OK, Google: 20+ Useful Things You Can Say To Your Android Phone

“Computer, find me the best route to Mars”. Sounds familiar? If you grew up in the 80s, 90s, or even the 00s, this was the symbol of the future. We saw our sci-fi heroes do it on screen, and we dreamed of being able to talk to our devices ourselves. Tell them what to do, ask them questions, and have them answer immediately. Well, it’s not science fiction anymore.

Slowly, without us noticing, the future has arrived. Voice recognition is something we take for granted, and Siri, and all the awesome things it can do, is a household name. Google’s live-in phone intelligence goes by the less catchy moniker of Google Now, but many of us know it simply as “OK Google”. It can conduct Google searches for you and call people for you, but did you know it can do much more?

Here are the best things you can say to your Android phone. Try them. If you don’t, you’re not really living in the future!

Before We Start

Google voice commands work via the Google Now app. The app generally works on Android 4.0+ (but there may be some exceptions), and is also available for iOS devices running iOS 6 and higher. If you’re on Android 4.0-4.3, or on iOS, you’ll need to launch Google Now and say “OK Google” or tap the microphone button to get it to listen to you. If, however, you’re already using Android 4.4, you can simply say “OK Google” when on your homepage to get Google Now to listen.

There are many Google voice commands out there. Not all of them work right, and not all of them work everywhere. For this post, I tried every command I could find. If it didn’t work, I didn’t include it. If it works only in some countries, you’ll find it at the end of this post. Most of the commands below work worldwide, but many are not without their quirks, as you shall soon see.

Phone Calls & Texts

phone calls   OK, Google: 20+ Useful Things You Can Say To Your Android Phone

This is an easy one, so if you’re not using it yet, you may want to start. Google can call anyone on your contact list or businesses around you. Tell it to “call contact” or “call business” to initiate a call. If the name appears once in your contact list, the app will simply initiate the call. If that person or has more than one number, or if there are several businesses that answer to the same name, you’ll be prompted to choose the one you want to call.

On a similar note, you can also use the command “text contact” to initiate a text message. Not only that, you can dictate the text message itself while you’re at it. For example, try saying “text <contact> I’ll be right there”. All you’ll have to do then is choose the app you want to use to send it. You can edit the text, too, if you want.

The only real downside with both these features is that Google doesn’t do a very good job understanding names if they’re not regular English names.

Getting Directions

directions   OK, Google: 20+ Useful Things You Can Say To Your Android Phone

You probably already know you can ask Google for directions to anywhere. After all, Google Maps is the navigation method of choice for many users, even if they’re not on Android. But did you know you can ask for more than mere directions?

To start, you can use the commands “directions to“, “navigate to“, and even “how to get to“. Then either say an exact address or a landmark name, and most chances Google will recognize it. If there are several place with a similar name, it will let you choose between them before it switches over to Google Maps for the actual directions.

Want to walk somewhere? Bike somewhere? Use public transport? No problem. A simple command like “walking directions to” or “transit directions to” will get you on the right track.

As a bonus, you can also use the command “map of” with an address, a name, a city, etc., to open Google Maps on that spot, or ask Google “where am I” to get a map of your current location.

Events & Reminders

You can use voice commands to create anything from actual calendar events (in Google Calendar), to reminders, to alarms, to notes. All using simple commands. When creating a reminder, all you have to say is “remind me to” and then state what you want it to remind you and when. For example, “remind me to wash the car on Saturday”. Google will know to set a reminder to “wash the car”, and set it for the right day. You can also add a time, if you want. After setting the reminder, you can find it again in Settings -> My Stuff.

Reminders can get even more sophisticated if you use geo-location. Try saying things like “remind me to feed the cat when I get home”. If Google doesn’t know where “home” is, you can set a location for it to remember. This can work with businesses too. For example, “remind me to buy eggs when I get to the store”. Sometimes, though, Google won’t recognize places and will just attempt to set regular reminders. This feature is improved in Android KitKat.

reminder   OK, Google: 20+ Useful Things You Can Say To Your Android Phone

If you want to write a short note for yourself, you can use the command “note to self” and dictate the note. You can then save it in Google Keep, or any other app you use for such purposes.

