Each version of iOS brings new capabilities to Siri, the digital assistant built into Apple’s iPhone. iOS 16 is no different, although the focus this time seems to be a little different from previous updates to Apple’s iPhone software.
Recent iOS updates included boasting from Apple about how much smarter Siri had gotten and how much more information the assistant could give you. However, the changes introduced in iOS 16 have a different flavor, with Siri turning inward. This time around, the digital assistant’s changes seemed focused on helping you use your iPhone more efficiently, whether it’s enabling shortcuts or improving dictation.
We’ll have to wait for the public beta of iOS 16 to arrive in July to see firsthand whether these new Siri capabilities make the iPhone even more user-friendly. But thanks to reports from people who have downloaded the iOS 16 developer beta, at least we know more details about the new things Siri can do in the updated software.
Here’s a closer look at the biggest changes coming to Siri in iOS 16.
Perhaps the biggest addition to Sir Apple touts is the ability to run shortcuts for an app using Siri voice commands once you install the app in question. That eliminates the need to set up the shortcut in iOS 16.
Before iOS 16, app makers could include so-called app intents that can be used to automate tasks, but users had to go to the Shortcuts app to build those automations themselves. A new App Intents API for developers gives app makers more flexibility to embed shortcuts into their apps that are now readily available.
What I find interesting is how easy it is to discover these ready-made shortcuts. One possible answer can be found in a revamped version of the iOS 16 Shortcuts app that adds a new App Shortcuts section that lists exactly which apps contain which shortcuts. Presumably, suggested shortcuts also show up as Siri Suggestions when you go to your iPhone’s search screen.
2. Dictate emojis with Siri when composing messages
It’s a trick that Android users with Pixel 6 phones already like, but emojis will no longer confuse Siri when you dictate messages in iOS 16. Say “heart emoji” or “crying emoji” and the correct symbol appears.
Siri doesn’t just handle emoji with ease. The digital assistant will also automatically insert punctuation when you dictate messages by inserting periods at the end of sentences.
The enhanced dictation features work in both Messages and Mail.
3. Improved Discovery for Siri’s Skills
One of my longstanding complaints about Apple’s digital assistant is that it’s hard to realize what exactly Siri can do. As much as we’d love to have encyclopedic knowledge of Siri’s various skills and commands, sometimes it’s hard to remember what this assistant is capable of.
iOS fixes that with a new feature that makes it easy to ask Siri what it can do for you. You can ask “Hey Siri, what can I do here” in specific apps to learn more about Siri’s capabilities. Should the feature work as advertised, it promises to make Siri’s various features a lot less opaque than in the past.
4. Hands-free hang up for phone calls
If you’re wearing a pair of AirPods, Siri can announce incoming calls and even offer to answer the phone for you. When it’s time to end the conversation, though, you’re on your own.
That changes in iOS 16, where phone calls go completely hands-free. Now you can tell Siri to hang up on phone calls or FaceTime sessions, and the assistant will do it. If there’s a downside to this new feature, it’s that the person on the other end of the line will apparently hear you telling Siri what to do. So this seems like a Siri skill to use only in certain situations.
5. Control more things with Siri offline
iPhones with sufficient processing power have been able to use Siri even when there is no internet or network connection to perform simple tasks. These include launching apps, controlling playback, and setting timers or alarms.
The list of functions Siri can perform without any connectivity is growing in iOS 16. In particular, Siri will be able to handle requests for home control via HomeKit devices, intercom functions, voicemail, and notifications offline. For this kind of functionality you need a phone with an A12 Bionic chipset, i.e. an iPhone XS or newer.
6. Siri-powered Accessibility Features
As we noted in our look at iOS 16’s hidden features, you can adjust Siri’s pause time, making the assistant wait longer before responding to what you say. The feature is great for anyone with a speech impediment, but really, it’s something that would benefit anyone who hates feeling rushed when giving commands to Siri.
Adjusting break times is just one of the many accessibility features in iOS 16 involving Siri. If you have a Made for Apple hearing aid, you can have Siri announce your iPhone and iPad notifications with the iOS 16 and iPadOS 16 updates.
As part of iOS 16’s enhanced mobility features, Siri can also enable and disable auto-answer mode for phone calls and FaceTime requests. And, of course, we already noted that you can have Siri hang up, a great addition for hands-free iPhone use.
7. Send SMS automatically
When you’re currently dictating a text message through Siri, the assistant will ask if you’re ready to send the message. I think that’s good security when I’m driving my car, because Siri doesn’t always get my words perfectly. However, if you prefer to send messages quickly, you can let Siri skip that step in iOS 16.
An auto-send switch is available in the Siri & Search settings of iOS 16. It’s turned off by default, but if you’re sure Siri will relay your message accurately, you can always turn that switch on. There’s a short wait in case you want to edit your post anyway, but otherwise Siri will send that text immediately†
8. Siri Links to Other iOS 16 Changes
One of the big changes in iOS 16 Maps is the ability to add multiple stops to a route when you need to stop during a road trip for things like gas and food. If you need a hands-free way to add a stopover on the go, you can ask Siri to handle it for you.
After iOS 16 is released in the fall, another update will bring support for Matter, the smart home connectivity standard that promotes interoperability for smart devices. When Matter support arrives on iOS 16, you’ll be able to control compatible devices with Siri.