Apple has used WWDC 2018 to announce a big update for its smart assistant Siri that will arrive with iOS 12 that makes it a lot more useful. Called Siri Shortcuts, the new feature lets you assign custom phrases to various supported apps so that you can quickly get information whenever you utter it. 

There's a lot more to Siri Shortcuts, including a new app. So let us explain exactly what the new feature is and what it can do.

Siri Shortcuts is a new feature within iOS 12 that lets you call upon Apple's smart assistant to make it quicker and easier to access information within apps using a custom phrase. 

Apple used Tile as an example during its live demo. When you open the Tile app, you get a button that says "Add to Siri". Click this and then record a custom phrase, such as "I lost my keys" and you're done. Now, when you activate Siri, you just have to speak your phrase and Siri will automatically begin ringing the Tile connected to your keys. 

Because Siri is baked into iOS, it knows your calendar events, including any meetings you have at work. Siri can also know that you're running late for work, based on your location and what time your meeting starts. If it detects something like this, it will now automatically suggest you send a message to the organiser of the meeting telling them you'll be late, or if possible, will suggest you call into the meeting. 

Siri already learns your habits, and will offer navigation directions based on places it knows you regularly visit. That capability is improved with Shortcuts and iOS 12. For example, it can learn that you visit the same coffee shop every morning on the way to work and, if the shop supports it, you can pre-order your drink before you arrive. Siri will learn this and automatically suggest you order your usual before you leave the house.

Apple also announced a new Shortcuts app, that basically gives Apple users their very own IFTTT capabilities. The Shortcuts app lets you create 'recipes' for various apps, based on different scenarios. If you're going home from work for example, you can tell Siri "Heading Home" - again, this is a custom phrase - and it will then activate the shortcut you created.

This can include getting navigation directions to home based on your current location, sending a message to your mum or roommate telling them you're on your way and it can even adjust the temperature of a HomeKit-enabled thermostat so your home will be nice and toasty when you get in. 

Your own custom Siri Shortcuts are created within the Shortcuts app that will be available for iPhone and iPad when iOS 12 launches later this year. However you're not limited to using just those to enable them. You can speak your custom commands to the Apple Watch and HomePod as well and you will get the same results. Apple didn't give a demo using the HomePod, but presumably you will get audio feedback and then, hopefully, visual feedback on your iPhone or iPad. 

Siri Shortcuts will also appear in the Siri watch face on the Apple Watch, based on what time of day it is and which Shortcuts it thinks you need at the time.