(Pocket-lint) – Google Assistant is the software giant’s voice assistant and its answer to Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa. You can ask Assistant almost anything, and it will understand your words in context, serving up relevant results in a conversational manner.
By default, it’s preloaded on to pretty much every Android phone, and when you first set up your phone it’ll take you through the basics of getting started.
To help you figure out everything Assistant does on the phone, we’ve rounded up some expert tips and tricks. If you have a Nest or Google Home device, we have a separate tips and tricks feature you can read to get the most out of those devices.
Google Assistant tips and tricks
Many of the tips below were written with the Pixel 5 phone in hand running Android 11, though they will work on other Google-Assistant compatible phones too – pretty much all Android phones, as well as iOS devices with the Google Assistant app. You might find the settings menus are in different places, however.
When you first get your Assistant on your smartphone you’ll be asked to use Google Assistant and “OK Google” always-on voice detection. You’ll have to set up an “OK Google” voice model so that the phone can recognise your voice at any time and activate Google Assistant to serve your needs (whether that be to play music, fetch the weather forecast, or whatever).
Pick the right Google account for Assistant
Google Assistant feeds off your Google account. It’s important to make sure that you setup Assistant with the same account that you’re going to be asking it to find information from, especially when it comes to photos.
If you use one account for Assistant and a different account for your Google Photos, then it won’t have access.
Google Assistant has a Settings menu. Under this menu, you can do everything from adjust your “OK Google” voice model to viewing a summary of your activity generated by Assistant.
To access Assistant’s Settings menu: Open the Settings app > Apps & notifications > Assistant. From there, tap on the ‘See all Assistant Settings’ option to get access to all of the settings.
Alternatively, open the Google Assistant app by saying ‘Ok Google’, tap on the Snapshot icon in the bottom left and then tap on the circular profile icon in the top right corner > Tap on the Assistant tab and you’ll see the various submenus.
Open the Google Assistant settings and tap on the Assistant tab. Scroll all the way down to Assistant devices and tap on the device you want to remove or add Google Assistant to.
When you click on the device, you will see Google Assistant at the top. Toggle on to enable Assistant and off to disable Assistant. When you turn on the toggle, you give Assistant permission to answer questions and get things done.
Customise your news list
Open the Google Assistant settings > Tap on the Services tab under your name and email > Scroll down to News and tap it to customise your news list.
From here, you will be able to add news sources if you scroll to the bottom. You can also change the order by tapping the ‘Change Order’ tab on the right at the top of your news list. Tapping on the ‘x’ next to a news source will remove it from your list of News Sources.
Customise ‘My Day’ summary
Open the Google Assistant settings > Tap on the Assistant tab under your name and email > Tap on Routines > Tap on Good Morning. From here you can customise your daily briefing.
You can select from a handful of options, including taking your phone off silent, adjusting compatible smart devices, finding out the weather, work commute, reminders, whether you’d like to end your day with a narration of the news, etc. You can also add an action, such as play music, at the end.
Access Shopping List
Open the Google Assistant and tap the little ‘Snapshot’ icon in the bottom left corner. Now scroll until you see the ‘Shopping’ label beneath ‘This Week’. Now you can add items to this list. Or you simple say something like ‘Ok Google, add chorizo and milk to my shopping list’.
Enable follow-up questions
Google Assistant has a ‘Continued Conversation’ mode which allows you to ask a follow up question after being given a response by Google Assistant. Rather than have to use the ‘Hey Google’ wake word again. Go to your Google Assistant settings and and choose ‘Continue Conversation’, then choose which device you want to enable it on.
Enable/disable screen context
Open the Google Assistant settings > Tap on the Assistant tab under your name > Scroll down to Assistant devices > Tap on your phone > Scroll down to ‘Use Screen Context’ and toggle on or off.
When you turn on the toggle, you give Assistant permission to show you info related to what’s on your screen. It might show you relevant links in YouTube or IMDB, for instance.
Change your Assistant language
Open the Google Assistant settings > Tap on the Assistant tab under your name > Tap on Languages > Tap on ‘Add a Language’ to choose a language for speaking to your Assistant.
Enable/disable always-on ‘OK Google’
Open the Google Assistant settings > Tap on the Assistant tab under your name > Scroll down to Assistant devices > Tap on your phone > Scroll down to ‘Access with Voice Match’ and toggle on or off.
Turn on the toggle to give Assistant permission to recognise your voice whenever you say “OK Google” – even if your screen is off or you’re using an app. This makes Assistant always-on.
Use ‘OK Google’ to unlock device
Open the Google Assistant settings > Tap on the Assistant tab under your name > Scroll down to Assistant devices > Tap on your phone > Scroll down to ‘Lock screen personal results’.
Toggle on to allow voice match to send messages and access email, calendar, contacts and more when your phone is locked.
Retrain ‘OK Google’ voice model
Open the Google Assistant settings > Tap on the Assistant tab under your name > Scroll down to Assistant devices > Tap on your phone > Scroll down to ‘Voice Model’ > Retrain voice model.
