be a nuisance.

Now that you have your list created, there are a couple of different kinds of reminders that you can set. The first is just a basic reminder, with no triggers associated with it. A list with this type of reminders could be a shopping list, or a Christmas wish list, or list of projects you want to accomplish around the house – basically, just things you want to remember, but not necessarily at any particular time. This works really well to create a shopping list that you can easily add to!

Here’s how you add a reminder to a list with Siri:

  1. Access Siri by pressing and holding the Home button (or corresponding button on a bluetooth headset, for example) on your iPhone or iPad until it chimes.
  2. To add to your default reminders list, casually ask Siri to “Remind me to…” do something (such as “remind me to buy milk”). If you want to add to a specific list, you can say something like “Add milk to my shopping list,” or “Add iPhone 6 to my Christmas wish list” to register the entry on that particular reminder list.
  3. When Siri repeats what was heard, you can tell her to make a correction if there is an error. If you forgot to say a particular list to add it to, you can say at this point “Move it to my Christmas wish list” or whatever. Otherwise, just confirm or cancel, or tap the text to make any modifications or corrections manually.

The next kind of reminder you can set it a time-based reminder. These reminders are the most common ones that people set, and the ones that I find most useful, as they ensure that I get things done when I intend to do them. This kind of reminder would be great to remind you to pay bills or go to a meeting on time – important things for which you don’t want to be late!

Here’s how you add a time-based reminder with Siri:

  1. Launch Siri by pressing and holding the Home button.
  2. This time, ask Siri to remind you to do something, at a certain time. Variation on this could be “Remind me at 8 PM to set Game of Thrones recording,” or “Remind me on Saturday at 9 AM to cut the grass,” or “Remind me in 20 minutes to check on the turkey in the oven.” As long as you attach some kind of measure of time to your reminder, Siri will set that to a schedule. Or course, you can also specify a particular reminders list in your request here as well, as explained above.
  3. When Siri repeats what was heard, just confirm confirm or cancel, or tap the text to make any modifications or corrections.

The third kind of reminder is a location-based reminder. By using one of these, your reminder will be triggered when you either arrive at or leave a predefined area, known as a geofence. With this kind of reminder, you can remind yourself to call your Mom as soon as you leave work! For location reminders to work the best, it is a good idea to populate your contact info with addresses of relevant places, such as your home, work, etc. Then, you can just reference these places as “home” or “work” without needing to go into anymore detail. Alternately, you could also specify the address around which you want to base your reminder.

Here’s how you add a location-based reminder with Siri:

  1. Launch Siri by pressing and holding the Home button.
  2. This time, ask Siri to remind you to do something when you leave somewhere or arrive somewhere. For example, “Remind me to call Mom when I leave work” or “Remind me to walk the dog when I get home.”
  3. When Siri repeats what was heard, just confirm or cancel, or tap the text to make any modifications or corrections.

Now that you know how to create these amazingly helpful reminders, why not use this power to share with others to help check things off your lists! You can do so easily by sharing your Reminders list through iCloud. Unfortunately, you need to configure the sharing via the desktop iCloud interface, as you can’t do this from within the Reminders app yet. (I would say that this is almost guaranteed to get changed in the forthcoming iOS 8!) However, once sharing is enabled, any changes you make to the shared list will be synced to all shared devices as they get updated.

Here’s how you share your Reminders list in iCloud:

  1. Log on to your iCloud account from a browser by going to www.icloud.com. Make sure you log on with the iCloud username and password that you have your iOS device syncing to!
  2. Click on the Reminders app on the website.
  3. On the Reminders lists on the left side of the screen, click on the sharing icon next to the list that you’d like to share. It looks like a standard WiFi icon, but angled.
  4. In the box that appears, type in the iCloud email address of who you would like to share with, which will send them an invitation to sync over to their iCloud Reminders app.
  5. On the receiver’s iPhone or iPad, they will get a notification where they can accept the sharing of the list.

With these various forms of reminders available to you, the iOS Reminders app is a powerful app to help you get things done. By utilizing Siri to add to these lists, it takes virtually no effort at all. Give it a try, and let me know how much more efficient you become!

New Apple Set-Top Box with Communication Function?

I just came across this article over on AppleInsider. Apparently, there has been discovered three shipments of “set top boxes” from Apple. Specifically, some of these shipments have been identified as “Set Top Box with Communication Function.” All of the focus on Apple lately has been surrounding their upcoming reveal of the next iPhone(s) – presumably, iPhone 5C and iPhone 5S.

