What’s in a name? Quite a lot, if you’re trying to communicate clearly with Siri, the iPhone 4S’s new digital personal assistant. Siri can do quite a lot, but to get the best possible experience she needs the right information. So for the sake of your sanity, let’s teach Siri how to pronounce your name. And for efficiency you can let her know how you relate to the people in your life.
With Siri’s limited language support — only English, French and German at the moment — and ever growing global presence, she’s not going to be able to get every name right straight out of the gate. There are a few ways you can help.
If you want Siri to know who you are, you’ll have to tell her. Open the Settings app, and navigate to General, then Siri. Make sure your name is listed under the My Info field. If it’s not, add it from your contacts list or make a new contact for yourself in the Contacts app and then assign it to that field.
If you’re lucky, that will be enough to get Siri to say your name correctly. If, like me, you have a hard to pronounce name, you might need to take a few different steps.
The simplest is just to ask. A query like “Siri, call me ‘Bob'” will work for most people. If it doesn’t, you’ll need to head back into your personal entry in Contacts, then follow these steps:
- Tap Edit.
- Scroll down and tap “add a new field.”
- Select “phonetic first name.”
Siri will give precedence to this field if it’s filled in. It might take some trial and error, but sound your name out as you’d like it to be pronounced. You can test to see if Siri pronounces it correctly by using a query like “Tell me my name.” For me, entering “Neesa” as my phonetic first name worked perfectly.
If you simply can’t get Siri to pronounce your name correctly, your last best hope is to ask her to call you something else. “Call me X” works for a lot more than names. If you want your phone to call you “Master of the Universe” or “Dark Lord of Terror,” you just need to ask. If you don’t mind Siri getting a bit familiar, ask her to call you by a favorite nickname.
Now that Siri knows who you are, it’s time to introduce her to your family, friends and coworkers. There are two ways to handle this, depending on if you’re syncing your contacts through iTunes/iCloud or through Google Contacts.
If you’re using iTunes or iCloud, it’s easy. You can tell Siri exactly how the people in your life relate to you. Just say “So-and-so is my huband” or mother, brother, boss — you name it, she’ll remember it. Then you can ask her to call your mom and she’ll know exactly who you mean.
You can set these relationships up manually as well, by adding “related people” fields to your personal contacts entry.
If you’re syncing your contacts through Google, things get a bit more complicated. Siri will still let you assign relationships however you’d like, but Google Contacts only supports three relationships: spouse, manager and assistant. Nothing else will maintain or sync properly. To get around this, you can go through and add nicknames to all the relevant people in your contacts list. This will do the job, but can leave Siri confused about syntax at times.
There is a better way, assuming you have iCloud enabled. Just follow these steps:
- Open Settings/iCloud
- Slide Contacts to On.
- Close settings and open Contacts.
- Tap “Groups” in the upper-left corner of the screen.
- Scroll down and select All iCloud.
- Add a new contact.
- Fill out your own information.
- Add your Related People as above.
- Return to settings and add this new contact under My Info in General/Siri.
Now Siri will keep track of your relationships using the iCloud synced contact instead of Google’s synced contacts.
And that’s it! With these tips, Siri should know your name and all the important people in your life. Now you can tell her to call your dad, message your boss and remind you to buy flowers for your wife, and she’ll know exactly what to do. Questions, ideas? Let us know in the comments.