How to Make the iPhone not Suck for Cyclists

IMG_0018So, I bike to work almost every day.  That’s roughly 38 km in each direction, or if you’re into American moon units roughly 24 miles.  My job offers me a car, I can carpool or use public transport, but choose to bike because I like the exercise and time to reflect even though it means spending roughly two times 90 minutes on an uncomfortable seat every day.  Don’t know what 90 minutes is in zany American weirdo-units, but probably 37 splongks or something.

For those from the uncivilized parts of the world who don’t know what a bike is, it is a vehicle much like a car which instead of polluting gas uses (in some sense) equally polluting human power for driving it.  When you come from a civilized country, biking doesn’t necessarily mean tailpiping a car while barely avoiding a truck and a murderous pedestrian, but can in fact be quite scenic:

IMG_0013 IMG_0032 IMG_0034 IMG_0038 IMG_0044 IMG_0050

IMG_0056The thing is, after biking the same route twice every day for a couple months, you’ve seen it. Pretty as it may be, today’s nature-highlight was the discovery that the corn is turning yellow. As amazing an event this is – and I’m sure the corn appreciation blogosphere is ablaze with the news, liveblogs, and Goodwin-invoking trolls – call me old-fashioned, but for me it’s not really sufficient entertainment for 3 hours a day.


Luckily, I’m armed to cope: I bring my iPhone, which allow me to listen to the modern classics…


…educate or entertain myself with Podcasts…


…and track my progress to gamify the endeavour as well as point me in the right direction when I drunkenly can’t find my way.


In principle I can also read and reply to mail, check my calendar and other productive stuff. That is, were it not for these fuckers:


Some sadistic Aguilera fan decided to put up obstacles, making it dangerous to divert your attention from the road to more important stuff on Facebook or Exchange. Without going into details, I can reveal I’ve had 3 crashes so far this year, and my arms and knees are now 90% scar tissue.

IMG_0046Before we go into the following part, understand the following: I don’t care if Android can do this.  Until OmniFocus exists for Android and Steve Jobs personally comes by in a heavenly chariot and tells me it’s ok to purchase an inferior phone, I am not going to switch, so that point is moot.  I think Android is ugly and literally worse than Hitler in a brown spandex SA uniform, so don’t bother: this is about how to improve iOS for cyclists.

IMG_0055After kissing the asphalt a couple times, I started using Siri instead of looking at the screen. Previously, I had only used it to set my alarm clock. Not because that’s particularly convenient, but because the regular way to set the alarm on the iPhone is so cumbersome, even using Siri is more convenient.

Siri is actually somewhat decent for hands-off use for simple things.  I can use it to get simple situational information:

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My first gripe with the iPhone is

Make Siri shut the fuck up!

Sure, the whole virtual assistent is cute for demos and the first five minutes of use, but when you actually use it, those long-winded explanations of why Siri has fucked up again stops being entertaining.  Sure, talentless “authors” publish “books” detailing the shenanigans of Siri (yes, that’s actually a thing that exists) and low-brow “comedy” shows detail how comically awkward Indian people fall in love with their virtual assistants, but in the real world, the only information conveyed by the long-winded explanation when I set my alarm is “I understood what you said,” which could be shortened to “yes” or even a positive feedback sound.  Another sound for negative feedback.  Alternatively, have it read back the time and nothing more.

Worse is it when I lose the internet connection (and as I have T-mobile that happens more often than not), at which point Siri comes with this stupid answer:


Yes, I already got that by the 5 second pause after telling you what to do.  You provide no information, but in the most annoying way possible.  Just play a negative beep and get it over with.

Yes, I know you can mute Siri:


But this is the opposite of what I want!  I want it to shut up when I’m biking.  I don’t use “handsfree,” which requires the phone to be plugged in (I think…?) and I want it to shut up exactly when using it hands-free!  Or always really.  These options are completely useless to me!  Give me Siri that can STFU most of the time.  Give is an affirmative beep and a negative beep instead.  Maybe confirm my input, but do so shortly!

Second, I’m not using Siri because I want to hear it’s sweet voice.  I’m using Siri to get stuff done.  I don’t need it to take over my phone.  There is no need to interrupt my music or pod-cast when using Siri, so

Use Autoducking Instead of Pausing for Siri

and keep Britney singing or Maddox ranting.  This will also make the 5 seconds of silence while Siri finds out it cannot do anything while racing thru another “klein dorp,” nobody has ever heard of or wanted to live in.  Make it an option if you must for those with bad taste.

