Why Every Android User Needs to Be Using “OK Google”

Joel Lee 28-04-2016

Google has been working on a lot of interesting developments throughout 2016, but one of its most useful services has been around since 2012: Google Now, which is basically the Android version of Siri, Cortana, and Alexa.


These intelligent personal assistants were long seen as nothing more than gimmicks, but they’ve made some huge advancements over the last year or two, and Google Now is now packed full of amazing features that will make your life easier.

And then there’s “OK Google”, which allows you to interact with Google Now using nothing more than voice commands. If you haven’t been using it, maybe we can convince you to start and show you how to set it up.

What Can OK Google Do?

Most people are skeptical. Is OK Google just a silly shtick or does it actually provide real world value? Well, here are some examples of what OK Google can do. You be the judge!

That last one is extremely important and probably the most useful way to use OK Google as of this writing. Being able to control most aspects of your phone in a hands-free manner while driving Do Everything in the Car Hands Free With Google Now You don't have to text and drive. In fact, you can do a lot with only your voice while driving -- even more than texting! Read More isn’t just convenient, but could end up saving your life. Start using these amazing navigation voice commands 8 Voice Tricks for Google Navigation That You Never Knew About With "OK Google" enabled, you'll never have to touch Google Maps again. These voice tricks will make sure of that! Read More to get next turn directions, change your destination, or even find nearby gas stations.

Another way that OK Google can come in handy is its ability to integrate with third-party apps: Trello, WhatsApp, OneNote, Pandora, etc. And you can control those third-party apps with just your voice Use Google Now to Control Third-Party Apps with Your Voice Google Now isn't just limited to Google services; in fact, it integrates really well with a bunch of popular apps. Read More . “Play Taylor Swift on Pandora” is better than tapping a million buttons, isn’t it. Plus, OK Google is also available on Chromebooks, which is a nice bonus.


How to Set Up OK Google

Are you convinced yet? If so, great! Now how do you start taking advantage of it? Well, most modern Android phones come equipped with it already, but if it isn’t enabled by default, you’ll have to turn it on manually.

All you need is the Google app. This app has more features than just OK Google, such as quickly searching the web no matter what you’re doing on your phone, or getting personalized results based on your location and search activity.

Now launch the Google app, open the menu at the top left, and tap Settings. Navigate to the Voice submenu, tap “OK Google” detection, and make sure the option labeled From the Google app is enabled.



Make sure you have the latest version of the Google app! At the very least, you’ll want the app version 3.5 or later. Also, OK Google is only available if you have an Android 4.4 KitKat device or later.

However, we also recommend enabling From any screen to really unlock its power. If you do this, you’ll have to say “OK Google” three times out loud so the app can recognize your voice — that way nobody can randomly hijack your phone just by saying the phrase. You can retrain later if necessary.

That’s it! You could stop here, but there are a few other settings that you should tweak according to your good pleasure:

  • Always On: Allows you to activate OK Google even when your device’s screen is off. Only available on certain device models, including the Nexus 6, Nexus 9, and Samsung Note 4.
  • Trusted Voice: Allows you to activate OK Google while on a lock screen so you don’t have to fumble to unlock it first. However, it will only react to your own trusted voice.
  • Personal Results: Whether or not voice search queries should return personal results, regardless of whether or not your device is locked.

Note that some of these features may not be available on your particular device for whatever reason, so if anything is missing, that may be why.


Important OK Google Commands

There’s a lot you can do. This is not an exhaustive list, but it’s close to one. Google doesn’t provide a full list of available commands, so if you don’t see anything here for what you want to do, you can try asking it to Google anyway.

To use these, say “OK Google” followed by the command syntax.


  • Call (contact)
  • Text (contact) (message)
  • Send email to (contact), subject (subject), message (message), full stop
  • Show me emails from (contact)
  • Post to (social network) that (status update message)
  • Video call (contact) using Hangouts
  • Listen to voicemail


  • Remind me to (task)
  • Set an alarm for (time)
  • Set an alarm for every (day) at (time)
  • Set a timer for (duration)
  • Show me messages from (contact)
  • Show me messages from (contact) about (filter)
  • Show me my calendar
  • Create a calendar event for (task) in (location), (day) at (time)


Note that some of these commands only work with Google Play apps like Music The Best Music Player on Android: Google Play Music Reviewed Google Play Music is a music streaming service, a local music player, and a podcast player all mashed into one. And it's great. Read More or Books Reading A Book On Your Android Device? Google Play Books Makes It Easy Let's take a look at Google's stab at the fast-growing eBook market. Read More .

  • Play (song title)
  • What is this song?
  • Read (book title)
  • What’s on TV?
  • What movies are playing tonight?
  • Take a picture
  • Take a selfie
  • Record a video


  • Navigate to (location)
  • Directions to (location)
  • Where’s the closest (search term)?
  • What’s my next turn?
  • When will I get there?
  • (Exit/resume) navigation


  • What is (term)?
  • Who is (person)?
  • Define (term)
  • Synonyms for (term)
  • Etymology for (term)
  • What’s the phone number for (business)?
  • How late is (business) open?
  • What’s the weather like?
  • What is (math calculation)?
  • How do I (task)?


  • (Increase/decrease) brightness
  • (Increase/decrease) volume
  • Turn (on/off) (Wi-Fi/Bluetooth/NFC)
  • Turn (on/off) my flashlight


  • Open (app name)
  • Go to (website URL)
  • Show me (category) apps
  • Roll a die
  • Flip a coin

Are You Using OK Google?

