Tech Guide

How to supercharge Siri on the iPhone and iPad with a hidden feature you probably don't know about

Key Points
  • Siri Shortcuts lets you give Siri new super-powers.
  • You can connect Siri to third-party apps like TripIt to bring up your travel plans quickly, for example.
  • Or you can customize Siri to do specific things, like bring up the traffic to work while also launching an Apple Music playlist.
Apple CEO Tim Cook delivers a keynote during the European Union's privacy conference at the EU Parliament in Brussels, Belgium October 24, 2018.
Yves Herman | Reuters

When Apple launched iOS 12 in September, it also introduced a new application that gives Siri new powers.

It's a new app called "Shortcuts." You can use the app to create all sorts of custom shortcuts that Siri will do when you speak special commands.

"Siri, take a photo," will launch the camera and take a picture, for example. But developers, too, have started to add special Shortcuts for their apps.

If you don't download the app, or activate the Shortcuts, you'd never know all of these new functions existed. Let's change that.

How to use Apple's Siri Shortcuts App

Apple's Siri Shortcuts app has a few pre-configured shortcuts that you can already use, like the "Take a photo" option I discussed above. You can create your own, too.

For the sake of this tutorial, I'll show you how to configure and use Apple's "Heading to work" Shortcut. When it runs, it will tell you how long it takes to get to your office, show you calendar events for the day and can start playing your favorite Apple Music playlist.

Here's how to use it.

How to use Siri Shortcuts
Todd Haselton | CNBC
  • Tap the ellipses on the top-right of the "Heading to work" shortcut.
  • Scroll through the page and input your work address, choose your travel mode (driving, walking, public transit), and pick a playlist. 
  • You can also edit what the Shortcut does. Tap the X to delete a step, like playing music. Or, tap search at the bottom of the screen to add an action. Choose Podcasts, for example, to automatically begin playing your favorite podcast when you run the "Heading to work" shortcut." Or choose Google News to show the latest headlines.
  • Once you're done organizing the Shortcut, tap the small blue and white icon at the top of the screen below the "Done" button.
  • Tap "Add to Siri.
  • Press the red record button at the bottom of the screen and speak a phrase like "Heading to work" that will run the shortcut.
  • Now, to run the shortcut, say "Hey Siri, heading to work."
  • If configured properly, Siri will tell you the time to work, calendar events for the day, begin your selected playlist and then show you directions to the office. It should look like this:
How to use Siri Shortcuts
Todd Haselton | CNBC

How to configure apps that use Siri Shortcuts

The guide I wrote above shows you how to configure or create your own Siri shortcuts. But some apps are also creating their own. Oddly, they're kind of hard to find and only some apps have added support.

Here's how to set up a shortcut for getting travel plans through TripIt, which supports Siri shortcuts.

  • Open the Settings app on your iPhone.
  • Tap "Siri and Search."
  • Scroll down to the bottom of the screen and select TripIt.
  • Tap "Shortcuts."
  • Tap "Upcoming Travel Plans."
  • Record your phrase to pull up your upcoming TripIt travel plans. Siri recommends just saying "Travel plans," so do that.
  • Tap Done.
  • Now, say "Hey Siri, travel plans." You should see a screen that shows what's coming up next, like this:
How to use Siri Shortcuts
Todd Haselton | CNBC

To find other third party apps that support Siri Shortcuts. Go to Siri & Search, tap "All shortcuts" and then search for an app. If it's supported, you'll see it there.

Have some fun inside Siri Shortcuts, or revisit the "Siri and Search" settings screen to try some of the options that Siri recommends you use. You can use Siri Shortcuts to open up Google News briefings, see your movie playlists on Amazon Prime Videos and more.

How to get the most out of Apple's iOS 12