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30 Days With: Siri

30 Days With: Siri

    Editor’s note: This is a featured post in our ongoing series “30 Days With” which outlines the use of a productivity tool, service, or product that we have used for the past 30 days. We want to provide our readers with an in depth view of tools and products that they are interested in and provide them our thoughts as well as ways to use these products faster and better. Enjoy.

    This is the tale of a 2 hour a day commuter, 8 hour a day Fortune 500 company employee, and part time Lifehack editor living in the USA using Siri over the last 30 days. Enjoy.

    It’s hard to believe that the iPhone 4S has already been out for a month. In this small amount of time we’ve seen iPhone 4S battery issues come and go, Siri outages, and data usage problems (that may not really be problems). But, just like every year, the iPhone proves to be one of the best selling smart phones of all time. It isn’t really surprising, is it?

    It’s funny just how important Siri has become in my life in the last 30 days. Being an old Android user, I was privy to the idea of interacting with my phone by voice using Google’s Voice Actions. Google Voice Actions worked well but for some reason my use of them never stuck.

    But Siri isn’t just about commanding your phone to do things. It’s about interacting with your phone in a way that Google Voice Actions (or any product for that matter) never brought to the mainstream. Not only does Siri provide the user with a way to interact with one’s device like never before, “she’s” also a tad snarky and has an attitude of “her” own.

    This is the “special sauce” that Apple adds to their products. The way to make them more human.

    Yes, voice interaction existed with phones before Siri came, and yes, Google did a hell of a job with making voice work with a smartphone. But, Apple is the company that brings “outlying” technologies to the mainstream by making them approachable by humans.

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    The Good

    When I saw the demo of Siri during the iPhone 4S announcement I was super excited. Mostly because I am an Apple fanboy, but also because I am a geek and could see myself using voice to interact with my phone to get things done faster and better. But, deep down, I was scared that Siri wouldn’t be as good as it looked. I was afraid that the attractive man running next to the river effortlessly changing his meeting appointments with his voice through Apple headphones was fake. I mean, whose Apple headphones stay in their ears while running anyways?

    But my biggest fear was that this “personal assistant” was going to be a digital interface that only worked if I learned the perfect voice syntax to interact with it.

    This is delightfully not the case.

    Out-of-the-box

        I started doing the normal things first like sending text messages, scheduling appointments, reading text messages, sending emails, checking the weather, seeing how many calories were in a bagel; normal queries and actions to see how well Siri worked.

        I would say 95% of the time, Siri was spot on. It transcribed my text messages and emails, added appointments correctly to my calendar (even repeating appointments), created new reminders that nagged me when I got home, played songs from my music library, etc. Siri was so good at first, that it threw me for a loop when she would mess things up like what text note to append something to or the name of the artist that I was giving her to play.

        Because of how well Siri worked “out of the box”, I quickly changed my habits and workflows that I have had with my smartphones for the past 3 years.

        Outsourcing with Siri

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          Here are the following things that I now outsource to Siri at least 90% of the time:

          • Appointment creation with the calendar
          • Quick reminders and time specific things that I need to remember (I use to put all of this in OmniFocus)
          • Calling people
          • Checking the weather

          And here are the things that I outsource while driving or at home (not in front of co-workers)

          • Everything from above
          • Sending text and reading messages
          • Sending emails
          • Making notes
          • Sending tasks to my OmniFocus inbox (with the “hack” I detailed in our last Siri post)
          • Playing music
          • Searching things (as long as I don’t have to dive into Mobile Safari to get it done)

          On productivity

          Siri is a joy to use. When we talk about being and staying productive here at Lifehack, we all have this idea of staying in the flow of what we are currently working and concentrating on, allowing us to be in a productive state. Siri allows me to do that. Once the following three things happen, Siri will allow for people to stay in this state more of the time:

          1. Apple opens the doors to Siri for developers (which may be a good or bad idea depending on how Apple and developers identify their roles)
          2. “Normal” people accept the idea of people around them interacting with their devices, telling them what to do.
          3. The Siri service covers more ground and is more selective in the ways that it requires a data connection.

