Bye Siri! iOS 18 will let you use voice commands without a wake word

iOS 18
(Image credit: Rafapress/Shutterstock)

WWDC 2024 may not be for another couple of weeks, but Apple has already announced a bunch of new features coming to iOS 18. One of which is called “Vocal Shortcuts” and will let you start using voice commands without summoning Siri first. 

The idea here is that iPhone and iPad users will be able to set up their own custom voice triggers. This allows Siri to pick up on certain words and key phrases, but without the user in question having to shout “Hey Siri” first. 

Apple hasn’t given us any concrete details about how this feature works, only that users “can assign custom utterances” that Siri can pick up on to “launch shortcuts and complex tasks”. Screenshots also show that the setup process involves recording a phrase to help teach your device how to recognize your voice.

ios 18 vocal shortcuts screenshots

(Image credit: Apple)

The example shown in Apple’s press release has the user say the word “Rings” three times. After your phone has learned to recognize this phrase, saying the word “Rings” around your iPhone will prompt it to launch whatever command you’ve paired to the word.

Obviously that leads us to the question of what kind of shortcuts and commands will be compatible. The fact that Apple specifically mentioned complex tasks suggests that you may be able to build your own custom processes and tie it into a voice command. That would make this feature more useful than the iPhone 15 Pro’s Action button, which is limited to a number of predetermined shortcuts set by Apple.

That’s not to say you couldn't potentially use this for quick and easy shortcuts as well. Since this has been marketed as an accessibility feature, you’d hope that Apple has kept the whole thing open-ended to account for various different ways people might want to use Vocal Shortcuts. We’ll just have to wait until the iOS 18 beta launches to try this out for ourselves, and see just how useful (or limited) Vocal Shortcuts actually are.

I just hope there’s something in the system that helps to avoid false positives. You wouldn’t want to be having a conversation about onion rings, and suddenly find your phone has started Facetiming your entire contacts list, after all.

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Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.