IMG_0043Next, cyclists have different needs than people in cars.  People in cars can easily get a blowjob, eat a steak and play Flappy Bird while they run over pedestrians.  Drivers got a new feature in the new iOS, “Hey Siri,” which lets them yell at their phone while doing all of the above and hurling a finished joint at an innocent cyclist.  Hey Siri is completely and utterly useless for cyclists.  First, it requires my phone to be plugged in, and we’re running on fermented barley-power here, so that’s not an option.  Second, Siri is barely usable on a bike what with all the surrounding noise anyway.

Still, we need a hands-off mode.  For example, Siri is ok for reading my messages, but suppose I wanted something like:


Not an unreasonable request, but I am met with:


Ok, I can understand the security implications of letting Siri read out my mails (though I have a hard time understanding the same concern isn’t relevant for my messages…), but let me have a mode where I am authenticated but the screen is locked and the phone in my pocket, so give me a

Hands-free Authenticated Mode

where Siri will read my mails, search the web, read my agenda and all kinds of stuff.  Heck, tie it to the “shut up Siri” mode and autoducking as well, and I’d be a happy camper.

Often I’ll receive e-mails or messages on other platforms.  If I remember to switch on sound this translates to a beep in my headphones, otherwise it translates to a slight vibration in my pocket, which is completely unnoticed because I’m on my Brit-damn bike!  If by accident I notice this, I can pull out my phone to read the notification:


Why in the name of Britney does it not just

Read Out Notifications

Chalk this up as another feature for my new hand-off mode and we’d be beyond privacy issues with people having their sexting messages read aloud in the bus.

While we’re at it; when Siri reads out a message, it offers me to respond.  Make it also do so with other messages.  Heck, finally get your fingers out of your collective asses, and finally

Open Siri to Third Party Developers

Allow OmniFocus to read out my today view, allow me to add items to OmniFocus.  Read out my news, so instead of this useless exchange,


– does this even look lik something anybody would read ever? – I would get my news feeds from Feedly:


Most of this post was conceived (and most pictures produced) while biking home today.  When I got home, I had most of the pictures and a mental outline of the post, but why couldn’t I have a full outline set up in OmniOutliner using Siri?  Because fuck you, that’s why.  Open up Siri and make iPhone truly useful for hands-off mode.  I’m sure that much like private browsing it will not be abused for naughty things (and even if it is, I’m sure people can cope).

Finally, and this is most likely just an annoyance because I’m an expat, but I’m sure the same goes for anybody traveling to a country with a different language:

Let Siri speak multiple languages

Sure, it can talk other languages, but let it mix languages, so it doesn’t completely botch up street names near me, and doesn’t repeatedly pronounce Kleijn as “kleitj” if I have a conversation by text on the way home.  It should rhyme with “nein, nein, nein!”

IMG_0053At this point, I’m almost home and this marks the end of my post.  Despite composing this rambling nonsense, I managed to gain almost 2 minutes on my time from last Friday evne though I’m still more than two and half minutes from my personal best on the way home and over 7 minutes behind on the distance.  To make iPhone more useful for cyclists, all it takes is some minor changes to Siri for a new hands-free mode: allow Siri to make authenticated searches and make it shut up.  Don’t interrupt my music while using it, and allow third parties to hook into it as well.  Also, let it read out my notifications so I don’t have to look at the screen to see what that e-mail was on my way home.  For less annoyance, let Siri pronounce local names and places using the native tongue, especially when the pronunciation rules are so different from those of English, and for a disgusting finale, make the hands-free mode also disable the fingerprint reader, because when I keep my phone in my sweaty pocket, it inevitably looks like this whenever I pull it out without any failed authentication attempts because the dampness of my pocket activates the reader:


3 thoughts on “How to Make the iPhone not Suck for Cyclists

  1. Cmon, you can’t actually be requesting useful features in an iPhone. You will get them when the powers that be at Apple believe you need them. Enjoy the walled garden!

  2. So, what you’re saying is, I should do less editorial work when writing, and have kept the part about adding a giant death laser for getting rid of old people in traffic? That’s useful and realistic!

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