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Voice Control for Incoming Calls

Josh Bruce
Self-taught. Self-driven. Self-ish?? I tend to work from the human down, not from the metal up.
・3 min read

Phone: vibrate (ring)

Siri: "Unknown caller"

Me: "Send to voicemail"

I recently put a video together talking about the studio refresh I'm going through. The video talks about the hardware I'll be using to maintain ubiquitous productivity in my world. There was so much I wanted to say (so, so much), but wanted to stay as focused as possible.

One of the thoughts was something I have honestly tried and am not sure, from an infrastructure perspective, why it's not already there: hands-free handling of incoming calls.

When a call comes in on the iPhone there are at least three options presented to the user:

  1. answer the call,
  2. reply with a message, and
  3. send to voicemail.

When the call comes in, while it may not be Siri the app, it is Siri the voice; therefore, from a user's perspective, it is Siri. If the user tends to use voice control often, then it would seem logical that they could be able to turn into my sister in the early 90s yelling to the room at large to answer the phone because she herself was not in a position to do so.

I walk a lot, as I have been "car-free" since around 2011. I have a very low tolerance for dehydration; so, I usually have my water bottle or something else to drink - in hand. With that said, I may also be picking up food or a snack, which means my other hand is occupied.

Interacting with phone calls does not appear to be possible with AirPods using tap actions, which does make sense to a degree as, if you have a hand free to stab yourself a coupla times real quick with a hard piece of plastic (pet peeve, sorry), then chances are you can bust out your phone and handle it.

But no voice control??

Given that when the phone rings the phone app should be activated, even with a low-level variant, and given that the Siri APIs are open to developers (and somewhat to the general public via the Shortcuts app), and given that Siri is somewhat activated and integrated enough with caller ID to call out who's calling, and (at least with the AirPods save gen 1) I can activate Siri completely hands-free, I don't think it's that much of a stretch and am wondering why this isn't a thing yet (or did I miss something??).

Giving benefit of the doubt and credit where credit is due to the Apple engineers, I'm thinking it's one of at least two reasons:

  1. not enough people are asking for it (this may even explain why I can't seem to build my own using Shortcuts, but I haven't looked very hard), or
  2. the hardware itself is a limiting factor.

The second one I would think is more likely. It's possible that the incoming call constrains communication for the device to the point that no other message-response pattern can be performed. That's way beyond my wheelhouse to know though.

Anyway, as the world (and I) continue to move more toward some wireless and handsfree future I think this functionality would be wonderful. I'm cooking, phone rings, don't have to wipe my hands and reach in my pocket or grab my phone off the counter, I can just say, seemingly to the room at large: Answer the phone.

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