With the launch of Google’s Pixel smartphones late last year, the firm also released Google Assistant. It offers a new way of interacting with Google Search in a conversational style.
Google Assistant is built into the Pixel phones, and can be accessed by long-pressing the home button. It’s since been added to some other flagships, too, such as the Samsung Galaxy S8 and LG G6.
In essence, Google Assistant is what loads up when you say ‘OK Google’ to a compatible phone.
With Google Assistant you can do all the same things as you previously did with Google voice search, and there are even some new commands – the Google Assistant can tell you jokes and host games, for example. (Also see: Funny things to ask Google Home and the Google Assistant.)
The main difference between Google Assistant and regular voice search is the built-in AI. The service is significantly more intelligent with the Assistant onboard.
However, the basic command “OK Google” will work with any Android phone.
What is OK Google?
“OK Google” is the voice command used to activate Google voice search on your Android smartphone and other Google devices.
This can be accessed by opening your phone’s Google Search app or Google Search widget and either tapping the microphone icon or saying “OK Google”. On some handsets (notably the Moto X) it even works when the phone is in sleep mode, while other phones have the search bar on the home screen, so you can say OK Google right there. If you’re having trouble getting it working, see our OK Google troubleshooter.
Alternatively, you can set up your Android smartphone to recognise the “OK Google” command no matter in what app or screen you’re currently browsing. Just launch the Google app on your phone, tap the three lines icon and choose Settings. Select Voice, then choose ‘OK Google detection’ and enable the option for ‘Say “OK Google” at any time’.
What can you ask OK Google?
You can ask Google pretty much anything you like. It can set alarms, make calls and texts, schedule meetings and more on your Android device. Here are some commands:
• Open (eg. techadvisor.co.uk, BBC iPlayer app)
• Take a picture/photo
• Record a video
• Set an alarm for…
• Set a timer for…
• Remind me to… (includes times and locations)
• Make a note
• Create a calendar event
• What is my schedule for tomorrow?
• Where’s my package?
• Send email to…
• Post to…
• Where is the nearest…?
• Navigate to…
• Directions to…
• Where is…?
• Show me my flight info
• Where’s my hotel?
• What are some attractions around here?
• How do you say [hello] in [Japanese]?
• What is [100 pounts] in [dollars]?
• What’s the flight status of…?
• Play some music (opens “I’m feeling lucky” radio station in Google Play Music)
• Next Song / Pause Song
• Play/watch/read… (content must be in Google Play library)
• What’s this song?
• Do a barrel roll
• Beam me up Scotty (audio response)
• Make me a sandwich (audio response)
• Up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right (audio response)
• Who are you? (audio response)
• When am I? (audio response)
For example, you might tell it to “Call Jonathan Robson”, “Show me walking directions to get home”, “Text Margo to say I’ll be home at half past seven”, “Remember to book flights tomorrow”, “Schedule a meeting tomorrow with Matt”, “Open Calendar app”, “Listen to Diamonds by Rihanna” or whatever you like.
You can also use OK Google in the kitchen as a kind of sous chef. For example, as above, you could ask it “What’s Kohlrabi?” when faced with an unknown ingredient in a recipe.
Speaking is usually quicker than typing, and using OK Google you can say “how far is it to…” and get a quick answer with a route in Google Maps from your current destination. You can be specific about the type of directions by qualifying the question: “Give me driving directions to Amsterdam”.
If you’re not in a position to use voice search, you can also type in your request.
Also see how to fix problems with the “OK Google” voice command on Android smartphones.
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