File this one under: How didn't I know this?
One of the banes of my existence is early morning conference calls with people in other countries. It's not the meetings themselves that are a bummer. It's that they vary so much in start time and duration that it's not always possible for me to be in the right place at the right time. As a result, I end up doing these calls on my Bluetooth speakerphone in the car.
The kicker is that these calls always require a multistep process to get into the meeting and this is obviously not feasible while driving. I've been toying with the idea of designing an app that would do this but all of my inquiries have led me to believe that its unlikely that such an app would be approved by Apple and, just spending a few minutes on it, I can think of some good reasons why.
Rather than push that boulder up a proverbial hill, I decided to see if I could hack up a way to make it work. Lo and behold, however, no hacking was required as these feature seems to have been quietly added to iOS somewhere around version 4.0.
The kicker is that you can't do this outside of a contact sheet in Contacts. When you normally bring up the Phone app and select the keypad, this is what you see:
However, if you bring up the same keypad when in the Contacts app, you see something that looks more like this:
The button in the bottom left is the key to this whole deal. When you hit it, it changes the keypad to an alternate that looks like this:
By hitting the key with the "+ * #" opens up the doors for solving this particular dialing dilemma. The pause key will insert a comma into the text field collecting your digits which represents about a 1 second pause. The asterisk and pound/hash do what they say on the tin -- they will insert those at the appropriate moments in the conference dialing script.
It may take a bit of messing around to get the timing right when interacting with the automated system on the other end of the line and, in most cases, some foreknowledge of the structure of their dialing script but with a little planning, you can work wonders.
After discovering this I went through my calendar and found all of the conference calls I participate in regularly and put their dialing scripts into my phone as contacts. After some testing, I've confirmed that, not only have I gotten these complicated key sequences down to one button push but Siri will actually dial them for me, using the handsfree bluetooth.
This is going to really help when I get disconnected during a call while driving, that's for sure.