Siri commands that should work on watchOS, but don’t

Siri on watchOS is useful for handsfree interactions, especially when one command can skip multiple physical steps.

While there are endless things we all wish Siri could do, I’m regularly finding commands that don’t work, and their exclusion feels sloppy for one of a few reasons:

  • they’re basic navigational commands to get to specific screens of watchOS
  • the same functionality already exists in Siri for iOS, and the same behavior on the Watch wouldn’t be beyond its capabilities or a good user experience

I’ll update this post as I find more things that should work, or if these commands are supported in the future. If you have any of your own to add, let me know. Originally, I wrote this soon after watchOS 3 was released, and have since updated it for watchOS 4.

“Open Now Playing”

This is the worst offender, because there’s a bigger problem of ambiguity with the Now Playing “app.”

Using Siri to open an app on watchOS is much faster than digging around the honeycomb screen or swiping through the Dock.

In watchOS 1 and 2, controls for the current audio source used to be easily accessible with one swipe on the clock face. With the transition from Glances to the Dock in watchOS 3, Now Playing is a meatball lost in the sauce.

It shows up in the Dock like an app, but it’s not quite an app: It’s not on the honeycomb screen that shows all the apps, and worse, it can’t be opened with Siri.

I’ve seen some confusion about this and other ideas that make the Now Playing screen more accessible, which would be nice, but Siri support seems obvious.

Update for watchOS 4: There is still no Siri support for opening Now Playing, but there are some other changes to how you can access this pseudo-app. The Dock now has two options: Recents or Favorites. It’s possible to select Now Playing as a Favorite, even though it’s still not a “real” app that you can access from Siri or the honeycomb screen. If it’s not set as a Favorite, there’s no guarantee you’ll see it anywhere in the Dock, even if you’re playing audio from an app (like Overcast, for example).

Also, watchOS 4 adds a Now Playing Complication that can be used to launch the Now Playing “app” and show information about what’s currently playing. Unfortunately, this Complication can only be used in a wide Complication slot — it can’t be used as an icon to simply launch the Now Playing screen.

Finally, Now Playing controls are generally available on the new Siri watch face in watchOS 4, but there is still no support when asking Siri.

“Where is [contact name]?”

This command works great with Find My Friends on iOS, but trying it on Apple Watch only results in an option to “Continue on iPhone.” Showing a map with a friend’s location right on the Siri screen would be a lot more useful.

By the way, I can’t believe someone decided the Find My Friends app for watchOS was good enough to ship. During the watchOS 3 beta period I figured it was still in development, but here we are in watchOS 4.0, and the app still only shows 15 random friends.

If they had to limit the number that’s understandable, but there doesn’t seem to be any logic to the filtering and sorting of these 15 people. It’s loosely in alphabetical order, but seems to randomly leave people out while still showing people who don’t have a current location available. If there has to be a limit, the 15 nearest people sorted by distance away (like they’re listed in the iOS app) would make a lot more sense.

“Show the clock face”

Sometimes my hands are dirty. I want to go back to the clock face to see information on a complication, but don’t feel like hitting the Digital Crown with my nose.

In Apple’s developer documentation about complications, they usually call the main watch screen the “clock face,” but I’ve also seen it referred to as the “watch face.”

“Show the time” displays the current time in Siri instead of going back to the clock face.

“Show the clock face” opens the World Clock app.

“Show the watch face” give a weird message about not being able to play movies.

When I’ve just done a Siri command from the clock face, however, saying “Hey Siri, cancel” will close out of Siri and return to the clock face.

This is a minor one, but it would be nice if there were a way to leave an app and navigate back to the clock face without touching the Watch.

“Send an audio message to [contact name]”

I don’t use the audio message feature much, as I prefer Voxer, but I tried this once while driving since I thought that would be a useful context for the feature.

In the watchOS Messages app it’s pretty easy to send an audio message, but for some reason Siri doesn’t have that capability.

“Take a note”

After my original post, Serenity Caldwell tweeted some additions, and this is one of them. I can’t believe I missed it in my first version of the post.

Notes and Reminders were introduced together in iOS 7.

Siri on watchOS has been able to add to Reminders since watchOS 1, even though there was no Reminders app until watchOS 3, but here we are on watchOS 4 with no support for creating a new Note.

“Where’s my car?”

Since iOS 10, the Maps app has had a feature to automatically keep track of a parked car’s coordinates if your iPhone is paired with a car that has Bluetooth.

Asking Siri this question on iOS works as expected, showing the location of your car on a map.

On watchOS, Siri knows the command will work on the iPhone, but for some reason can’t open the Watch’s Maps app to show you. Thanks again to Serenity Caldwell for pointing this one out.

“Turn off Silent Mode”

iOS 7 added Siri support for some basic setting and Control Center toggles. That was in 2013, but you won’t find the same support in watchOS.

What bothers me about this one is the inconsistency of behavior for functions that are grouped together in the Control Center interface.

“Show me control center” works to bring up the watchOS Control Center. This is nice, and surprisingly it even works from within another app. That means you can be in an app, access the Control Center, toggle a button, and then hit the Digital Crown to return to the same app without ever visiting the clock face. Without using Siri, the watchOS Control Center can only be accessed from the clock face.

So Siri doesn’t know what “silent mode” is, but what about the other Control Center toggles?

“Turn on Do Not Disturb” at least brings up the Control Center, but doesn’t toggle the setting. Siri’s behavior is the same for “ping my iPhone.”

“Turn on the flashlight” returns a message that Siri can’t help me with that on my Apple Watch, although Siri can’t be used to toggle camera flash on an iPhone either.

“Turn on Airplane Mode” first reminds me that Siri may stop working if Airplane Mode is on. If I tap “Yes” to indicate I actually do want to turn it on, I’m whisked away to the Airplane Mode section of the watchOS Settings app, instead of Control Center, where the switch then animates from off to on.

I’m still trying to figure out what Siri thinks I wanted to do when I say “turn on water lock.”

This post is brought to you by my app, Pee & See:

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