You’ll then have to say ‘OK Google’ a few times so that Assistant can remember and recognise how you say the phrase. It can then use the phrase as a wake word and device-unlock word.
Delete ‘OK Google’ voice model
Open the Google Assistant settings > Tap on the Assistant tab under your name > Scroll down to Assistant devices > Tap on your phone > Scroll down to ‘Voice Model’ > Delete Voice Model.
Google Assistant then won’t be able to remember or recognise how you say the phrase. Keep in mind you then can’t use the phrase.
Set your home and work locations
Open the Google Assistant settings > Tap on the ‘You’ tab > Scroll down to Your Places.
From there, you’ll see the option to add your Home and work addresses. You can also add additional places by tapping on ‘Add a new place’.
Set your nickname
Open the Google Assistant settings > Tap on the Your Info tab > Scroll down to Nickname. Click on it to decide what Google Assistant calls you. You can also test that Google knows how to say it correctly.
Change weather units
Open the Google Assistant settings > Tap on the Your Info tab > Scroll down to Weather > Choose between Fahrenheit or Celsius.
Set up a compatible smart home device
Open the Google Assistant settings > Tap on the Home tab under your name and email > Press ‘Add’ to add a device, speaker group or service. Follow the instructions. Once a device is setup, you’ll be able to use Google Assistant to control it.
Read our separate feature on some of the best Google Assistant compatible smart home devices available to buy.
View ‘My Activity’ summary
Open the Google Assistant settings > Tap on the three vertical dots in the top right corner of your screen > Tap on My Activity.
Things you can say and do with Google Assistant
Google Assistant is your personal assistant. It can play music for you, set reminders, check your flight, and plenty more. Here’s a few things you can say and do with Assistant using just your voice.
You just have to say “OK Google” or or swipe up from the left or right corner of the screen on Pixel devices. Other Android manfuacturers usually use the power/sleep button to wake up the assistant, so pressing that for a short while will activate Google Assistant in a lot of cases. On iOS devices, open the Google Assistant app.
To ask Assistant to play some music, say “OK Google” followed by “play some music”, “play some Jazz”, “play some workout music”, “listen to Daft Punk”, or “listen to Imagine on Spotify”, etc.
You can set your default music app in the Services tab of Google Assistant’s settings and it will automatically play from that music from that source.
Watch something on Netflix
To fire up Netflix and get watching, say “OK Google” followed by what you want to watch: “Watch Umbrella Academy on Netflix”. This will open Umbrella Academy on Netflix. You don’t have to watch Umbrella Academy, but you should, it’s good.
Listen to news
To ask Assistant to narrate news from sources you’ve pre-selected, say “OK Google” followed by “what’s the news”, “international news”, “what’s the news about the US elections”, or “sports news”, etc.
Control smart devices
To ask Assistant to control compatible smart devices, you’ll need to set them up. After which, you can say “Ok Google”, followed by “turn the kitchen lights off”, “tell Deebot to clean the kitchen”, “turn up the heating”, etc.
Ask about your day
To ask Assistant for your daily briefing, say “OK Google” followed by “good morning”, “good afternoon”, or “good evening”, etc. You’ll get the weather, upcoming meetings, a news narration, etc.
To ask Assistant to set reminders for you, say “OK Google” followed by “set a reminder…”, ” remind me to buy milk”, “remind me to buy milk tonight”, “remind me to call mum”, or “remind me to do laundry when I get home”, etc.
To ask Assistant to set an alarm for you, say “OK Google” followed by “set an alarm…”, “wake me up at 9AM”, wake me up at 10AM everyday”, “set my alarm for 8AM”, or “show my alarms”, etc.
Ask about the weather
To ask Assistant about the weather, say “OK Google” followed by “what’s the weather”, “will it rain tomorrow”, “how hot is it outside”, “what’s the temperature”, or “forecast for the weekend”, etc.
Fetch sports news
To ask Assistant about sports news, say “OK Google” followed by “Did the Red Sox win”, “Did Arsenal win”, “tell me sports news”, “when’s the baseball game”, “who is the fastest man alive”, or “what is the Real Madrid roster” etc.
Ask a question
To ask Assistant a general question, say “OK Google” and then ask any question, such as “who is Archimedes”, “how far is the moon”, “how many ounces in a cup”, or “how many ounces in a pound”, or “what is a dangling participle” etc. In many cases, Google will read the information back to you, telling you the source.
Find stuff nearby
To ask Assistant to find stuff nearby, say “OK Google” followed by commands like “find a restaurant”, “nearby events”, “nearby hotel”, “what are some nearby pubs”, or “what comedy movies are playing” etc.
Find stuff while traveling
To ask Assistant to find stuff while you’re traveling, say “OK Google” followed by “flights to New York”, “hotels in Boston”, “restaurants in Barcelona”, “where can I hike in France”, or “Is United flight 16 on time”, etc.