However, is Apple using this excitement as a distraction?

Could they actually be shipping a new version of an Apple TV set top box that finally has Siri functionality built in to it?

This could be very exciting! I’ve said for a long time that I think Apple just needs to get deals sorted out with the content providers, and then put some upgraded hardware in their current Apple TV box, rather than divert money and energy in actually creating a television set. That would be a killer product, if we didn’t need to drop $2000 or whatever for a mythical Apple TV set, and we could just buy a souped up box that can deliver all content. Maybe throw in Siri and a FaceTime camera.

This will be a very interesting story to follow…

iwatch concept

My Comments on the Apple iWatch Rumour

Over the last few weeks, the rumour mill has been heating up about Apple products again.  At this time last year, the Next Big Thing was the mythical Apple television set – or at least a revamped Apple TV set-top box that had the blessings of cable companies and had access to their content – which to this day is still nothing but a rumour.  People are still predicting this to be revealed to the public in the next year or so, but until something happens, that’s old news.  Essentially the same predicted hardware and functionality, that while great, is just the same repeated rumour over and over again.  Since the public’s appetite for all things Apple must be fed, the latest rumour to pick up steam is based on a wearable computing device, in the form of a so-called iWatch.

iwatch conceptWearable tech has been called the next leap forward in technology, but it has been around for years in various devices.  However, many feel that it is on the cusp of going mainstream.  Fitness technophiles will be the first to point out the usefulness of their Nike Fuelband, Jawbone Up, and Fitbit One.  These devices simply clip on to your clothing or wrap around your wrist, and then go about their business tracking your movement and reporting the analytics back to you in meaningful ways.  Not to sit idly by, Google, the masters of categorizing and presenting relevant data to you, have an ongoing limited public trial of their version of wearable tech, in the form of Google Glass.  This pair of glasses has a small built in camera and computer that interprets what you’re looking at and serves up data to you as you need it (such as reminders, or map directions, or contact info), displayed directly on to the lens of the glasses.  This has the potential to be a game-changer.  However, in my opinion, there are a few problems with this: it’s not discrete enough (nor stylish enough to go mainstream), and having a camera always on has inherent security risks.  This is why I think an Apple watch has the potential to be a hit.  It could be as subtle as a wristwatch, fashionable, and be much safer.

In terms of hardware, we can expect it to have the usual Apple elegance and lust factor.  One can imagine that it would naturally have a Retina-grade touchscreen to make everything it displays gorgeous.  Function-wise, you can’t have a Retina display turned on all of the time without it being a massive battery drain.  Maybe they would opt for the lower resolution display with a pixel density comparable to the iPad mini or pre-Retina devices, but that would still need a lot of juice.  Forgive my admitted ignorance of feasible screen tech, but I think it would be cool if the watch displayed an e-ink or LCD-like clock when at rest, and when activated, the Retina screen would overlay on top of this.  That kind of technology would be perfect for a watch, as it would conserve power when not in use, and only when required would the brilliant display kick in and start to drain the battery.  Of course, this watch isn’t going to have the incredible number of pixels found in an iPad, so there is no reason to think that it would require the horsepower of an A5 or A6 chip to run it, nor would it need large amounts of RAM.  Also, today’s battery tech would need to be improved in order to get a mandatory multi-day charge for the device, as consumers aren’t going to want yet another device they have to remember to charge every night when they go to sleep.  (For comparison, my Fitbit One gets nearly 7 days on a charge – though this has a minimal display, it is tracking movement 24 hours a day.)  I can see some modest amount of memory, alongside a new or potentially die-shrunk chip and relatively minuscule battery, all of which would have to be precision-fitted into a space that would fit on your wrist.  If they were to continue their reliance on Corning’s glass tech, it could utilize the new version of Gorilla Glass (I know I’ve nicked and scraped my old watches countless times!).  Alternately, one of the hotter developments at Corning is Willow Glass, a new kind of bendable glass that can be wrapped.  A wrappable glass could be used very well to form to the contour of a wrist much more nicely than a flat piece, which would be especially useful for smaller wrists.  A minimal bezel could surround this glass, with a Home/Wake button located on the edge to maximize the screen size – a departure from the usual iPhone/iPad/iPod touch design, though more akin to the previous generation square iPod nano (which itself was widely used as a watch with aftermarket watch bands).  One could imagine the body to made of brushed aluminum with the highly polished chamfered edges found on iPhone 5, though with reports of iPhones being easily gouged on edges, this may not be a good place for this design.  An intriguing idea would be to make the body or backing out of Liquid Metal, which has yet to make a meaningful appearance in any Apple product since it was purchased a few years ago.  A biometric sensor would likely be included for security and applications, potentially built into the underside like an optical heart rate monitor, along with low-power Bluetooth to facilitate connections with other Apple devices, rather than a Lightning connector.  Unless the watch had onboard storage for photos and music, which I highly doubt, I don’t see a need for a Lightning connection – all communications could happen over Bluetooth.  An accelerometer and gyroscope would likely be included, as well as a microphone, though I don’t think that a speaker would be necessary.

