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Tips for Using iPhone Voice Control


Activating Voice Control

Voice Control can be activated in two ways:

From the remote: When you're using the Apple Earphones with Remote and Mic that come with the iPhone 3GS, simply hold down the center of the remote (not the plus or minus buttons, but in between them) for a few seconds and Voice Control will appear on the screen.

From the home button: Hold down the iPhone 3GS' home button (the button centered just below the screen on the face of the phone) for a few seconds and Voice Control will appear.

Using Voice Control

As I’ve noted before, Voice Control is somewhat hit and miss with its accuracy. Just because it doesn’t get things right every time, though, doesn’t mean that you can’t use some tips and techniques to help the chance of an accurate response to your Voice Control commands.

General Voice Control Tips

Whether you’re using it for the phone or music:

  • Wait until the Voice Control tone has finished before you speak. If you speak while the tone is playing, what you say will be missed
  • Don’t pause too long after tone as this can confuse Voice Control
  • Saying “cancel” before an action is completely started will stop it, though it can be tricky to cancel before whatever action is underway has started
  • You can find out the current time by activating Voice Control and saying "What time is it?"


Voice Control is generally weakest with music, but these tips can help improve the experience.

  • Voice Control can’t play individual songs, only albums, playlists, or artists, so don’t ask for songs
  • Be as specific as possible: you’ll get a better result out of “play artist Ani DiFranco” than “play Ani DiFranco”
  • If a band has “the” in its name, be sure to say “the” – Voice Control listens for it
  • To shuffle within a playlist, say “shuffle”
  • To pause playback, say “pause” or “pause music”
  • You can use Genius to create a playlist based on the song you’re listening to by saying “genius,” “play more like this,” or “play more songs like this”

Voice Dialing

Voice Control tends to work best with the phone. These tips will make it work even better.

  • Use the first and last name of the person you’re calling
  • If the contact you’re calling has more than one phone number, use first name, last name, and the name of phone as assigned in contact (home, office, mobile, etc.)
  • Voice Control has trouble with possessives
  • If you have two contacts that Voice Control regularly confuses, give one (or both) and nickname. Do this by going to the contact, tapping “Edit” and then tapping “add field.” Tap “nickname” and assign one.


According to Apple, Voice Control can run into trouble in two areas when using FaceTime:

  • With short names; try saying the person's full name instead
  • With possessives; try longer commands like "Facetime Sam on his cell phone" or using a nickname for the person you want to Facetime (which requires adding a nickname to their address book entry).

Do All Headphones Work with Voice Control?

One of the ways to activate Voice Control is by using the Apple Earphones with Remote and Mic that come standard with the iPhone 3GS. But are those earphones the only earphones or headphones that can activate Voice Control?

For now, yes. Apple will likely release an adapter for third-party headphones at some point (just as it's promised to do with the remote-enabled third-generation Shuffle headphones), but there's no telling when that might be. For now, you're required to use the Apple earphones because they're the only earphones that have the hardware built into them to activate Voice Control using clicks on the remote attached to the cord.

Luckily for those who prefer to use headphones other than Apple's earbuds, there is another way to activate Voice Control: the home button.

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