Check your next flight or booking
Google Assistant will know things about your booked trave if you have confirmations sent through to a Gmail account. Just say “OK Google” then “what’s my next flight” and you’ll get a list of upcoming flights. You can also ask “when am I going to Barcelona?” and you’ll get the details of your Barcelona flight, for example.
Do real-time translations
To ask Assistant to do real-time translations for you, say “OK Google” followed by “‘Hello’ in Spanish”, “‘Thank you’ in Japanese”, “What’s ‘Good morning’ in Italian”, or “Translate ‘airport’ to French” etc.
Place a call
To ask Assistant to place a call for you, say “OK Google” followed by “call Sally”, “make a phone call”, “call Alice Walker”, or “call mum at home”, etc.
Send a message
To ask Assistant to send a message for you, say “OK Google” followed by “send a message”, “text Eric”, “send a WhatsApp message”, “text Alice arriving at 5pm”, or “tell Sally I’ll be 5 mins late”, etc.
To ask Assistant to set a timer, say “OK Google” followed by “set a timer”, “countdown 1 minute”, “start a timer for 10 mins”, or “set a timer for 5 minutes”, etc.
Open any app
To ask Assistant to open an app for you, say “OK Google” followed by “open YouTube”, “Open Calendar”, or “Open Wi-Fi Settings”, etc.
Search Play Store
To ask Assistant to find an app for you in Play Store, say “OK Google” followed by “Facebook in Play Store”, “WhatsApp in Play Store”, “Uber in Play Store”, or “Twitter in Play Store”, etc.
To ask Assistant to search Google, say “OK Google” followed by “search for…” followed by whatever you’re looking for – be it vacation idea, zebra facts, funny one-liners, or facts about the moon, etc.
See what’s on your calendar
To ask Assistant to look at your calendar, say “OK Google” followed by “what’s on my calendar”.
Show your photos, show photos of your dog, food, kids
To ask Assistant to show your Google Photos, say “OK Google” followed by “show me my photos”. Google Photos knows that photos contain, so it will also return photos of objects, like your dog, food, kids or places, just say “show my pictures of cars” and you’ll get your car photos displayed.
See your emails
To ask Assistant to show your Gmail emails, say “OK Google” followed by “show me my emails”. This will display emails from your linked account.
Voice dictate in apps
To use Assistant to dictate in supported messaging apps, including Google’s own Messaging app, tap the microphone icon in your keyboard.
To ask Assistant to help you navigate, say “OK Google” followed by “navigate home”, “navigate to work”, “directions to 100 Main Street”, “Navigate to the nearest coffee shop”, or “navigate to the post office”, etc. This will calculate the route and open up Google Maps Navigation.
Unlock your device
To ask Assistant to unlock your device, simply say “OK Google” (must enabled in Google Assistant Settings). If you’re in a loud place, it might not recognise your voice properly.
Take a selfie
Google Assistant will help with this essential task. Simply say “OK Google” followed by “take a selfie”. This will instantly open the camera and start a 3 2 1 countdown. Remember to smile.
Toss a coin
The universal method of decision making. Say “OK Google” and then “toss a coin”. Assistant will toss that coin and let you know if it’s heads or tails.
Turn on flashlight
“OK Google” then “turn on flashlight” will turn on the flash on your phone. Great for peering into dark holes.
Fun and games
Google Assistant can be funny, like Siri. And it’s good at keeping your mind occupied when you’re feeling bored. Here’s a few things that Assistant can do beyond working day and night to serve your every need.
Play a game
To ask Assistant to play a game, simply say “OK Google” followed by “play a game”.
To ask Assistant to play trivia, simply say “OK Google” followed by “play trivia”. It’ll then let you choose from various subjects, such as maths, geography, entertainment, etc.
Say ‘I’m bored’
To ask Assistant to entertain you, simply say “OK Google” followed by “I’m bored”. It’ll then let you play a game, or tell you a joke. It’ll even “surprise you with some random fun”.
Ask for a poem
To ask Assistant to recite a poem, simply say “OK Google” followed by “recite a poem”.
Ask for a joke
To ask Assistant to tell you a joke, simply say “OK Google” followed by “tell me a joke”. You can then ask for one more.
Ask for a random number
Say “OK Google” followed by “tell me a random number”. What comes next may surprise you.
Ask the ultimate riddle
Tolkien fans will be familiar with this one. Say “OK Google” then “what have I got in my pocket?”. You’re welcome.
What’s the meaning of life?
Fans of Douglas Adams might be less impressed: Say “OK Google” then “what’s the meaning of life?”. Comedy is great, but we’re a little saddened by the result.
I’m feeling lucky
This the perhaps the jewel in the crown of Google Assistant’s skills. Say “OK Google” followed by “I’m feeling lucky”. We won’t ruin the surprise, but Google Assistant really goes to town in dealing with Google’s iconic question.
Finally, getting more philosophical…
Try asking Google Assistant “when am I?”
Writing by Maggie Tillman and Britta O’Boyle.