About the style of the watch, it would need to have an easily adjustable band of some sort.  I have a hard time seeing Apple incorporate a leather strap with holes in it, though that would be more acceptable than a traditional metal clasp band which requires you to go to the watch shop (Apple Store?) to have links removed.  The adjustability of this watch has to be simple and elegant, with some kind of proprietary locking mechanism, likely.  Having not tried a Jawbone Up, I would think that a wrappable lock-less design such as that would be less than ideal from a security standpoint – it could potentially be easily grabbed and pulled off.  Perhaps something like the Nike Fuelband might be more appropriate, where the band itself is a preset size, and for wider wrists, extension “links” can be inserted to fit better – another place for a proprietary Apple connection!  In terms of colour, you can easily predict that the watch face would have a black or white bezel, potentially extending to the band itself as well.

Now that we have an idea of what this Apple watch might look like, the next obvious question is “what will it do?”  Of course, a watch has to tell the time, so it needs a clock app.  As I referred to earlier, an always-on clock would be nice, and if my dual-tech screen were to become a reality, this would look like a traditional (albeit with Apple style!) digital watch display most of the time.  Alternately, with a more typical Apple touchscreen display, one could image the face to look like a sleeping iPhone display when inactive, requiring a touch or a button press to wake it up and show the time.  In fact, this wake-up action could display the watch’s lock screen, showing the time, date, and some version of slide-to-unlock to do anything more.  With an integrated biometric sensor, there would be no need to password-protect the watch either, though I think that would always have to be an available option.  Through its Bluetooth connection to your iPhone, iPad, and Mac, these devices would likely be able to push any updates that would appear in Notification Center straight to your watch, including new emails, missed calls, calendar appointment reminders, etc.  Apple may open up development to third parties in the App Store, though any apps would obviously be very limited in what they could do.  Fitness apps would be an obvious suggestion, especially if they could tap into the biometric and motion sensors.  Other than that though, I don’t know how many apps would find a home on the small screen of a watch.

Incorporating Siri into the watch would be an intriguing inclusion, though I don’t necessarily agree with general opinion that this would be needed, for these reasons.  For starters, Siri only runs on post iPhone 4S devices, with reasons provided that it requires the power of their CPUs to process the natural language recognition.  I doubt a watch CPU is going to be powerful enough to do this, especially if it hopes to get good battery life.  Secondly, as it stands right now, Siri requires an Internet connection for the Apple servers to process your queries.  While that would work fine on home wifi networks, what about being out and about during the day, where you require 3G or LTE connections to cell phone carriers?  Are they going to start offering subsidized Apple watches now as part of their cellular plans?  I highly doubt it, and having a device that only works at home doesn’t seem very Apple-like.  Any type of network access would likely be provided via Bluetooth tethering to your other iDevices.  This leads to my final point, that if we consider the watch to be a peripheral accessory, it doesn’t need to RUN Siri.  Rather, it needs to make use of its connection to your devices, invoke Siri there, rely on its data connection, and then provide you with the results.  That way, your iPhone does the heavy lifting, and your watch essentially becomes equivalent to your Bluetooth car mic – a very fancy I/O device specifically for your Apple product.  I think this makes way more sense for a watch than including Siri as a native application, especially if you consider the alternative is a hit to the battery life between charges.

