Using Voice Control on IPhone and IPod Touch

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Introduction to Voice Control

iPhone Voice Control in Action

Siri may get all the attention, but it's not the only way to control your iPhone or iPod touch using your voice; Siri also wasn't the first way to do this. Before Siri was Voice Control.

Voice Control was introduced with iOS 3.0 and it allows users to control the iPhone and Music apps by speaking into the phone's mic. Though Voice Control was later replaced by Siri, it's still hidden in the iOS and available if you prefer it to Siri.

This article explains how to enable Voice Control, how to use it with various apps, and provides tips to make using it more effective.

Voice Control Requirements

How to Enable Voice Control

On modern iPhones and iPod touches, Siri is enabled by default. In order to use Voice Control, you need to disable Siri. Do that by following these steps:

  1. Tap the Settings app
  2. Tap General
  3. Tap Siri
  4. Move the Siri slider to off/white.

Now, when you use voice-activation features, you'll be using Voice Control. 

How to Lock Voice Control

When Voice Control is enabled, it will always be ready to take your Music app commands. However, if you want to avoid accidentally dialing a phone number while your iPhone is locked, you need to disable the function.

  1. Tap the Settings app
  2. Tap Touch ID & Passcode (iPhone 5s and later) or Passcode (earlier models)
  3. Turn off Voice Dial

Languages Supported by Voice Control

  • Chinese (Cantonese)
  • Chinese (China)
  • Chinese (Taiwan)
  • Danish
  • Dutch
  • English (Australian)
  • English (UK)
  • English (U.S.)
  • Finnish
  • French (Canada)
  • French (France)
  • German
  • Greek
  • Italian
  • Japanese
  • Korean
  • Norwegian
  • Polish
  • Portuguese (Brazil)
  • Portuguese (Portugal)
  • Russian
  • Spanish (Mexico)
  • Spanish (Spain)
  • Swedish

You can change the language used for Voice Control only:

  1. Tap on the Settings app
  2. Tap General
  3. Tap Siri
  4. Tap the Language option
  5. Select the language you want Voice Control to listen for.

Depending on your phone, you may need to follow this path to change the language (it works for iPhone 7):

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Tap General
  3. Tap International
  4. Tap Voice Control

Activating Voice Control

Voice Control can be activated in two ways:

From the remote: When you're using the Apple EarPods, simply hold down the center of the remote button (not the plus or minus buttons, but in between them) for a few seconds and Voice Control will appear on the screen.

From the home button: Hold down the iPhone's home button (the button centered just below the screen on the face of the phone) for a few seconds and Voice Control will appear.

Wait until you hear a double beep and/or see the Voice Control app appear onscreen and you're ready to get started.

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Using IPhone Voice Control With Music

When it comes to music, Voice Control is especially useful if your iPhone is in a pocket or backpack and you want information about what you're hearing or to change what's playing. 

Getting Information About Music

You can ask the iPhone basic questions about the music that's playing such as:

  • "What song is this?"
  • "What artist is this?"
  • "What album is this?"
  • "What playlist is this?"

You don't need to ask those questions in that exact language, either. Voice Control is flexible, so it can also respond to questions like, "What's playing?"

After you ask the question, a slightly robotic voice will tell you the answer.

Controlling Music

Voice Control can also help you control what's playing on the iPhone. Try commands like:

  • Play songs by (name of artist)
  • Play (name of song)
  • Play (album or playlist name)
  • Play music
  • Pause music
  • Play next song or Play previous song
  • Next song or Previous Song

Just as with the questions, try different versions of these commands. Voice Control understands many of them.

Tips for Using Voice Control With Music

Voice Control is generally weakest with music, but these tips can help improve the experience.

  • Voice Control can’t play individual songs, only albums, playlists, or artists, so don’t ask for songs.
  • Be as specific as possible: you’ll get a better result out of “play artist Ani DiFranco” than “play Ani DiFranco.”
  • If a band has “the” in its name, be sure to say “the” – Voice Control listens for it.
  • To shuffle within a playlist, say “shuffle.”
  • You can use Genius to create a playlist based on the song you’re listening to by saying “genius,” “play more like this,” or “play more songs like this.”

Voice Control Accuracy With Music

While Voice Control is undoubtedly a great feature, it leaves some things to be desired when controlling Music app. The experience is marred by the speech recognition not working as well as it might.

