The best Google Home commands: How to use Google Assistant
Like Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, Amazon’s Alexa and Samsung’s Bixby, Google Assistant uses a mixture of natural language processing and internet connectivity to do everything from scheduling alarms to controlling smart home devices. It’s a fantastic addition to many devices beyond Google’s own Google Home, and outperforms some of its rivals considerably, thanks to Google’s wealth of search experience.
Google has so much faith in the technology that its last Google I/O event was almost predominantly focused on the AI and machine learning projects.
Firstly, Google Assistant is getting six new voices, including the dulcet tones of singer John Legend. It’s being added to Google Maps, to bring more relevant customisations and recommendations; will soon come with an update called “continued conversation” that lets you chat more naturally to it; and it powers Google Duplex – the controversial bot that calls people on your behalf, pretending to be you.
Below, we’ve outlined what Google Assistant is, the devices it’s available on and the best Google Assistant commands to get started with.
What is Google Assistant?
Following in the steps of Siri and Amazon’s Alexa before it, Google Assistant is a virtual assistant that helps with your everyday tasks by letting you ask it anything. Well not quite anything, but it can definitely make your life easier if you’ll let it. Just be prepared to feel self-conscious every time it dawns that you’re speaking to an inanimate object, even if you’re in the privacy of your own home.
READ NEXT: Google Home Review
There’s no need to buy a Google Home, Home Max, Home Mini or upcoming Home Hub in order to take start taking advantage of Google Assistant. If you own an Android phone running Marshmallow (6.0) or later, then you already have it. To check if it’s turned on, say “OK Google” or press and hold the home button on your phone.
If this doesn’t rouse the virtual assistant, open the Google app’s Settings and under Google Assistant tap Settings and ‘Turn on’. iPhone and iPad users can also get in on the action by downloading the newly released Google Assistant app, although some of the features are more limited.
Google Assistant was originally reserved for Google Home and Android phones but rolled out to iOS devices in more regions, as of Friday 25 August. Since that date, Apple users in the UK, Germany and France can install Google’s answer to Siri for free.
One of the best things about Google Assistant is that you don’t need to download any of its skills, as you do with Alexa. It works right out the box. The problem with this is you might not know what the AI helper is actually capable of.
The best Google Assistant commands
Find your phone
We’ve all experienced moments where you’re about to leave the house but can’t find your phone. If you’ve got a smartwatch, you could try using the “Find my Phone” feature to make it ring aloud, but that won’t work if you’re out of Bluetooth range. Thankfully, Google Assistant has got you covered. To stop you from having to scrabble under every cushion, say ‘Find my phone’ to your smart speaker and the virtual assistant gives you the option to make your phone ring on full volume.
Once you’ve found the device, you can stop the ringing instantly by simply unlocking its screen. Like other commands, once your Google Home has been trained to the voice of other family members, they too can benefit from the virtual assistant’s handy phone-finding service. You’ll be amazed at how much time this one can save you!
Send a broadcast message
To create a custom broadcast message, all you need to do is summon the virtual assistant and say “broadcast”, “shout”, “tell everyone” or “announce” followed by your message. The words are then played aloud on all Home speakers connected to your Google account.
Alternatively, you can prompt your Home speakers to play “delightful sounds” to alert your family that you’re on your way home or that dinner’s ready, among other everyday nags using the list of preset commands shown in the table below.
|To broadcast a message for:||Say “Ok Google,” then…|
|Time to leave||“Broadcast…”|
|On the way||“Broadcast…”|
The new feature doesn’t only work with Google Home but also lets you send broadcasts from Google Assistant on your phone and the best thing is you don’t need to be on the same Wi-Fi network. This makes it a great way to pass a message on to loved ones when you’re unable to pick up your phone.
Our main concern about broadcasts is how well they’ll work if messages are totally missed when nobody is in earshot of the speaker. However, it’s still some way behind Alexa’s “Drop in”, which allows back-and-forth exchanges between speakers. More recently, Amazon launched a direct rival to Google’s Broadcast tool, called Alexa Announcements, for Echo devices, which acts as a one-way intercom system, letting you send a message to every Echo on a network.
Get the news – aloud
The interactive nature of Google Assistant makes it a perfect system for reading you – not just bringing you – your morning news, like a put-upon intern. When Google Assistant asks “How may I help you?”, simply respond, “good morning”, and it will read you the weather in your city, plus the latest news from your customised news sources. Unsurprisingly, this isn’t a morning-specific function; if you say “good afternoon” or “good evening”, Google Assistant will reel off the news according to time of day. Keeping you up to date, without you having to lift a finger. Literally.