Setting events is very similar, although I couldn’t manage to get Google to understand me as well as it did for reminders. To create an event, say “create an event” or “create a calendar event“, and state the event, the day or date and the time. You can also use the command “schedule a meeting” as in “schedule a meeting for tomorrow with Tom”. For some reason, though, Google kept scheduling things like “Birthday on Saturday” for today, instead of scheduling “Birthday” for Saturday.

Last thing you can do is set alarms. This is as simple as saying “set alarm” and specifying the time, or the time from now. For example, “set alarm to 3 hours from now”. You will be able to use any alarm app you want for this.

In-Phone Navigation

How lazy can we get in the future? The answer is “very”. Use Google to open Web pages you want to browse and even to open apps on your phone. Is it easier then tapping an app icon? Maybe, maybe not. But one thing’s for sure: it’s more fun.

phone navigation   OK, Google: 20+ Useful Things You Can Say To Your Android Phone

To open an app, simple say “open” and the name of the app you want to launch. To go to a Web page, say “go to” and give Google the URL. For example, if you say “go to makeuseof.com”, your browser will open on MakeUseOf!

Writing Emails & Posting To Google+

It can remind you to do things, it can add short notes for you, but did you know Google can also write whole email for you? And without ever launching your email app? Granted, I wouldn’t recommend using this for long emails, but if you’re only sending a line or two, you can easily do this from Google Now.

emails   OK, Google: 20+ Useful Things You Can Say To Your Android Phone

If you want to keep things simple, just say “email” or “send email” and specify a contact. This will initiate the email, letting you type it in yourself. If you want to go all out, say something like “email mom subject hello message I’m coming to visit you soon”.

In much the same way, you can initiate Google+ posts by saying “post to Google plus“.

Ask Questions (Of Course)

Everyone knows Google knows everything. You probably also know you can ask Google Now questions, and most of the time, get answers. The sky is truly the limit here. Try asking things like “Is it raining?”, “How many GB pounds in 1 dollar?”, “How much is 54 times 23?”, “What is the status of Delta flight 997?” and even things like “When is my next meeting?”. You can pretty much ask it anything. Try saying “<name of movie> tickets” to find where a movie is showing.

You can even tell it to “show me pictures of cute cats” or “show me Maple Leafs hockey scores” and it will gladly do so. In short, try anything. Chances are, Google will surprise you.

questions   OK, Google: 20+ Useful Things You Can Say To Your Android Phone

Music & TV Fun (Doesn’t Work Worldwide)

Even though none of the following options work for me, I thought I’d mention them in case they do for you. My guess is these work in the US, Canada, and several countries in Europe, but I couldn’t find an official list anywhere.

While watching TV, try telling Google “listen to TV“. Google should recognize the show you’re watching and display relevant cards with interesting information.

While listening to a song, ask Google “what’s this song?” and it should recognize it for you (if it doesn’t, there are some other great music-recognition apps you can try).

And finally, you can tell Google to play songs and movies for you. Tell it “I want to listen to” or “play me songs from“, or simply “play me some“, and specify names of artists or albums. You can also say “watch” and a movie name.

Do You Know Any More?

As far as I can tell, I tried every Google voice command out there. Do you know any that I missed? I’d be more than happy to hear about them!

38 Comments - Write a Comment

0 votes
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Jon

This is great!

0 votes
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will

you can also just say OK Google and it should shoe you a list. sorta hire like siri works.

https://db.tt/1jXLjbWL

0 votes
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Dishon

Ask Google “make me a sandwich” and you’ll get a funny reply. ;)
One thing I found is that it understands what we are asking. For example we can ask “Who is Emma Watson” and next we can simply ask “How old is she” without having to repeat the name again and so on.