To conclude, I would like to comment on it’s potential name.  While everyone seems to assume that this device will actually be called iWatch if/when it is announced, I don’t know if I complete agree with this.  So far, Apple’s iDevices include iPod, iPhone, iPad, and iMac.  An iWatch would have to be a pretty big thing to rank up there with the big boys, rather than be considered as simply an accessory to them.  If we assume that it would have a much more limited functionality than any of these devices, I don’t think that it would be a stretch to think of it as an accessory.  If so, I could see it getting a more playful name (like EarPods) or functional name (like Retina Display).  My idea would be something like CuffLink – it explains where it’s worn, and says that it’s a link to your other devices.  Both playful and functional.  You heard it here first!

iOS Settings icon

How to Change your Language Settings

Changing your language settings on your iOS device is easy to do.  In the unfortunate event that you change the language to something that you can’t understand, you likely would have a hard time getting it back to something familiar.  Here are a few things you can do to change your language setting on your iPhone or iPad.

iOS Settings iconLanguage settings are found in the Settings app of your Apple device, under the General button, and then towards the bottom under the button for “International.”  When you tap that, the first setting that you see at the top of the list is Language.  Hopefully it is set to what you understand.  If you want to play around, you can tap it to switch to a different language, which will cause your iPhone to go black for a moment while the language change propagates through the system.  When it wakes up again after a few seconds, you’ll be back at the home screen, and you icons will be labeled with the language you selected.

Now, that’s well and good.  But what about changing it back to something that you can understand?  Thankfully, the button placement hasn’t changed at all, so you can navigate back.  Here’s what you look for:

  1. Open the Settings app.  It’s the same one with the gray icon of the gears.
  2. When Settings has opened, scroll down the list and tap on the button that has the same icon of the gears on it (for General, in English).
  3. When you tap into the General tab, scroll down until you come to the group of buttons that has four options.  Tap on the third option (in English, this is International).
  4. The first option in this screen is for Language, so tap that to bring up the list of languages that you can choose from.  Scroll through the list and tap on the one that you know (and recognize!).
  5. To set it, tap the blue button in the top right (done, or OK, or something similar).

If you have an iPhone 4S or newer, or a newer version of the iPad, you can also change the voice of Siri independently of the language of your device.  To do this, go into that same Settings app, then tap General, then tap Siri.  Midway down the screen, you can choose Siri’s language.  The available selection has been improved in recent updates, and it will very likely continue to expand as Apple programs Siri with additional languages and dialects.

Here is a tip that I have recently learned.  If your device is telling you that you have various units (such as money) in a form that you aren’t familiar with, this regional setting is connected to the language settings somehow.  To change this to be in line with your local area, go to Settings, tap General, then tap Accessibility.  Near the bottom is the Language Rotor.  Tap into that, and deselect any out of the ordinary languages that may be selected.  This is likely why some apps will report to you in terms of this language setting, rather than the one that you are used to.

 

Find My Friends icon

How to Locate your Friends

Since those who have a smartphone typically always have it with them, a good way of finding a person is often simply a matter of finding their phone.  And since modern smartphones have location tracking functionality built into them, this is often only a matter of using an app tactic to locate them.  One of the simplest programs to find a friend’s iPhone is actually one of the new iOS apps that is a free download in the Apple App Store.  This app is called Find My Friends.

Find My Friends iconWhen you first install this app, you will need to add your friends to the list.  It doesn’t populate itself from your contacts list, but rather is very specific in who it will track.  Furthermore, your ability to track someone must be approved by that person on their iPhone or other iOS device.  In this way, you can only locate those who are important to you, and only those who you trust are allowed to find you.

Find My Friends Requests screenTo add friends and family to your Friends list, which can be found along the bottom of the screen, you simply tap the + button in the top right (much like many of the other Apple apps).  The screen that comes up then prompts you to enter the contact name of the person whom you would like to follow.  So, if you wish to follow your wife, you simply put her name in the To: field at the top, tap in the message area below if you would like to attach a personal message, and then tap the Send button in the top right again.  This sends a request to your wife’s account, which pops up as a Find My Friends notifications request on her phone.  By choosing to View, the Requests tab of the app will open and give the opportunity to either Decline or Approve the request, as well as give the chance to follow back.  Approving will allow the requester to obtain location data whenever the app is accessed on their phone.

The steps above allow for continuous following of your friends.  That is, once you’ve been approved, you will always be able to locate them.  However, if you have a situation where you want your friends to be able to find you only for a little while (like if you’re going to the beach), there is a button along the bottom called Temporary.  Here, you can invite your friends to temporarily follow you, and you can specify who to invite, name the event, and decide when the event is over and you no longer want to be followed.  As stated on the invite page, everyone who accepts the invitation can see each other’s locations, so this is a great way to coordinate large gatherings where it might be challenging to easily find each other.