If you become frustrated by it and really want to speak your music commands, Siri may be your better option.

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Using IPhone Voice Control With Phone

When it comes to the Phone app, Voice Control can be great. If your iPhone is in your pocket or purse or you're driving and want to keep your eyes on the road while making a call, you can do so without the help of Siri.

How to Dial a Person With Voice Control

Using Voice Control to call someone in your address book is very simple. Just say "call (person's name)." Voice Control will repeat the name back to you and begin dialing.

Tip: If it picks the wrong person, simply tap the Cancel button at the bottom of the screen to end the call.

If the person you're trying to call has multiple numbers listed in your address book, simply say the number you want called, too. For instance, "Call mom mobile" would dial your mother's cell, while "Call mom home" would call her at her house.

  • As always, Voice Control will repeat back to you what it's going to do.

If someone has multiple numbers and you forget to specify what number to call, Voice Control will say "multiple matches found" and list them.

  • Wait for the double beep and then say which number you want to call  (e.g. mobile, home, other, etc.) and it will dial.

If Voice Control isn't sure what name you said, it will often offer the "multiple matches found" option and then speak them to you.

  • Wait for the double deep and say the name again or cancel.

Or You Can Dial a Number

You don't have to have a number listed in your address book in order to call it using Voice Control.

  • Simply activate Voice Control and then say "call (the number)" and list off the numbers.
  • You can combine numbers, too. For instance, 800 is recognized both when you say "eight hundred" or spell it out as 8-0-0.

Tips for Using Voice Control With Phone

Voice Control tends to work best with the phone. These tips will make it work even better.

  • Use the first and last name of the person you’re calling.
  • If the contact you’re calling has more than one phone number, use first name, last name, and the name of the phone as assigned in contact (e.g. home, office, mobile, etc.)
  • Voice Control has trouble with possessives. Try to avoid commands like "call Sheila's cell phone." Instead, say "call Sheila mobile."
  • If you have two contacts that Voice Control regularly confuses, give one (or both) of them a nickname. Do this by going to the contact, tapping “Edit” and then tapping “add field”. Tap “nickname” and assign one.

Using Voice Control and FaceTime

You can also use Voice Control to activate FaceTime, Apple's video-chatting technology. For this to work, FaceTime needs to be turned on and you need to be calling someone with a FaceTime-compatible device.

Assuming those requirements are met, using Voice Control to activate FaceTime works the same way as with other calls.

Try using the person's full name and avoid possessives, which can be hard for Voice Control to process. Try something like "FaceTime Dad on his mobile."

Tips for Using Voice Control With FaceTime

According to Apple, Voice Control can run into trouble in two areas when using FaceTime:

  • With short names; try saying the person's full name instead.
  • With possessives; try longer commands like "Facetime Sam on his cell phone" or using a nickname for the person you want to Facetime (which requires adding a nickname to their address book entry).
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More Voice Control Tips

iPhone Voice Control in Action

As noted before, Voice Control is somewhat hit and miss with its accuracy. Just because it doesn’t get things right every time, though, doesn’t mean that you can’t use some tips and techniques to help the chance of an accurate response to your Voice Control commands.

General Voice Control Tips

Whether you’re using it for the phone or music:

  • Wait until the Voice Control tone has finished before you speak. If you speak while the tone is playing, it will miss some of what you said.
  • Don’t pause too long after the tone as this can confuse Voice Control
  • Saying “cancel” before an action is completely started will stop it. The timing can be tricky and you might have to try again.
  • You can find out the current time by activating Voice Control and saying "What time is it?"

Do All Headphones Work With Voice Control?

One of the ways to activate Voice Control is by using the Apple Earphones with Remote and Mic that come standard with the iPhone. But are those earphones the only earphones or headphones that can activate Voice Control?

Bose and a few other companies do make headphones that may be compatible with iPhone's Voice Control. Check with the manufacturer and Apple before making a purchase.

Luckily for those who prefer to use headphones other than Apple's earbuds, there is another way to activate Voice Control: the home button.

Other Voice Control Features

Voice Control can also be used for a number of additional commands, such as getting the time and making FaceTime calls. Check out this full list of accepted Voice Control commands.

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