0 votes

Lee

The second part of that joke is “sudo make me a sandwhich” and it will say “OK”

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Brian

“The only real downside with both these features is that Google doesn’t do a very good job understanding names if they’re not regular English names.”

You can set a phonetic name in Google contacts.

0 votes

Yaara L

My names are written in English, and I use the phonetic name field sometimes. But it just doesn’t do a good job in recognizing them when I say them.

0 votes

asdfasd

noone cares about non english things :D

1 votes
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Gary F Moody

I use the FIND command often and it is super helpful…
I.e.
Pizza, Italian Food, Gas Station, Movies, Person’s Name, Calories in a slice of pepperoni pizza, The time in (city/country), Ounces in a Gallon, website URL, Directions to (location), Amazing Android Applications, and finally “Why Android is Better than Apple”.

0 votes

Yaara L

Awesome!

0 votes
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Joel

Is there a way to get Navigation to provide directions to a contact’s address yet? If so, I’d love to learn how. When I say “Navigate” to “[Contact's name]“, it doesn’t work.

0 votes

Matt

You have to set an address for them in your contacts.

0 votes
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Joel

Of course! I already have their addresses in the contact information. It still has not worked for me to date. If this is something that has changed, I’ll be delighted to find out about it.

0 votes
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Joel

I tried this on my Samsung Galaxy Note 3 (Verizon, Android 4.3) this morning and if I say “Navigate to so-and-so” or “Navigate to Contact: So and so” it doesn’t work. If you can tell me how it’s accomplished, I’d be most grateful.

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Nick Johnson

Saying “ok google” gives you a nice list of actions you can do.

0 votes
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Víktor

You say Music & TV don’t work worldwide. In fact, I’m in Western Europe and only works (when in English): open something; call someone (pronouncing the name in an English accent, of course!).

So, I’d say almost nothing works worldwide.

0 votes

Yaara L

I’m in the Western Asia and everything I tried worked for me. I see no reason it shouldn’t work in Europe if it works here, but there might be surprises. Which device and version of Android are you using?

0 votes
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Don Gateley

Love it! I said ok, Google to get the list and said one of the examples, “play some Paloma Faith” and it translated that to “play some cum on her face.” Honest!

2 votes
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Henk van Setten

In a few years from now, Android 5.0 will get even more advanced features.
Rumors are that Google’s UI designers have developed a radically new take on how to interact with your phone. In the future, the screen will show little customizable images (they will be called “icons”) that can immediately activate any dedicated command with just one simple tap from your fingertip — without having to stumble around yelling commands and having to yell them again when they’re misunderstood.
This really advanced interface would allow us to execute commands in complete silence, without bystanders even noticing what you’re doing!
It’s a pity we’ll still have to wait a few years for this tremendous improvement.

2 votes

cb

Sounds good but still manual. The feature I’m waiting to work is spouse 2.0. You say “make me dinner” and it does. Version 1.0 works some of the time, but you keep having to add “please”, and it takes about 30 years to work out what you actually like for dinner.

0 votes
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Mark M

^^laughin’ at cb’s comments^^….
but somewhere deep down in a basement at the Google Corp. some underpaid techie’s goin’…”hhuuummmm” I wonder….

0 votes
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Juspar

Has anyone found a way to change settings? eg. Turn wifi off; set volume to vibrate?

0 votes
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Will

Ask Google Now, how much wood would a wood chuck chuck if a wood chuck could chuck wood and she will tell you.

0 votes

Yaara L

That shes does! She’s smart. :)

0 votes

Daniel

Funny!

0 votes
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Jay

Awesome!

Thanks for the summary.

0 votes
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Anonymous

Hello Folks I have found the word “Explain”…. seems to work at least sometimes, it sometimes gives a verbal explanation other times it Wiki’s.

