Siri in iOS 16, watchOS 9 can toggle the iPhone’s auto-answer calls feature

The Siri smart assistant has learned a new voice command in iOS 16, enabling you to toggle Apple’s assistive feature, dubbed Auto-Answer Calls, hands-free.

The iOS 16 icon is set against a solid light-gray background in this image from Apple
  • You can now ask Siri to toggle the Auto-Answer Calls feature, which is useful if you suffer from motor skill issues or find it difficult to touch the iPhone screen.
  • This is a new feature available in iOS 16, iPadOS 16 and watchOS 9.
  • Even though the Auto-Answer Calls toggle is present in iOS 15, it cannot be toggled with a voice command on iOS 15 and older versions.

You can now toggle Auto-Answer Calls via Siri

Apple’s assistive technologies built into its products have long been helping people with various disabilities interact with their iPhones. Among the many improvements to the accessibility features in iOS 16 and watchOS 9 is something that may feel mundane and unimportant to you and me. But imagine having motor skill issues or problems with hand movement coordination that would prevent you from hitting touch targets on the iPhone screen. In such situations, you’ll ask Siri for help. And one of the areas of improvement for Siri in iOS 16 includes the ability to toggle the option to automatically answer incoming calls hands-free, just by using your voice.

There’s a new voice command for that:

Hey Siri turn on auto answer.

The phrase will basically toggle on or off the switch labeled “Auto-Answer Calls” found in Settings → Accessibility → Touch → Call Audio Routing → Auto-Answer Calls. This option is not new: iOS 15 and earlier versions also provide this toggle, the only difference being that you can now ask Siri to turn it on or off.

A boon for everyone, really

9to5Mac reader Colin Hughes on why this is important:

I always found it beyond ironic that a feature for people who can’t touch the iPhone screen or watch face required you to do exactly that to turn auto answer on and off. So I have been calling on Apple to provision Siri to turn auto answer on and off with a voice command “Hey Siri turn on auto answer”. I am delighted the company has listened and the ability is coming in both iOS 16 and watchOS 9.

Don’t underestimate the importance of this feature:

I don’t want auto answer on all the time and I want to be able to turn it on and off myself without having to ask a carer for help. Personal independence is so important to disabled people, practically and psychologically, and technology can really help with this. This feature may sound niche but it is massive for people like me.

With this new feature in iOS 16 and watchOS 9, Apple has finally addressed an oversight in handling phone calls for people with disabilities. iOS 16 includes several major improvements to assistive technologies, which Apple previewed ahead of WWDC22, as well as a bunch of little things. For instance, there’s a helpful new Siri voice command in iOS 16 to end the current call in the Phone app or on FaceTime.

When will iOS 16 be released for everyone?

The first iOS 16 beta arrived following the June 6 WWDC 2022 keynote via A public version for all users to try out on their iPhones is due in July through the website. iOS 16 will launch publicly in the fall alongside iPadOS 16. macOS Ventura should become available a few weeks following the arrival of iOS and iPadOS 16. Keep in mind that this is prerelease software so some features could change significantly during the beta-testing period.

How to route calls on your iPhone

You can adjust call routing options and set your iPhone to automatically answer calls on your behalf through the Accessibilities section in the Settings app.

Open the Settings app on your iPhone

  1. Touch “Accessibility” in the root list.
  2. Select “Touch.”
  3. Choose “Call Audio Routing.”

You can now route the call audio to:

  • The iPhone’s speaker
  • Your Bluetooth headset
  • Your MFi hearing device

In the “Auto-Answer Calls” section, you can set your iPhone to automatically answer incoming calls on your behalf. As noted in Apple’s support document, you can choose the duration of time until the call is automatically answered. And as we said, iOS 16’s new voice command finally lets you ask Siri to toggle the Auto-Answer Calls option on or off without having to touch the iPhone’s screen. Read: How to use Apple’s helpful AssistiveTouch features on your iPhone or iPad