Check the weather forecast
It’s the morning. You want to know whether you’ll get wet on your commute. Ask Google Assistant “What’s the weather today?” and it’ll give you a quick forecast for the rest of the day including expected high and low temperatures. If you already know it’s cold outside, you can be more specific and ask: “Will it rain today?” to establish whether you need to take an umbrella with you. For a longer range forecast, ask “What’s the weather forecast for the rest of this week?”
Send a WhatsApp message
If you’ve got headphones with a mic, this feature lets you send a message without taking your phone out of your pocket. For Bluetooth headphones it’ll work right off the bat, but if you’ve got a wired headset, you’ll need to change the settings. To do this, open the Google app’s Settings, then tap Voice and Hands-free, then check ‘For wired headsets’ is enabled.
After this, just say “Send a message with WhatsApp” and it’ll ask you who you want to chat with and what you want to include in your message. Finally, it reads the message back to you before confirming that you want to send it. Just remember not to shout if you’re using noise-cancelling headphones, unless you want to share your private plans with everyone around you.
Check a spelling
We’re so used to having spell checkers and keyboard apps that fix any mistakes we make that it’s easy to feel unsure of how something’s spelt when it comes to writing it by hand. But instead of picking up your phone and typing the word out, or indeed looking it up in a dictionary, a much faster solution is to ask Google Assistant how it’s spelt.
For example, you could say “Hey Google, how do you spell unnecessary?” and the virtual assistant will read aloud every one of the word’s letters, so you can easily write them down. The best thing about being able to say the command it is that you don’t need to speculatively type what you think might be the correct spelling in order for it to correct it. Providing you don’t feel too self-conscious about others knowing the words you can’t spell, this feature can be just as useful on your phone as it is your smart speaker.
At the start of March, Google brought hands-free calling to the Google Home. Simply by saying “OK Google” or “Hey Google”, followed by the person you want to call, you can ring anyone. This, of course, is already available on Google Assistant on phones and tablets, as well as Apple’s Siri. Plus, after your first call, you can set up callerID so your own number is visible to the person you’re calling, as opposed to it appearing as unknown or private. All calls are made over your Wi-Fi network.
Add multiple users
Google Home was updated in the UK in June with software enabling it to differentiate between voices so multiple people can use the same device. Up to six people can connect their own Google accounts, and the device will be able to pull up their individual information like calendars and playlists.
This setting requires the latest version of the Google Home app to be installed, then multiple users can be added by finding the “multi-user is available” card, and selecting ‘”Link your account”. Each new user has to teach Google Home what they sound like by saying “Ok Google” and “Hey Google” twice each.
Many of the basic tasks like setting alarms, timers and adding items to your shopping list will be available for any of the six registered users.
Google Home recently added the option to register multiple voices on the same device. This means you can control your own individual Google account as well as your own separate media accounts on a single speaker.
To set up Voice Match, each person needs to link one of their Google Accounts and voice to Google Home. If you have a personal Google Account and a work Google Account, you must choose which account you want to hear personal information for.
To set up Voice Match, update the Google Home app and open it once it’s been updated. You can learn more about Voice Match here.
- Make sure your phone or tablet is connected to the same Wi-Fi network as Google Home.
- Tap Menu and make sure the Google Account listed is the one you want to link to your voice. To switch accounts, click the triangle next to the Account name and choose the correct Account.
- In the top right corner of the app’s Home screen, tap Devices and select the device you’re setting up with Voice Match.
- From the device card, tap “Multi user is now available”, ‘Link your account”, or “Get personal results with Voice Match”
- If you’ve never set up Voice Match before, follow the prompts to teach your Assistant to recognise your voice.
- If you’ve set up Voice Match before, tap Continue.
- To invite others to set up Voice Match for tailored results, tap Invite.
Once set up, you can link your default music and video services, including Netflix.
Google Assistant has had support for Netflix for some time, but it recently added a small but signficant update to the partnership. Previously, you could only pair one person’s Netflix account to a single Google Home device to beam to your TV using a Chromecast. This can cause problems if you have two people watching separate shows who want to pick up where they left off. It can also cause issues with recommendations and ratings.
