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iDevice Voice Control Commands

The Voice Control system was first introduced in iOS 3.2 on the iPhone 3GS. It has since been generally superseded by Siri, a more flexible system that uses Apple’s servers for voice processing, but Voice Control is still in wide use and has its own advantages. You may wish to learn about the three ways to speak to your iDevice instead.

Here are all the Voice Control commands for English that I am aware of. The list is somewhat fluid because Voice Control commands often understand several grammatical forms, and of course because Apple sometimes adds new commands or new forms of old commands.

This list has been updated with information from the iOS 7 user manual, so it covers all commands available in iOS 7. Most of the commands have been the same for several iOS versions, but that isn’t guaranteed.

Setting Up Voice Control

To use Voice Controls on devices that support Siri, you need to turn off Siri first. You can do this on your device in Settings > General > Siri.

By default, Voice Control expects you to speak voice commands in the language that’s set for iPhone (in Settings > General > International > Language). To use Voice Control in another language or dialect, go to Settings > General > International > Voice Control. You should do this even if your “language” is just a dialect or accent setting – for example my iPhone Language is set to plain “English” (which means USA English, generally) but I have Voice Control set up for “Australian English” because that’s what I speak.

Voice Control for the Music app is always on, but you can prevent voice dialing when the iPhone is locked. Go to Settings > Settings > General > Touch ID & Passcode (iPhone 5s) or Settings > General > Passcode Lock (other models), and turn off Voice Dial.

Starting Voice Control

Hold down the phone’s home button or the middle button on your corded headset until the voice control feature comes up on screen and you hear a beep. This should take about 2 seconds.

For some bluetooth headsets, holding the ‘call’ button for two seconds will also work but this is not true for all bluetooth headsets and depends on the manufacturer.

iOS 7 Voice Control screen

iOS 7 Voice Control screen

For best results:

  • Speak clearly and naturally.
  • Say only Voice Control commands, names, and numbers. Pause slightly between commands.
  • Use full names.

Phone Commands

These, unsurprisingly, only work on devices that can make phone calls.

Call a contact
“Call” or “dial” plus the person’s name, nickname, or relationship to you – they must already be entered into your address book. Optionally add “at” and the phone number’s type at the end such as “home”, “work”, “mobile”. For example, “Dial John Smith Work” or “Call Mum” or “Call Phil at work”.
Call a number
“Call” or “Dial” plus the number, reciting each digit. For example, “Dial 555 9592″.
Make a correction
Say “not that one”, “wrong”, “nope”, “no”, or “not that”.

FaceTime Commands

These are the same as the phone commands, but use the verb “FaceTime” instead of “call” or “dial”.

Music Commands

Start music
Say “play” or “play music”.

Play from a specific playlist
Say “play playlist” and the name of the playlist. For example, “Play playlist gym songs”.
Play from a specific album
Say “play album” plus the name of the album. For example “Play album Dark Side Of The Moon”.
Play from a specific artist
Say “play artist” plus the name of the artist. For example, “Play artist Pink Floyd”. The alternate “Play songs by” plus the name of the artist has also been reported to work*.
Pause music
Say “pause”, “pause music”, or “stop”.
Skip to next song
Say “next song”, “next track”, or “next”.
Go back to previous song
Say “previous song”, “previous track”, or “previous”.
Shuffle the current playlist
Just say “shuffle”.
Turn on Genius feature
Say “Genius”, “play more like this”, or “play more songs like this”.
Get information about the current track
Say “what’s playing”, or for more specific information say “what song is this”, “who sings this song”, or “who is this song by”.

Misc Commands

Ask the time
Say “what is the time” or “what time is it”.
Cancel voice control
Simply say “cancel” or “stop”.
Get help
Say “help”.

Other Languages

The iPhone User Guide for your country will have most of the voice commands available listed in it. Your best bet is to go to the Apple support page for iPhone in your language and download the most recent user guide, then read through that for Voice Control commands in your language.

Apple’s iPhone and iPod touch: Tips for using Voice Control document also has some specific tips for users of Polish, Russian, Finnish, and Japanese, as well as general tips that everybody will find useful.

I will have a “cheat sheet” coming out soon listing all these commands, so you can print out something small to help jog your memory.

Do you know of more commands I’ve missed? How are the speech commands working for you? Leave a comment and let me know.

- Ricky

2 thoughts on “iDevice Voice Control Commands”

  1. Great article… but just a note on contacts… you should really clarify that you need to first set relationships before the phone with recognize them. For example: saying “john smith is my father” will give you the option to confirm, then be able to say “call my father” and it will call john smith. This is not an automatic function as implied above.

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