By Dan Moren
October 4, 2021 12:36 PM PT
Quick Tip: iPhone not responding to “Hey Siri”? This may be the culprit.
Note: This story has not been updated since 2021.
A couple weeks back, while I was in the throes of working on my iOS 15 review, I noticed a weird bug: my phone was no longer responding to “Hey Siri” requests. If I held the home button down, Siri seemed to work just fine, but if my phone was, say, sitting on a table, it would remain blithely unaware, no matter how much I pled, yelled, or swore.
I’ve come to rely on Siri, which is now the only voice assistant in our home, and as our new house is larger than our old one-bedroom apartment, I’m not always within hailing distance of a HomePod.1 I’d fallen back to using my Apple Watch, but more than anything, the issue simply amped up my frustration.
After doing some research, I tried all the Apple-recommended fixes, and more than a few other suggestions of questionable usefulness that I found around the web. I turned Hey Siri off and on about a half dozen times. I deleted my Siri History. I disabled Dictation. I restarted, I reset, I experimented with every permutation of Siri permissions and switch positions possible. Nothing seemed to work.
I turned to Twitter a couple of times, hoping I might reach somebody on the Siri team at Apple, but mostly receiving advice that retreaded the ground I’d already covered. However, the second time I posted, I got a pointed question from follower Hunter:
Do you by chance have the iOS 15 Accessibility > Sound Recognition feature turned on? It disables Hey Siri.
— Hunter (@hunter) October 2, 2021
Sound Recognition, in case you aren’t familiar, is a feature that debuted in iOS 14 that listens for certain types of noises—appliances, doorbells, dogs barking, et cetera—and pops up a notification. It’s a clever feature (if one that suffers from a high degree of false positives in my experience), and I’d been playing around with it again while going through iOS 15 features.2
Here’s the thing: While Sound Recognition absolutely does warn you that Hey Siri will be disabled if you turn it on, once it’s been enabled there’s no indication to remind you of this. The “Hey Siri” toggle in Settings > Siri & Search remains on, even though it doesn’t work, and if you turn it off and on again—as I did multiple times during my troubleshooting—there’s no notice that anything else might be interfering with it.
Once I disabled Sound Recognition, all was back to normal. But it’s disappointing these two features don’t work more in concert. I can imagine that some people who would benefit from the Sound Recognition feature might take advantage of Hey Siri from time to time as well. But if nothing else, Apple should make it even clearer that these two features don’t play well together, if only to save others from tearing their hair out trying to figure out why Siri doesn’t listen anymore.
[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Mastodon at @email@example.com or reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. His latest novel, the supernatural detective story All Souls Lost, is out now.]
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