If This Then That (IFTTT)
Some of Google Home’s most useful abilities use the way it can pair with other tools, allowing you to create custom commands, for which there are many tutorials online. This uses the creation software If This Then That (IFTTT). Google Assistant’s Tasker app can then integrate these commands.
Get travel advice (including live traffic info)
There have been plenty of times that I’ve entered my destination into Google Maps when setting out on a lengthy journey only to discover there’s a hefty delay. Wouldn’t it be great if you could get this info before you’ve left so you can change your plans accordingly? Well, actually you can.
Ask Google “How long will it take me to X?” and it’ll tell you how long you can expect it to take using your default travel method. If the mode of traffic it suggests is not the one you plan to use, try being more specific and ask “How long will it take to get the train to X?” or “How long will it take to drive to X?” You can also say “How’s the traffic when driving to X?” if you just want to check for delays or ask “How would I get to X?” if you want instructions that you can then open in Google Maps.
To change your default travel method, open Google’s main menu and tap Customise. Swipe up until you see commute, then tap ‘View all settings’. Swipe up once again and you’ll see you can set preferences for ‘How you usually commute’ and ‘How you usually get around’.
Find the nearest restaurant
Ask Google “Where’s the best restaurant near here?” and it’ll reel off a few well-reviewed nearby eating establishments. Just take its recommendations with a bit of a pinch of salt and consider doing some more thorough follow-up research, or you might end up getting a bag of fish and chips rather than a proper sit-down dinner. Again you can be more specific and ask questions like “Where can I get pizza near here?” or “Where can I get a Chinese takeaway?”
Play your favourite music
If you don’t want to pick up your phone to change the music that’s playing, why not ask Google to take care of it? This can be invaluable for driving, when it’s not safe to touch your phone. You can also use it in the home to change what’s playing on your Chromecast Audio. Tell Google “Play me some jazz” or ask it to start playing a specific artist, album or playlist and it’ll start streaming in the relevant app. To set your default music provider, open the Google Assistant settings from Google’s main Settings menu and tap Music before choosing the service you want.
One of the best ways to ‘play’ with your Google Home is via Mad Libs but there are also a number of other tricks. Try asking Google to “Play Lucky Trivia”, “Crystal ball”, or “What are your Easter eggs?” and you’ll be treated a trove of fun ways to pass the time.
Start your car
Increasingly, new products are coming out with compatibility with the device. For example, if you own a Hyundai, you can use Google Home to start your car. Through the company’s Blue Link Agent, which launched on the company’s 2012 Sonata model, a few controls of the car can be controlled remotely using the digital assistant. This includes starting the car, setting the temperature and putting a destination address in for your next journey.
Set an alarm for the morning
This is one of the most practical uses of Google Assistant and it also comes with the least risk of embarrassment because you’ll normally only need to say it in earshot of anyone you share a bed with. Say “Set an alarm for 7am tomorrow” and that’s it, you don’t have to waste any time navigating through the clock app to enable or edit existing alarms.
Identify any song
One of the latest features to be added to Google Assistant is the option to identify a song that’s playing in the background. Summon the virtual assistant and say “What song is playing?” and it’ll produce a card showing the artist and song name along with its lyrics and shortcuts to play the song in Spotify, Google Play Music or YouTube. It might be faster than using Shazam and has the perk of not requiring you to install any additional apps, but you’ll need to be brave to reveal your embarrassing music taste to everyone around you.
Add multiple Netflix accounts to Chromecast
Google Assistant has had support for Netflix for some time, but it recently added a small but significant update to the partnership. Previously, you could only pair one person’s Netflix account to a single Google Home device to beam to your TV using a Chromecast. This can cause problems if you have two people watching separate shows who want to pick up where they left off. It can also cause issues with recommendations and ratings.
Now Google has added a multi-account feature, according to details listed in its updated support documents. If you have a personal profile on a Netflix account, you can now link it to your Google Home and set up a Voice Match. Google Home will then know who is talking to it and launch the relevant Netflix account via the Chromecast.
How to uninstall Google Assistant
Of course, if you don’t want Google Assistant listening out for your every noise, you can disable it altogether.
- Press and hold the home button and tap the inbox icon in the top-right corner
- An Explore page will load.
- Tap the three-dot button and choose Settings | Phone and you can turn Google Assistant off. This menu also lets you train your phone to your voice so it’ll unlock without you touching it.