What are Siri Shortcuts and how do they work?
Apple’s virtual assistant Siri is about to get a lot more useful with the release of iOS 12. Called Siri Shortcuts, the feature will help you assign custom voice phrases to apps so you can quickly get to the things you need.
Siri will also suggest an action at just the time you need it, called Siri Suggestions. Late for a restaurant booking? Siri will suggest you call the restaurant. Have a coffee from Starbucks every morning at the same time? Siri will offer to order it for you.
There’s a lot more to Siri Shortcuts, including a new app. So let us explain exactly what the new feature is and what it can do.
What are Siri Shortcuts?
Siri Shortcuts is a new feature within iOS 12 that lets you call upon Apple’s smart assistant to make it quicker and easier to access information within apps using a custom phrase. Siri will also make suggestions for you based on things you normally do, calendar appointments you have or apps that require action.
Siri Shortcuts that use third-party apps require developers to have implemented them in their apps using the new Shortcuts API. Apple demonstrated the technology at its WWDC 2018 developer event so now that iOS 12 is about to launch many developers will have implemented them.
All of the intelligence is worked out locally on your device rather than being sent to Apple server.
Examples of what Siri Shortcuts can do
Apple used Tile as an example during the first demo of Siri Shortcuts. When you open the Tile app, you get a button that says “Add to Siri”. Click this and then record a custom phrase, such as “I lost my keys” and you’re done. Now, when you activate Siri, you just have to speak your phrase and Siri will automatically begin ringing the Tile connected to your keys.
Because Siri is baked into iOS, it knows your calendar events, including any meetings you have at work. Siri can also know that you’re running late for work, based on your location and what time your meeting starts. If it detects something like this, it will now automatically suggest you send a message to the organiser of the meeting telling them you’ll be late, or if possible, will suggest you call into the meeting.
Siri already learns your habits and will offer navigation directions based on places it knows you regularly visit. That capability is improved with Shortcuts and iOS 12. For example, it can learn that you visit the same coffee shop every morning on the way to work and, if the shop supports it, you can pre-order your drink before you arrive. Siri will learn this and automatically suggest you order your usual before you leave the house.
Siri suggestions will also appear in search results when you use the on-device Spotlight search in iOS 12.
What is the Shortcuts app?
Apple also announced a new Shortcuts app, that enables you to create your own shortcuts. If you know about IFTT (If This Then That) you know that it enables you to create mini programs – an output based on an input called a recipe. For example, you want to receive a reminder about something when you get to work. So in this instance, your phone will know when you get to work based on location.
The Shortcuts app lets you create recipes for various apps, based on different scenarios. If you’re going home from work, you can tell Siri “Heading Home” – again, this is a custom phrase – and it will then activate the shortcut you created.
This can include getting navigation directions to home based on your current location, sending a message to your mum or roommate telling them you’re on your way and it can even adjust the temperature of a HomeKit-enabled thermostat so your home will be nice and toasty when you get in.
The Shortcuts app comes with over 300 suggestions to get started in the Gallery, while there’s an Editor to add or modify your Shortcut. You can also combine several Siri Shortcuts into a single “multistep workflow” as Apple calls them.
A Library view enables you to see the Shortcuts that you’ve created.
Where can I use Siri Shortcuts?
Siri Shortcuts are designed primarily for use on iPhone and iPad with iOS 12, but you can speak your custom commands to the Apple Watch and HomePod as well and you will get the same results.
Siri Shortcuts will also appear in the Siri watch face on the Apple Watch, based on what time of day it is and which Shortcuts it thinks you need at the time.