Apple Siri Shortcuts app
(Credit: Apple)

Apple has launched a beta of its iOS 12 Siri Shortcuts app for developer testing. Teased and demoed at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference in June, the new feature gives Siri the power to suggest actions based on your routines and perform multiple tasks in response to your own customized commands.

SEE: How to install iOS 12 now (Download.com)

As voice assistants try to win over customers in the smartphone and smart speaker arenas, Siri has been under siege. Critics--and even some Apple fans--have griped that Siri lacks the muscle of such rivals as Amazon Alexa. Siri Shortcuts is designed to address some of these complaints by giving people more power and control over what Siri can help them do.

How does Siri Shortcuts work? First, Siri can provide suggestions on things for you to do based on your emails, appointments, contacts, app usage, and activities. As one example, Siri could see that you're late for a meeting by checking your calendar and suggest that you contact the meeting organizer about your delay.

Siri Shortcuts can also accept your own custom commands to take care of multiple tasks, including ones that tap into third-party apps. For example, you might set up a trigger phrase called "Wake up." In response to this phrase, Siri could read you the weather forecast, play your favorite news podcast, text a good morning message to a friend or family member, and turn on the downstairs lights using a smart home product.

How to try Siri Shortcuts

You can already try the current version of Siri Suggestions in iOS 9 or higher. Fire up your iPhone or iPad, open Settings, and tap on Siri & Search. Turning on suggestions for Search, Look Up, and individual apps gives Siri the power to make suggestions based on how you use these features and apps.

Siri Suggestions
You can try out some of the functionality of Siri Shortcuts by enabling Siri Suggestions in your current iPhone. (Credit: Screenshot by Lance Whitney)

The iOS 12 beta is currently available for public testing, so anyone can download it and take it for a spin. But the Siri Shortcuts app is limited to those who have a $99/year Apple developer account. Registered developers can request access to the beta via the developer site and run it through the TestFlight app.

The Siri Shortcuts beta is missing some key features promised for the final version in iOS 12. You can't sync shortcuts through iCloud. Certain built-in actions aren't yet available. And Siri Shortcuts won't open apps if your device is locked.

FOLLOW Download.com on Twitter for all the latest app news.

Takeaways

  1. Apple has launched a developers-only beta of the much-talked-about iOS 12 Siri Shortcuts feature.
  2. Siri Shortcuts can suggest actions based on your routines and activities and perform multiple tasks in response to your custom commands.

Also see

Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books - "Windows 8 Five Minutes at a Time" and "Teach Yourself VISUALLY LinkedIn."