          We will be able to use a “digital assistant” that allows us to keep thoughts at bay while we work and use other apps that we need to use with little resistance. Siri can then become a major part of one’s workflow. This is what Apple has planned for Siri in the future and once it becomes more “acceptable” in public to talk to our devices, this type of use of Siri will be a reality.

          The Bad

          You’d think from reading above that Siri is a bed of roses and that Apple is the king of everything in the world. Well, that’s sort of true. But, I did have some issues with Siri, some of them have still yet to be resolved.

          Server outages

          The biggest complaint that I have regarding Siri is that even if you do the simplest of actions (like calling a contact) you have to make a data call to Apple’s servers. It makes sense to do this sort of call for intense queries that require some backend processing like that of transcription and dictation or for queries that require some sort of call over the network (Wolfram Alpha search), but for doing simple things that are native to the iPhone it seems unnecessary.

          The idea of making a data call for every Siri query isn’t entirely noticeable until the Siri service is down, which over the past 30 days I have experienced 2 times. I’m not talking about down for one query and then back up, I’m talking about Siri being down for several hours at a time.

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          When I wanted to send a SMS to my wife on the way home from work the other day, I got the typical “I’m having trouble connecting to the network” message. Some consumers may think that this means that the network is down, not that the Siri network is down. This is a truly frustrating thing and for all the times that I had used the Google Voice Actions on Android, the only time I couldn’t access that service is when I couldn’t get a network connection to my data provider.

          Apple needs to rethink the way that it uses (and requires) access to the a data network and the Siri network to utilize Siri.

          Where am I?

          Another bad thing about Siri is how it doesn’t completely support different places around the world. Lifehack’s editor, Mike Vardy, can’t use Siri for location based queries in Canada. Siri just doesn’t know where Canda is right now. This may be fixed sometime in 2012.

          I’m not entirely sure how Siri is working in other parts of the world, but when it first launched, location data was seriously lacking. If Apple expects Siri to truly take over, how can it if it doesn’t know where the closest Pizzeria is?

          Features lacking

          Something else that seems obvious that Siri should do is have the ability to change settings on my iPhone. Things like “Siri, turn off WiFi” or “turn on airplane mode” simply don’t work (good thing about the airplane mode though, you couldn’t turn it off without your network connection!).

              Some other oddities that Siri faces is that searching the web can be lacking and inconsistent. I like how you can get a locksmith or find local escort services easily through Yelp! but searching for something like “where was the Lord of the Rings filmed” sometimes brings back a Siri provided search result (that is the search result inside of the Siri app) while other times gives you the option to search the web. It seems that Apple is still trying to figure out how to make sure that the search results that Siri will present are correct and the best.

              This is definitely a natural language and processing issue. Apple probably thinks that rather than incorrectly presenting the correct, best results, users should be suggested to search the web through Mobile Safari. This way they can make up their own mind which is the correct, best answer.

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              When Siri finds things and is certain of what she is presenting it amazes me. But, when I search for something that I think should just work rather than take me into Mobile Safari it starts to reduce the “amazingness” of Siri.

              Once again; it’s beta right?

              In conclusion

              My 30 days with Siri has been excellent even with the slight snafus of Siri being down and general feature issues (both of which will get better over time). Like I said above, I now “outsource” a decent amount of what I do with my phone to Siri. And as the Siri service becomes stronger and more ubiquitous, you better believe that I will use it more and more.

              I think that Siri is revolutionary yet has its flaws. When I can raise my phone to my face and simply say, “remind me to take out the trash before I leave home” and have my phone alert me when I’m leaving my house to take out the trash, it makes me feel like I’m living in a dream world. But when I do the same action and Siri says, “Christopher I cannot connect to the network”, I’m reminded that there is still work to be done.

              Siri, is by far the best voice recognition and natural language software that I have ever used. No matter what happens, Siri will continue to get better and smarter allowing us to be more productive with our iOS devices.

              Note: Apple has done such a good job of giving a Siri a persona that many times throughout this article I will refer to Siri as ‘her’ or ‘she’. Thanks for making me think my phone is a person, Apple.

              More by this author

              CM Smith

              A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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              Last Updated on August 6, 2020

              35 Top Productivity Apps for iPhone (2020 Updated)

              35 Top Productivity Apps for iPhone (2020 Updated)

              Over the years here at Lifehack, we’ve discussed plenty of apps that you can use to improve your overall productivity.

