Google Now has been included in Android since version 4.1, and Android has continually added enhancements and new features to it. Google doesn’t always do a good job of publicizing these new features, however. Actually, Google rarely does a good job of explaining the enhancements, so you may not be aware of some of these capabilities. Most users, we think, are familiar with Google Now’s “Cards,” which provide information related to your location, the weather, previous Google searches and web sites you’ve visited . And you probably know that you can do voice searches with Google Now (“OK Google. Who starred in the movie Star Wars?”)  Not as many are aware of all the other things you can control with your voice.

Note: much of what is discussed in this article is dependent on your location. Some of the commands discussed may only work in the United States, others may only work in English speaking countries. If you speak English, you can enable the missing features by setting your langage preference to U.S. English.

Before talking about the voice commands themselves, one recent update to Google Now has added a very simple feature that makes voice much more convenient to use. Previously, you needed to navigate to the Google Now search page to use voice commands. You now have the option to enable voice recognition on any page, when the screen is on. And even with the screen off, as long as the phone is plugged in and charging. You can even start a voice search when your phone is locked, although we don’t suggest that. As Google points out when you select this option, anyone who gets access to your phone could bypass lock screen security and gain access to some of your personal information.

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To enable this feature, navigate to Google Now. Tap the menu button (or the menu icon on some newer devices) and then Settings. Tap Voice, then “OK Google” Detection. Select one or more of the options available, and then choose “Train voice model.”  This allows Google Now to better recognize your voice, and ignore other people who might be speaking near you.

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Now let’s look at voice searches a little bit more closely. You can, of course, speak any search you can type into a regular Google search in a web browser. “T-Mobile.” “How old is Brittany Spears?” When was the US Constitution ratified?” “Find pictures of Ariana Grande.” But since your phone knows your location, you can also narrow searches based on where you are.  Say “OK Google,” then “Find Pizza near me.” The ability to automatically include location information in your searches is a great feature of Google Now.

One of our favorite uses of Google Now’s voice commands is navigation. Instead of having to open the Maps app and type in a long complicated address (e.g., 5599 South 15th Street, NW, Albuquerque, NM), simply say “OK Google. Navigate to [an address]” It’s much easier to speak a complicated address than it is to type it in, especially if you’re already driving. To say nothing of much safer, as you don’t need to take your eyes off the road or your hands off the wheel. Even better, you can navigate to places you don’t know the complete address for. Say “OK Google. Navigate to Arcadia Brew Pub in Battle Creek Michigan.” (Great pizza, by the way!) Google will look up the restaurant, find the address, pass the address to Google Maps, and start navigation.  If the search results are ambiguous (maybe there’s more than one business with Arcadia in the name) Google will provide you a list of options to select from. If you can’t remember the name of the restaurant, you can even say things like “OK Google. Navigate to the Italian restaurant on Main Street in Columbia Maryland.”

What else can you do with Google Now voice commands?  Lot’s of things:

Navigation 

  • Find places – “Where is the nearest Italian Restaurant?”
  • Get Directions – “Directions to World Trade Center Memorail by subway” or “Directions to Air and Space museum by bicycle.” or “How do I get home?”
  • Navigate – “Navigate to [address]” or “Navigate to the Alamo”

Communication

  • Make phone calls – “Call John” (if there’s only one in your contacts) or “Call Suzie Smith”
  • Send texts – “Text David. I’m on my way. Will be a few minutes late.”
  • Send email – “Email John Doe. Subject, Great Job. Message, Thanks for handling the meeting yesterday. The client was very impressed with your subject matter expertise.”

Manage your life

  • Set  time-based reminders – “Remind me to buy flowers tomorrow afternoon” or “Remind me to get a flu shot on Friday”
  • Set location-based reminders – “Remind me to call Frank when I get to work” or Remind me to take out the trash when I get home” (This only works if you’ve defined those locations to Google.)
  • Create calendar events – “Lunch with Ana, Friday at 1 pm.” or “Meeting with Frank, Tuesday at 9:00 am.”
  • Set an alarm – ” Set an alarm for 6:00 am”
  • Set a timer – “Set timer for 50 minutes”  (Great for not forgetting when your parking meter is going to run out.)
  • Make a note – “Note to self: Update my computer”

Find information on your phone

  • Contact information – “Find Brenda’s phone number” or “Find Bill Mahr’s address”  (Works with your contacts. Does not do a White Pages search.)
  • Calendar information – “What’s my schedule on Monday?” or “What does my day look like tomorrow?”

Control your phone

  • Run an application – “Open Chrome” or “Open Spotify”
  • Control the camera – “Take a Picture” or “Take a Photo”

Travel

  • Find destinations – “Where is Stonehenge?”
  • Decide where to eat – “Show me the menu for Cafe de Paris” and make reservations – “Call Cafe de Paris”
  • Review travel arrangements – “Show me my flight info” (must be in you Gmail inbox) or “What is the flight status of United flight 137?”
  • Avoid getting lost – “Where’s my hotel” (also must be in Gmail)
  • Decide what to see – “What are some attractions near here?”
  • Translate – “How do you say ‘Good morning’ in Japanese?”
  • Convert prices – “What is 10,000 yen in dollars?”
  • Get something to eat – “Find restaurants near here”

Do math  

  • “What’s the tip on 54 dollars?”
  • “Divide 156 by 5” (Great for dividing restaurant checks.)

There are probably even more voice commands available. Have you found any that aren’t listed above?  If so, let us know.  If you haven’t used these, give them a try. Pronunciation can be critical in order for Google Now to provide the right results, so be sure to speak slowly and clearly.

And as good as Google Now voice commands are, you can actually add even more commands with a helpful app called Commandr for Google Now. See our article about this app, here, for more information.

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