Once you have friends and family who have approved your following them, you can view the continuous and temporary accounts on the Friends tab.  All of the people that you follow will appear on the map as a dot.  You can tap on the name of the friend to zoom into their location, or simply tap on the map and manually pinch to zoom or scroll around to look at where everyone is.  The dots will update fairly regularly, so you can easily see when people are on the move.  I’ve noticed it update within a minute or two, so you can tell if they are driving and stuck at a red light or speeding down the highway.  However, I have also noticed a few times where it failed to find someone that I normally would be able to follow, or it updated only after a seemingly very long time, like after half an hour.  Despite these glitches, this app work wonderfully more often than not.

There are two cool features of this “find a friend” app that I have to mention here.  The first is how you can label specific locations, so that at a glance it is more meaningful than just an address.  So, instead of saying you are at 123 Apple Street, you can label this as Home, and that what it will tell you.  To do this, tap on the Me tab on the bottom, and below your location info you can tap to “Choose Label.”  (While you’re in the Me tab, you can also tap the Account button in the top right to set account details.)  Then you can click on whichever label is appropriate, or Add Custom Label at the bottom to specify “Town Center Track” or something similar.  Along the same lines, if you tap on your friends’ names in the Friends tab, and then tap the “i” button next to their name on the map, you can also designate a label for their current location as well.  By doing this for several locations, you can build up a location database that your phone can associate place names to addresses.

Siri icon

The great part about this is that Siri can access this location data as well.  So, you can simply ask Siri “is my wife at home?” and she will respond with “Yes, it looks like it.”  This is a great feature, especially for when you are driving or otherwise can’t look at the phone.

The second awesome feature of this app is the Notify function.  By activating this, you can have your iPhone or iPad notify you when the person you’re following arrives or leaves a certain location.  This works through Apple’s “geofencing” concept.  The app basically sets a virtual fence around a designated area, and when the person either leaves or enters a fenced area, it triggers an alert for you.  To enable this functionality, tap on the person from your Friends list for which you would like to be notified, and then tap the Notify Me button in the top right.  Then you can specify the location details for the alert: select either for when they leave or arrive, and then tap the location button below and select the place.  Then tap Done in the top right, and your iOS device will notify you when the condition is met.

At first glance, some may think that this app is sort of creepy in how it can tell people where you are whenever they want to know.  However, it is important to realize that you control who is entitled to this data.  Furthermore, the app is incredibly helpful if everyone in the family has an iPhone or location-aware iPod touch or iPad.  This way, you can find out when your significant other is leaving work so that you can conveniently start dinner ahead of time.  Or, more comforting, you can tell when your child leaves school and that they are on their way home, and where they are if they don’t arrive at home when expected.  So, hopefully you can see that this app isn’t creepy at all, but rather much more about security and convenience.

Google Latitude app iconThis review has focused on the app that is available for Apple phones, iPad, and iPod Touch.  However, similar apps are available for other systems.  In particular, I will note here a similar version of a Find My Friends Android app.  It is called Google Latitude.  Since Android is Google’s smartphone and tablet software, Latitude is the name of its service that allows you to find the location of your contacts.  It requires the same type of request and approval system as the iOS app I’ve talked about, and it works great across all devices that have allowed Google permission to track location.  This includes iPhones as well as Android phones, whereas Find My Friends is exclusive to Apple devices.  If you have an Android device, this is a great app to use.  For Apple owners, this service also works well, though its notifications won’t work as well outside of the app.

Whatever your device of choice, having an app that allows your friends to be aware of your location is a smart move.  When it comes to either coordination of schedules or the safety and security of knowing that those most important to you are safe, this is a very simple app tactic that you can use.

iPhone stocks app

How to get Stock Prices on your iPhone

For active traders, having access at all times to current stock prices is invaluable and crucial to finding success on the markets.  Several different trading platforms are available on desktop systems, but mobile devices are also very capable tools and are increasingly becoming more important to traders.  iPhones have a few built-in capabilities to help find stock prices, though there are also many apps that you can use to find financial information, and in many cases, facilitate trades.

