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By Dan Moren

Small Siri improvements from iPhone 6s and iOS 9

Siri

Everybody looks for all the new things that they can ask Siri, but I’m far more interested in the smaller touches and flourishes related to Apple’s virtual assistant. I’ve run into a few in iOS 9 and on the iPhone 6s in the last few days, all of which go to making Siri more fun, friendly, and easier to use.

  • Change the accent: One of my favorites features of iOS 9. Previously language and location were linked concepts for Siri. You could get a British voice, but it also meant that not only would Siri assume you were in the UK, but it would also have trouble understanding you—unless you also spoke in a British accent.1 However, in iOS 9, if you choose English (United States) for the language, you can go to Settings > General > Siri > Siri Voice and choose either American, Australian, or British accents, from either male or female voices. So now my directions, search results, and weather forecasts are provided by a very nice English gentleman. If only Apple would let me call him “Jarvis”…

  • Train Hey Siri: You’ve been able to trigger Siri by voice alone since iOS 8, which has led to plenty of hilarious false positives, especially for those of us who’d like to talk about the feature on our tech podcasts. Not to mention owners of multiple iOS devices, who often end up triggering an iPad and iPhone, or their partners’ iPhones, at the same time. Fortunately in iOS 9, activating Hey Siri in Settings > General> Siri will also prompt you to train Siri to recognize your voice—and your voice only. It’s not really a Sneakers-style security feature but it will cut down on false positives.2

  • Don’t listen, Siri: The new iPhone 6s finally lets you trigger Hey Siri at any time, not just when the phone is plugged in. On the one hand, that’s super convenient. On the other hand, it’s understandable that there are times where you don’t want Siri listening in, such as when you’re watching a movie. Good news: just flip your phone screen down on the table and Hey Siri won’t trigger, no matter how much you yell at your phone.3

  • Quicker app opening: Another feature I stumbled across. Previously, when you triggered Siri via the Home button and asked it to open an app, the virtual assistant would patiently remind you that you’d have to unlock your iPhone first. But thanks to the sheer speed of the new Touch ID sensor on the iPhone 6s4, it can actually authenticate you while you’re pressing the Home button down for Siri. So you’re instead launched straight into the app, without any waiting.

  • Speedy, silent Siri: As Federico Viticci and Daniel Jalkut both noted, the haptic feedback is gone from Siri, as is the bleep-bleep tone that used to trigger once Siri was paying attention. (The audio tone still plays when you trigger Hey Siri, so you can tell it’s listening even when you can’t see it.) The reason? Siri is so much faster than it used to be that you can just start talking without waiting and it’ll pick up what you’re saying.

These are all pretty subtle improvements, but they point to the same thing: improving the experience of using Siri. The more transparent it becomes, the less likely it is to simply be treated like a novelty instead of part of our lives.


  1. And no matter how good I like to think my British accent is, I’m sure it’s terrible.  ↩

  2. I tried fruitlessly to trigger Hey Siri on my girlfriend’s phone to no avail. She was able to activate it on mine after a handful of attempts at imitating me. So much for my career as an impressionist.  ↩

  3. Which I can vouch for because that is exactly how I discovered this feature. ↩

  4. Several reviewers have claimed they never see their lock screen anymore because the phone unlocks so quickly when they press the Home button.  ↩

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[Dan Moren is a tech writer, novelist, podcaster, and the Official Dan of Six Colors. You can email him at dan@sixcolors.com or find him on Twitter at @dmoren.]