In iOS 12, Apple has introduced a new, helpful way to make life easier by linking the things you do most often on your iPhone to an app called Shortcuts. In addition to automating day-to-day tasks, Shortcuts also offers some new opportunities – tasks that your phone has not been able to handle on its own. Some of these features could be programmed through third party apps like IFTTT, now they are integrated with iOS 12.
Shortcuts replaces Apple's old workflow app, making Siri more powerful and useful than ever before. By adding custom phrases and adding them to Siri's repertoire, you can trigger a series of actions that involve multiple apps. However, unlike many Apple apps, Shortcuts is not that straightforward and can be intimidating when first opened. So, here's how you set it up. I'll also show you some shortcuts that you should check out to get started.
There are two ways to use links. The best option is the Shortcuts app itself, which allows you to create your own workflows from scratch. The app also comes with a gallery of suggested shortcuts curated by Apple. Regardless, Siri will recommend shortcuts based on your daily iPhone activity. You can see them in the settings under Siri & Search.
First, install the Links app from the App Store.
When you open the app for the first time, the shortcut library is empty. You can either add a custom shortcut or tap the Gallery tab to search for pre-built shortcuts. Some of Apple's picks include "Heading to Work", which identifies your ETA, tells you your first calendar date, and gives you a playlist for your way to work. All this happens with a single tap.
You can tap any link in Gallery to add it to your library. Some links require additional access and prompt you to enter the required permissions to control various apps. From there, you can add a custom Siri phrase, rename the shortcut, and customize the icon. Interestingly, you can use Apple icons like Twitter, Trello or WeChat and Weibo for your shortcut.
Some of the ready-made shortcuts sound like recommended best-living tips from a magazine. Do I really need a two-minute toothbrush timer and a reminder to browse through my favorite subreddits? Nevertheless, the novelty is fun.
Abbreviations to try
One of my favorite prefabricated shortcuts is Say Cheese, which automatically takes a picture. When you tap Say Cheese, it will run without you being able to preview the photo. However, once you change the shortcut to adding a custom Siri language phrase such as "trigger trigger", you can mount your phone with a selfie stick or some sort of mount, and take selfies through voice activation.
With the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 with a S Pen this year that can double as a remote shutter, it's pretty cool that a little shortcut like this one can achieve the same effect. However, it has its shortcomings. The farther the phone is away, the less Siri reacts to "Hey Siri," especially when the back is facing you. You can also use Say Cheese as a front camera to quickly fix the problem.
Another great shortcut that you can try is Do Not Disturb before you leave the phone, which activates Do Not Disturb while you are having a meeting. Your phone will detect when you have left your current location and then turn off do not disturb mode. This is ideal if you are leaving a meeting or an important conference where you can not answer calls and texts. I've tested how far you need to go so that your smartphone recognizes that you've left a place and switched "Do Not Disturb": about 0.3 miles or three minutes on foot. This seems to be a reasonable distance from a quiet meeting place to a louder place to call again, so the feature seems practical and relevant.