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(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.

If you have an Android phone there's a very good chance you already have Google Assistant installed. In fact, 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. 

Getting started

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.

Adjust settings

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.

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. Scroll down and you'll find various Google Assistant settings. 

Customise your news list

Open the Google Assistant settings > 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 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. 

Change your Assistant language

Open the Google Assistant settings > 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 > Scroll down to '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 > Scroll down to 'Personal results' > Toggle on '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 > Scroll down to 'Voice Match' and now select 'Teach your Assistant your voice again'. 

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 > Scroll down to 'Voice Match' > Scroll down to 'Remove from eligible devices'.

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 > Scroll down to 'Your Places'.

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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'.

Teach Google to recognise your face

Open Google Assistant settings and find 'Face Match'. Now tap on 'set up Face Match' to get Google to recognise your face so that it only shows you info that's only meant for you. 

Change weather units

Open the Google Assistant settings > Scroll down to Weather > Choose between Fahrenheit or Celsius.

Set up a compatible smart home device

Open the Google Assistant settings > Tap 'Devices' > 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.

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 sometimes 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.

Play music

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.

Set reminders

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.

Set alarms

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.

Set timers

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.

Search Google

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.

Get directions

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".

Play trivia

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. Editing by Cam Bunton. Originally published on 18 October 2016.