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Apple adds Siri Shortcuts action for auto-answer calls in iOS 16.4 beta

Colin Hughes on a feature tip he gave Apple to improve the accessibility of the iPhone for disabled users that has just emerged in the latest beta of iOS 16.4

Apple adds Siri Shortcuts action for auto-answer calls in iOS 16.4 beta

Last week Apple released the latest beta version of its iPhone operating system iOS 16.4 to developers and public beta testers.

iOS 16.4 beta is full of new features. These include new emoji, enhanced support for 5G, the ability to enable push notifications for web apps, and the return of the new architecture for the Home app.

Apple has also added some new Shortcuts actions to iOS 16.4 beta one of which will be extremely helpful for accessibility and those of us with upper limb disabilities.

Last October, in a interview with 9to5 Mac I called for Apple to introduce a Shortcuts action to control the auto-answer calls feature on the iPhone and Apple Watch, and I am thrilled to report with the release of iOS 16.4 beta the company has clearly listened.

Colin Hughes 9to5 Mac.com Oct. 17th 2022


When it was first released one of the ironies about auto-answer calls – a feature ideal for people who can’t touch an on-screen button to answer a call – is that until iOS 16 and watchOS 9, there was no way to automatically enable the feature. I successfully campaigned for Apple to introduce voice control of the auto-answer feature but as I made clear to 9to5 Mac readers in that interview last October I wanted Apple to go further and intelligently automate it.

While it has been great to have Siri control of auto answer on both iPhone and Watch over the past year, “hey Siri turn on/off auto -answer I couldn’t see a “set auto answer” option in Siri Shortcuts. I always felt it would be so useful to be able to create a personal automation option involving an auto -answer calls shortcut action to make daily life easier.

Looking in Siri Shortcuts over the past couple of years there has not been a “set auto answer” option but there is for other accessibility features like “set VoiceOver”. Disabled users like me needed more personal automation options when it comes to controlling auto-answer calls.  Other accessibility features can be managed by Shortcuts, why not auto-answer calls is a question I have been asking this past few years. Now it is clear Apple has responded and addressed this concern.

Auto-answer calls shortcuts action – how it will help

The new functionality will be helpful when, for example, a carer helps put  on a disabled person’s AirPods there will be no need to dive into iPhone settings to turn on auto-answer. A shortcut will ensure as soon as the AirPods connect to iPhone auto-answer calls turns on automatically, or when a carer puts on a disabled person’s Apple Watch auto-answer calls is automatically switched on with a shortcut, and vice versa on both devices when AirPods are removed, or Watch taken off wrist to charge.

Coming soon

The final version of iOS 16.4 will likely be released to the public at the end of March, or the beginning of April, so it won’t be long until disabled users with mobility impairments can take advantage of this very useful new feature coming to the iPhone and Apple Watch.

Alternatively, if you can’t wait to try the new feature you can sign up to be a public beta tester and try the beta version of iOS 16.4 on your iPhone now.

For more on this exciting new feature influential iOS YouTuber Aaron Zollo has a good illustration on his channel.

Colin Hughes is a former BBC producer who campaigns for greater access and affordability of technology for disabled people

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