CB: I already have a model of Spouse 2 but I am afraid its old tech now they have gone out of production the manufacvturer is not intending to make a new version

0 votes
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Anonymous

Hello Folks I have found the word “Explain”…. seems to work at least sometimes, it sometimes gives a verbal explanation other times it Wiki’s.

CB: I already have a model of Spouse 2 but I am afraid its old tech now they have gone out of production the manufacvturer is not intending to make a new version

0 votes
Reply

Zero

Hello Folks I have found the word “Explain”…. seems to work at least sometimes, it sometimes gives a verbal explanation other times it Wiki’s.

CB: I already have a model of Spouse 2 but I am afraid its old tech now they have gone out of production the manufacvturer is not intending to make a new version

0 votes
Reply

Zero

Hello Folks I have found the word “Explain”…. seems to work at least sometimes, it sometimes gives a verbal explanation other times it Wiki’s.

CB: I already have a model of Spouse 2 but I am afraid its old tech now they have gone out of production the manufacvturer is not intending to make a new version

0 votes
Reply

Zero

Hello Folks I have found the word “Explain”…. seems to work at least sometimes, it sometimes gives a verbal explanation other times it Wiki’s.

CB: I already have a model of Spouse 2 but I am afraid its old tech now they have gone out of production the manufacvturer is not intending to make a new version

0 votes
Reply

Zero

Hello Folks I have found the word “Explain”…. seems to work at least sometimes, it sometimes gives a verbal explanation other times it Wiki’s.

CB: I already have a model of Spouse 2 but I am afraid its old tech now they have gone out of production the manufacvturer is not intending to make a new version

0 votes
Reply

Wassim Taher

You can also say “open application name” to load any application installed on your device.

0 votes
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someone says

Execute audible opens the app, but that’s as far as I can get it

0 votes
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Ty

If I Ask Ok Google To Call My Phone Will The Number Show On Billing StatemNt? I Ask Because I Was ToLd It DOes Not.

0 votes
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Adrian

Try. “Show me the traffic”

0 votes
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veno8mm

Spell. Because im dumb. And sometimes autocorrect just gives up tryong to gess what im typing. It is awesome

0 votes
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Matthew M.

For all the hype that voice recognition programs like Siri and Google Now receive, I’ve never seen anyone really use them that much, myself included. In the case of (at least) Google Now, I think this is primarily due to three things: the limited set of both recognizable AND executable commands/sub-commands, and also non-Google and weird-titled apps.
Even as late as 4.4 Kitkat, I’ve had trouble trying to voice-dial a number that isn’t listed as either home or mobile (most often this happens when I try to call an “other” number). GN isn’t even able to do things as simple as toggling Wifi, Bluetooth or GPS, which I feel is too fundamental a function to be omitted.
Lastly, I have not seen GN work well with apps not made by Google, and there’s no option to select apps to use for certain commands in the way the general Android interface allows for things like messaging or Web browsing when multiple capable apps are installed. For example, I use Amazon MP3 as my music player rather than Google Play Music, which I have disabled just to help de-clutter my app drawer a bit, and while I’ve seen many examples of orally calling a song up in Play Music work, all I get with my configuration is the option to buy the song from Google Play. The other shortcoming is when you try to call up an app that has a run-on or really unique/whacked-out name (some apps I use with names like this include “TextSecure” and “Lazors”), because GN interprets the spoken name as either the two separate words, or can’t parse the title correctly or even at all sometimes, and thus simply returns a Google search, and there’s no way to “train” it or add information as to what it should be looking for given certain words and context.

So, when you add all that up, I’d say Google Now does some things amazingly, and other things terribly. It’s great for some purposes as described in the article, but it’s far from perfect. Here’s hoping time will help change that.

0 votes
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theresa

Say beam me up Scotty to your apple or android and it will give you an amusing answer!! They are hopefully adding more of those amusing playful answers to silly statements or questions!!

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