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While the big news in the iOS 13.2 release this week was support for Apple’s new AirPods Pro, one of the new features that more quietly arrived along with it was Announce Messages with Siri, a feature that Apple actually introduced back at its Worldwide Developers Conference in June, but had to be pulled out of the initial iOS 13 and iOS 13.1 releases.
Now it’s here, however, and the good news is that it’s not just for AirPods Pro users, but rather anybody with this year’s new AirPods or Beats headphone models. This means that you’ll be able to use it with any of the following earphones or headphones:
- AirPods Pro
- Second-Generation AirPods
- Powerbeats Pro
- Beats Solo Pro
As the name implies, Announce Messages with Siri allows you to have incoming messages read through your earphones when you’re wearing them, which can be very handy when you’re otherwise busy working out, or cycling, or simply don’t have your hands free to reach for your iPhone or easily check your Apple Watch.
However, the feature also goes beyond simply announcing messages, and also allows you to quickly zip off a reply using your voice, again without the need to actually use your hands to do so. It’s a nice proactive notification feature that we’re hoping we’ll eventually see come to some of Apple’s other products like the HomePod.
Unfortunately, the feature won’t work with the original AirPods, or older Beats headphones, since it naturally requires Apple’s new H1 chip that was introduced with this year’s second-generation AirPods to power the new “Hey Siri” feature, which is fundamental to being able to actually reply to messages.
How It Works
When Announce Messages with Siri is enabled and you are wearing your AirPods or Beats headphones and they’re connected to your iPhone or iPad, Siri will read your incoming messages out loud whenever your device is locked. The announcement will begin with a tone, followed by the senders name and then the content of the message.
Note that there’s a limit to the length of the message that Siri will read back. If it’s more than a sentence or two, Siri will instead simply tell you that the sender’s name and let you know that you’ve received a new message, and you’ll have to ask Siri to read back the full message to you if you want to hear it.
After Siri reads the message to you, it will wait for you to respond, at which point you can reply to the message simply by saying the word “Reply” followed by the message you want to send.
Like most Apple features, Announce Messages with Siri mostly just works, but there are also a few new settings you can tweak to customize it further.
Quickly Toggling It On and Off
Firstly, as handy as this feature is, there may be certain times you don’t want it on at all, and Apple recognizes this and has actually provided a really quick way to toggle it on and off without having to actually bounce around through your Settings app all the time.
Instead, you can add a button to your iOS 13 Control Center that acts as a toggle for the feature. It’s not there by default, but it’s really easy to add it:
- Open your iPhone or iPad Settings app
- Select Control Center
- Tap Customize Controls
- Scroll down to the “More Controls” section
- Tap on the green plus sign beside Announce Messages with Siri
- (Optional) Drag the Announce Messages with Siri up to position it elsewhere on the Control Center screen.
Once the button has been added to your Control Center, you can simply swipe down from the top-left corner of your iPhone or iPad to bring up Control Center and tap the button to quickly and easily toggle it on or off.
Unfortunately, there’s not (yet) any equivalent Control Center option for the Apple Watch, so you will still need to pull your iPhone out of your pocket if you need to change the setting.
Announcing Only Certain Messages
Additional settings for Announce Messages with Siri can be found in the iPhone or iPad Settings app under Siri & Search, and from here you can customize the types of messages that you want to have announced:
- Favorites: Announces only those messages that are from contacts listed as favorites in the Phone app. Note that the contact’s specific iMessage phone number or email address doesn’t have to be added to favourites, as long as their contact record contains the address they’re sending from.
- Recents: Not to be confused with the “Recents” section in the Phone app, this setting actually announces messages only from contacts that you’ve sent messages to on the current day. This is useful for getting announcements for people you’re having conversations with but not be disturbed by other more random messages.
- Contacts: As the name implies, this will announce messages from anybody who is listed in your iPhone or iPad contacts app. This works regardless of whether these contacts are synced to iCloud, stored locally, or you’re using another online address book service with the Contacts app.
- Everyone: You’ll probably want to use this one sparingly as it will announce ALL incoming messages, regardless of whether they’re iMessages, or text messages, or spam (although the Filter Unknown Senders option in your Messages settings can help filter some of this out).
Making Quick Replies
Normally, when you make a reply through your AirPods, Siri will read it back to you in order to confirm that she heard you correctly, and ask for your confirmation before sending your reply. However, if you’re confident in Siri’s ability to transcribe your voice correctly, or you usually just send really short replies, you can save some time by toggling on the “Reply without Confirmation” setting.
When this is enabled, Siri will still wait to hear your reply, but once you’ve finished speaking, it will just send it off to the recipient immediately.
It Will Work With Other Messaging Apps (Eventually)
Although so far it appears that the feature only works with Apple’s own Messages app, it’s clear that Apple had made provision for other messaging apps to plug into it as well.
The layout of the Announce Messages with Siri settings makes it clear that there will be room for other apps here, although the usual suspects like Whatsapp don’t appear to have added support yet, we’ve heard rumours that it’s coming soon, as part of Apple’s plans to embrace and extend Siri to third-party messaging apps.