To be honest, I didn’t start using OK Google until very recently, and what convinced me to try it was the fact that I could do so much with my voice while driving. Then as I started using it at home, I realized just how convenient and useful it could be.


So yes, I believe every Android user should at least give it a try for a week or so. I think that’s more than enough time to get a taste and see if it’s actually something that can boost your productivity—and I think you’ll convert and keep using it!

Related topics: Google, OK Google.

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  1. ML Older
    April 12, 2017 at 2:40 pm

    When Google voice is on it won't let me use the recorder function on my phone because the microphone is in use. Is there a google voice command to pause itself?

    November 26, 2016 at 5:24 am

    Started to use it fantastic love how easy it is to send a message or to call also adding events to calendar don't recommend trusted voice.. heed the warning that your voice can be recorded to unlock device. Otherwise great

  3. Caleb
    August 27, 2016 at 10:47 pm

    In all the recent versions of Android (5, 6 and 7) you can train any launchphrase you want.

    • Joel Lee
      August 29, 2016 at 9:21 pm

      Weird, I don't seem to have that option. Is it a hidden workaround, Caleb?

  4. Md bhuiyan
    August 26, 2016 at 6:15 pm

    Mobile Network provlem

  5. Mr.Belcan
    August 6, 2016 at 1:08 am

    My biggest problem with Google Now or "Ok Google" is just that, the fraze "Ok Google". It doesnt sound natural. Its not a name, like Siri, or even Cortana. I dont like how stubborn google is about this, almost way to selfsentered behawior. It would be like apple having "Ok Apple" instead of Siri. Google is not a name, its an action. Give us options. Don't have to be many, maybe just two, one girl and one guy. As long as its easy to say and NOT "OK GOOGLE!"

    • Joel Lee
      August 19, 2016 at 7:33 pm

      Haha, you have a point. Apple's "Siri" and Amazon's "Alexa" are definitely more natural to say. It's too bad Google doesn't even allow setting the command phrase to anything you want, as far as I know.

    • Permana Jayanta
      April 13, 2017 at 1:27 am

      Yup, exactly. Somehow. this really makes me uncomfortable, and never use it again. I've been searching a way to replace it but still no luck. I want say, "Jarvis, set my appointment at ...".

    • Kevin
      November 25, 2017 at 10:33 pm

      I agree. I didn't want to use it in the beginning. Because of this.

    • Kevin
      November 25, 2017 at 10:35 pm

      I agree

  6. Joan Chelsen
    June 21, 2016 at 8:33 pm

    I got a Droid Turbo 2 a month ago and cannot set up OK Google on it. Message is "can't use microphone. Restart device". Which, of course, did not make a difference.

    • Mango Pie
      November 5, 2016 at 9:34 pm

      You probably have Moto Voice enabled. You have to choose between it or OK Google.

  7. therealtruth
    May 10, 2016 at 5:37 am

    What gives you the impression that hands free is safe to use most especially when test with Patrol Officers (among others) show it is extremely difficult to maintain 100% focus on driving, even hands free and these guys are probably better at it than anyone from constantly using the computer while driving alone. There should be no distinction between hands or hands free, especially with younger drivers who do not have much practice focusing.

    • therealtruth
      May 10, 2016 at 5:40 am

      Informative article though.

      • Joel Lee
        May 13, 2016 at 11:50 pm

        Hmm, really? I'd love to see a source on that. Not that I don't believe you, but it'd be good to know one way or the other. I'd definitely agree that no phone at all is the absolute safest option, but I'd also think that "hands free" is certainly better than "using hands" if you absolutely have to use your phone for something.

        Anyway, good to know and think about. Thanks therealtruth. Maybe I'll stop using my phone in the car and see if I notice a difference.

  8. Anonymous
    April 30, 2016 at 4:24 pm

    Really like the features, but it uses way too much battery for me.

    • Joel Lee
      May 9, 2016 at 2:39 am

      I didn't notice a battery drop when I started using it but maybe I'm just lucky or unaware. Sorry to hear that Robt. :(

  9. Anonymous
    April 29, 2016 at 12:26 am

    I turned it from my Google Apps account on and discovered to my horror that doing so turned on more or less all the tracking crap I've gone out of my way to never let google have (e.g. Web History). When I set my privacy options back the way I want them, OK Google was rendered functionally useless. I don't feel like I need anything it does.

    The one thing I thought it might do (and it doesn't) is interact with files on my Google Drive. If it did that, that would be useful. It's not even aware of them. Cortana on a Windows PC knows more about my Google Drive files than OK Google does.

    • Joel Lee
      May 9, 2016 at 2:38 am

      Yeah, that's a big downside. Google Now won't let itself be used unless you turn on all of those things... I don't blame you if that's your reason for not using it. Very valid.

  10. infmom
    April 28, 2016 at 9:47 pm

    I use OK Google to send and receive messagese when I'm driving.

    Oh, and I activate it by saying "Go Go Gadget phone." :)

    • Joel Lee
      May 9, 2016 at 2:37 am

      OK Google is really really good when driving. And that's an awesome activation phrase. :D

  11. Zanotta
    April 28, 2016 at 9:38 pm

    I try to use a Ok Google, but in my native language (PT-BR) not all of those commands listed above works.

    • Joel Lee
      May 9, 2016 at 2:37 am

      Ah, that's right. A lot of the commands are limited by language. That's annoying... Sorry Zanotta. :( I hope Google catches up quickly in other languages!