              There are certain ones that many of our contributors and editors (past and present) have adopted over the long-term — there are always the stalwarts that stick around. But there are also new apps that crop up every day, adding more and more depth to the app category.

              Some of the apps are incredibly plain and simple, while others are more robust and offer more features than you can shake a stick at. And everyone has the one they prefer.

              It’s been our job (and still is our job) to keep abreast of all of the productivity-type apps out there. As a result — and as a bit of a refresher — we’ve put together a list of 35 best productivity apps for iPhone (all categorized based on their functions) to provide you with an all-in-one resource for you.

              For Getting Things Done

              1. OmniFocus

              This app is, while pricey, considered to be one of the (if not the) most robust and full-featured productivity apps on the market.

              Download it here.

                2. Forest

                Train yourself to put your phone down and stay focused on the task at hand by playing with this planting game. It’s fun and will help you achieve more.

                Download it here.

                  3. Things

                  Another robust choice, this app is a favorite amongst “productivityists”.[1]

                  Download it here.

                     

                     

                    4. Any.Do

                    A beautiful-looking app that is both easy on the eyes and your wallet.

                    Download it here.

                      5. PocketLife Calendar

                      This calendar app is specifically designed to be stylish and super easy-to-use. You can organize your life easily with different modern features.

                      Download it here.

                        6. Asana

                        We’ve covered Asana here at Lifehack

                        , and it is being actively developed by a strong team committed to making collaborative task management a more efficient and effective experience.

                        Download it here.

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                          7. ToDoist

                          This app keeps track of everything – from simple errands to your most important projects – so you can get it all done and enjoy more peace of mind along the way.

                          Download it here.

                             

                             

                            8. Calendars 5

                            This calendar app focuses on events that help you to keep track of upcoming events and tasks easily. It has everything you need to organize, track, and complete your to-dos.

                            Download it here.

                              9. Clear – Tasks, Reminders & To-Do Lists

                              A fun and innovative list-making app that relies on swiping and pinching to make things happen. Clear created a lot of buzz when it launched, and might be the perfect to-do list gateway app for many.

                              Download it here.

                                10. Due

                                A robust reminders app that lets you store and maintain reminders of all types. It’s replaced Reminders for me when it comes to the basics, and it’s worth a look if you want to keep the mundane stuff out of your head and cluttering your mind.

                                Download it here.

                                  11. Checkmark 2

                                  I use this app

                                  for location-based reminders (such as groceries I need to get or single items I need to pick up from various locations). Checkmark is simple to use and valuable addition to my productivity arsenal.

                                  Download it here.

                                    12. TeuxDeux

                                    Created by Tina Roth Eisenberg and Fictive Kin — TeuxDeux is simple and incredibly stellar in terms of design. If you like lists (including the popular “Someday Bucket”) and want to associate dates with tasks, then TeuxDeux will be right up your alley.

                                    Download it here.

                                       

                                       

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                                      13. Nirvana

                                      For the GTD enthusiasts, there’s Nirvana. Straight from the source: “Nirvana frees your mind to focus on actually getting things done. If you’ve had enough of generic to-do lists, it’s time for Nirvana.”

                                      Download it here.

                                        14. Priorities

                                        An elegant-looking task management app that has received decent reviews,[2] this could be the one for you if you’re not a fan of OmniFocus or Things — especially if you need (or want) to share tasks with others.

                                        Download it here.

                                          For Building Habits

                                          15. Productive

                                          With this app, you can plan your habits with an easy-to-use interface, schedule habits for any time of the day, set smart reminders for each time of the day, and stay on track with useful feedback. This app is perfect for anyone who wants to build a habit that sticks.

                                          Download it here.

                                            16. Habitica: Gamified Taskmanager

                                            You can complete tasks and build habits in a more fun way with this app. Input your Habits, your Daily goals, and your To-Do list, and then create a custom avatar. Check off tasks to level up your avatar and unlock features such as armor, pets, skills, and even quests.

                                            Download it here.

                                              17. Streaks

                                              This app follows the model of the popular “don’t break the chain method” in that you use the app to track how you are donig in the pursuit of your goal. Great for goal-setting — and an easy and elegant interface to boot.