One of the simplest ways of finding out market prices is by using Siri, Apple’s digital personal assistant found on the newest versions of iPhones and iPads.  By querying Siri, stock price data is quickly retrieved and presented to you in a concise graphic card.  If you ask Siri about a particular stock, she can respond with data such as current stock price, the high or low price of the day, trading volume, or the price change on the day.  All you have to do is activate Siri and ask a specific question, such as: “What is Apple’s stock price today;” or “What was the closing stock price of eBay today;” or “What is the trading volume of Google stock today?”  This is a great way of getting very basic information, very quickly.  It is particularly helpful in situations such as while driving and you are connected by a Bluetooth headset.  You can easily ask for a Siri stock quote, and she will verbally respond to you with the information in addition to displaying the price card on the phone.  Stock data is retrieved from the Yahoo Finance service, so you will get the same information through Siri as you would if you had gone to this popular financial site in a browser on your computer.

iPhone stocks appSimilarly, another related and useful way to get market information is through the use of Apple’s included Stocks app.  When you first open this app, it is preloaded with stocks such as Apple (AAPL) and Google (GOOG), but the list can be completely customized.  All you have to do is tap the + icon, and then in the search field, type in the company that you wish to follow.  Then tap the appropriate result to add that stock to your custom list.  In this way, you can build your own custom watchlist of whichever stocks that you are interested in following, either because you want to know what your portfolio is doing, or simply want to know how the stock behaves.  When you have created a custom list of stocks, you can scroll through the list by tapping and holding on the list and moving it up and down.  If you tap on the numbers on the right side of the screen, you can toggle between the dollar value price change of the day, the percent change of the day, and the market capitalization.  If you tap on a specific stock symbol, its graph is displayed in the lower portion of the screen, with options along the top of the graph to change the time frame that you wish to examine.  A really cool feature of the Stocks app is that if you turn your iPhone into landscape mode, the screen will rotate and the graph will expand to take up the full screen.  You can then tap and move around the graph to find more price information at specific points.  The app also draws upon data from Yahoo Finance, so you probably won’t have a problem finding stocks of interest to add to your list.  It’s good to know, that as is the policy of the Yahoo site, NASDAQ stocks are provided in realtime, though other stock exchanges may present their data on a 15 minute time delay.

A quick shortcut to the Stocks app can be found in the Notification Center, when you pull straight down from the top center of the screen.  There, you will see a scrolling stock ticker, composed of all the stocks on your list, complete with the current stock price and the price change on the day.  You can tap and drag to move the ticker either directions, and also tap on an individual stock to zoom to that one in the Stock app.  This isn’t necessarily any faster than just loading the app, though it is a nice touch to include a scrolling ticker!

Yahoo Finance appAnother stock app that works much like these Apple stocks is the actual Yahoo Finance app.  As this is the data that the iPhone Stocks app and Siri draw from, I don’t really see a benefit to using this standalone app.  However, having said that, the data is presented differently, and if you use the Yahoo app on an iPad, the layout is much larger and designed to take advantage of the extra screen real estate.  Considering that it is a free app, I do recommend that you download it and try it.  Of course, this is also just an information service that will provide you with recent stock prices.  It does not connect to any of your bank accounts or allow you to make actual trades.

Scotia iTrade appThe above apps and features are extremely handy if you are merely looking for information, and don’t even need it to be the absolutely most up to date info available.  However, if you are a more active trader and do require realtime current information, then there are apps that can help you.  Most likely, your bank or financial institution has published an app that will allow you to monitor your accounts, provides stock quotes and market information, and allows you to place trades.  For example, a popular financial app in Canada is provided by Scotia iTrade, which provides access to trading accounts if you have them with the company.  If you do have an account with Scotia iTrade, I highly recommend checking out their app.  It provides up to date account information, stock quotes, stock price graphs, options trading, news, and custom watch lists.  You will need to input your card number and password to gain access to your account, naturally, but you do have the option to remember the card number so that you only have to input your password in subsequent uses.  In a recent app update, if you add your card number to the app, then you don’t even have to type in your password to gain access to realtime quotes.  Typically, realtime quotes on most exchanges are only provided to registered users who log in to the services or websites, but this app is smart in that it remembers you and grants you easy access to one of these most commonly used functions.

Of course, these tips on how to get stock prices are just information for you to consider, and if you are more serious about trading, nothing I have provided on this site should be used in making your decision.  Trading stocks does not guarantee profit, and you do so at your own risk.  Although, with the selection of apps and services available on your iPhone, obtaining accurate information and actually performing these transactions has never been easier.