Excited About Siri Three Years Late with iOS 7.1.1

Siri screen asking if fat bottom girls make the rocking girl go round, answer "A fine question, Miranda. Now can we get back to work?"I know I’m a little late to this train, but I just got a new iPhone 5s and installed iOS 7.1.1, and I’m loving how Siri fits into my workflow. I resisted the 5s for a little while, excited as I was about the fancy hardware, because I believe both  in using hardware until it’s really, truly, dead, and in avoiding any new shiny until that shiny has been thoroughly tested by early adopters. This time, I feel rather triumphant, as my strategy clearly saved me a lot of headaches and made me a big fan of Siri, a personal assistant app that pretty much everyone seemed to hate in 2012. 

A Partial Review of the iPhone 5s and iOS 7

So yes, the shiny hardware is shiny. I’m actually not a big fan of the redesign in terms of size, as I’ve been experiencing hand cramps I never had before. I also loathe the very short USB-to-lightning cord that comes with the phone, and am annoyed that I have no use now for the five-or-so 30 pin cords I have lying around the house. But I like the camera and I like that it’s harder to completely cover the speaker by holding the phone a certain way, as I frequently play with my phone while listening to podcasts in bed (oh, baby).

My previous phone was an iPhone 4,  sans Siri and still with iOS 6, as I don’t believe in software upgrades on very inferior hardware. That was definitely the right choice, based on others’ reports of poor iOS 7 performance on older phones. I’ve also heard that the OS didn’t ship that fancy even on new phones, but fortunately I never got to experience that as my first iOS 7 experience is with the iOS 7.1.1 upgrade. So far, I really like the operating system. The flat design is pretty, and I enjoy the new gestures. TouchID is much cooler than I realized it would be, especially for app purchases. I’m a huge fan of Control Center in theory, though I mostly use it for play and pause on podcasts (which you could do before). I use the weather update in the notification center a lot, and I finally got my Google Calendars to sync so that I can see my next appointment. This is love. As I’ll get into below, I really need to streamline my workflows these days, and I think I’m finally getting there with the new phone.

I mostly like that the phone actually works. My old phone was getting a bit slow and a bit bloated. I got 32GB this time, so I can keep some apps around that I don’t use all the time (hi, pizza ordering app). I find that I can have a lot open without performance issues, and most awesome, the Podcasts app doesn’t crash. This was the worst part of my iOS experience by far. I love podcasts, but no podcatcher would work well with a hundred or so podcasts loaded onto it. I was dealing with a crash after every episode, screens consistently freezing while using the store, etc., and all that is now gone. I also adore that I can use Control Center to re-start a podcast when another app tries to pause it unnecessarily.

White person with queer haircut, purple glasses and pink earbuds in, squinting in the sun.
First photo taken with the shiny new phone, waiting for the bus.

Of course, nothing is perfect, and I can’t ignore the fact that Apple really is going downhill these days despite my Mac geek status. The gesture to go back in Safari is theoretically nice, but in practice keeps throwing me off forms I’d half-filled. I miss the old way of pulling up all my Safari tabs, because it tends to take longer to scroll to get the all tabs option (though I do like “throwing” the tabs away). I’m not bothered by the shift like some are on the keyboard, but I keep accidentally typing the microphone when I didn’t mean to, and something about the keyboard is making me insert spaces before punctuation accidentally.  I’m also a bit annoyed that my transition went a bit rocky and though my Contacts moved over, my Photos didn’t and I lost all my Messages history and app data. Even iCloud didn’t keep the things that were supposedly synced. Finally, and this is serious: who told Siri my birth name?? Not at all amusing.

Updating My Workflow with Siri

So what about Siri? I remember all the jokes when it first came out, and the legitimate issues with the database being able to find you a happy-ending massage but not a birth control clinic. And I realize that it’s not perfect, nor even as good as Android, at being a personal assistant. But I think due to all this bad press, it didn’t occur to me how useful Siri could be for me, especially for productivity.

As I’m sure you’ll find as I continue to post about tech here, I’m a big productivity geek. I love listening to podcasts and reading blogs about productivity. I download all the new apps. But my guilty secret is that I’m not always that great at it in practice. I get the things that must be done, done, particularly for worky applications, but my life could definitely be more streamlined given all my geeky knowledge. One of the big issues is that my GTD workflow has never been completely smooth, and I have a lot of inboxes.

I use OmniFocus as my primary productivity app. It really was worth the $100 (for Mac and iOS app versions), and when I have it working smoothly, it’s great for my needs. But I’ve noticed that simply opening the app is a pain point that often keeps me from collecting information I need. Enter Siri. With Siri, you can say “Siri, remind me to . . .” and if you have a checkbox checked in OmniFocus settings, it’ll just throw that reminder right to the OmniFocus Inbox. Brilliant! For some reason, opening the app makes me feel like I should know where to put the thing, even though that’s not how GTD works. Now, my Inbox is actually being used and I’m processing it into folders once a week, as I should. Yay!

I realize that this is a rather narrow application of Siri, and doesn’t sound like a lot, but I feel that it’s a good first step in the direction of actually using my workflow. The phone has sort of booted me into thinking about this, and I’ve also used this as an impetus to get Trello on my phone and add self-hosted WordPress sites like this one to my WordPress iOS app, so I’m hoping that I’ll become more productive and more consistent with my blogging, as well!

Did you take the upgrade plunge? What do you think about iOS 5s or 5c, or iOS 7? Anyone ditch the iPhone entirely and go Android? Did leaving all your paid apps behind hurt as much as I’d imagine? Let me know in the comments!

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