                                              Download it here.

                                                18. Remember The Milk

                                                Another popular to-do list app, Remember The Milk has a huge following. It has plenty to offer, including the ability to share tasks with others.

                                                Download it here.

                                                  19. Day One Journal

                                                  When it comes to journaling, nothing really beats Day One. Its latest update added a slew of features that will make you want to start making journaling a habit.

                                                  Download it here.

                                                    For Files Organization

                                                    20. Evernote

                                                    Touted as the world’s most widely-used productivity app, Evernote is an be used simply as a notetaking app or can be customized to be your GTD app of choice — among other things.

                                                    Download it here.

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                                                      21. Pocket

                                                      You can save an article, video, or link you want to read or watch later to Pocket from anywhere including your computer, Safari, email, and your favorite apps like Facebook, Twitter, Flipboard, and Feedly.

                                                      Download it here.

                                                        22. Sync.Me

                                                        This app identifies unknown phone calls, warns you from annoying spam calls, and adds a caller picture to your contacts from Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

                                                        Download it here.

                                                          23. Droplr

                                                          One of the most popular file-sharing apps out there today. Straight from the source: “Stay productive on the go. Droplr for iPhone keeps you in sync and makes sharing on the iPhone natural.”

                                                          Download it here.

                                                            24. Dropbox

                                                            Before iCloud, there was Dropbox. And there still is Dropbox, which is still widely used by both Mac and PC users all over the globe. It’s like having a flash drive on your iPhone. A must-have.

                                                            Download it here.

                                                               

                                                              For Working Smarter

                                                              25. Captio

                                                              A simple capture tool. Straight from the developers: “It’s simple. Open Captio and start typing. When you’re done, hit Send. The note is immediately delivered to your email inbox.”

                                                              Download it here.

                                                                26. Drafts

                                                                A tremendous capture tool that allows for simple capture, followed by sending items to various applications such as OmniFocus, Things, and more.

                                                                Download it here.

                                                                  27. NoteShelf 2

                                                                  This is a perfect note-taking app for you. You can take beautiful handwritten notes, type, annotate PDFs, record audio & create lists. You can organize them into categories or groups.

                                                                  Download it here.

                                                                    28. Doodle

                                                                    This app links directly with the Doodle service, which is one that allows you to plan and organize meetings far more efficiently and effectively. Lifehack contributor Steve Dotto has written about Doodle more in-depth here.

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                                                                    Download it here.

                                                                      29. TextExpander (Legacy)

                                                                      I have saved countless hours of time with TextExpander, and despite its inability to be as robust on iOS as it is on the Mac, it is still a worthy app to have in your arsenal.

                                                                      Download it here.

                                                                        30. Launch Center Pro

                                                                        A quick launcher for the iPhone that doesn’t just launch an app…with some of them it can do much more. This app saves you time by launching complex actions in a single tap.

                                                                        Download it here.

                                                                          31. GoodReader

                                                                          This may seem to be an odd one to make this list, but here are plenty of reasons why it is here with this article.

                                                                          Download it here.

                                                                            32. LogMeIn

                                                                            Want to be able to control your Mac from wherever you are? Then get this app.

                                                                            Download it here.

                                                                              For Improving Security

                                                                              33. 1Password

                                                                              There is simply no better password manager out there. I’ve even put together a 1Password Emergency Kit worth looking at here.

                                                                              Download it here.

                                                                                34. LastPass Password Manager

                                                                                You can store passwords and logins, create online shopping profiles, generate strong passwords, track personal information in photo and audio notes.

                                                                                All you have to do is remember your LastPass master password, and LastPass auto-fills web browser and app logins for you.

                                                                                Download it here.

                                                                                  35. Truecaller

                                                                                  Identify and block spammers, search for unknown numbers, and call friends easily with this app. With a community-based spam list from over 250 million users, you’ll need this app.

                                                                                  Download it here.

                                                                                    There are plenty of other options out there (and we’ve heard from readers in the past as to what they enjoyed using), but these 40 are among the best.

                                                                                    Featured photo credit: William Hook via unsplash.com

                                                                                    Reference

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