Virtual assistants aren’t just for your smartphone anymore. A whole new class of speakers, featuring quick and easy voice control, can play music and do a whole lot more.
One option is Google Home. From the search giant and Android creator, the speaker is powered by Google Assistant and can do pretty much anything you can imagine — from controlling smart home devices to answering the most obscure questions and more.
The on-call assistant is a great choice for any modern home, especially those already entrenched in the Google ecosystem of products and services.
If you’ve recently decided to take the plunge with the Google Home, congratulations! In this guide, we’ll be walking you through everything you might want to know including what the Google Home is, how to set it up, what you can do with it, troubleshooting common issues, and much more.
Here’s everything to expect from this guide:
1. Unboxing and Setting Up Your Google Home
Once you open up any new Google Home box, you’ll find the following items included:
- The Google Home speaker.
- A power adapter and cord.
- A getting started pamphlet.
- A guide with some basic commands for the speaker.
- Legal/warranty information.
After plugging the power adapter into a nearby outlet, you’ll need to download and install the Google Home app for Android or iOS to complete your device setup. Along with Google Home, this app can also set up other Google devices like a Chromecast or Chromecast Audio.
I’m using my iPhone to finish the set up with my Google Home, but the process with an Android device should be almost identical.
When you open the companion app, your phone should automatically recognize your Google Home. Hit Set Up on the bottom notification to start the process. Once you connect to the speaker, Google Home will play a test sound to make sure you’re working with the correct device. When you can hear the test sound, it’s time to connect the speaker to a Wi-Fi network.
To better recognize the device in the app, select the room where your smart speaker resides. You can select from options like Kitchen, Master Bedroom, Living Room, and others. Once that is complete, you’ll need to select a wireless network and enter the correct password.
Next up, you’ll enter your Google account information for the speaker to access. Don’t worry if there is more than one person in the house who will use the Google Home, as it supports multiple users. We’ll dive into that in just a bit.
If by some chance you don’t have a Google account or prefer not to use one with Google Home, it is not a requirement. However, you should definitely consider tying the speaker to an account as it will open up voice access to a number of other useful services.
To receive local information about weather, traffic, and specific businesses, you can also enter your location information. But again, this isn’t a requirement for all of the speaker’s functions.
Finally, to complete the setup process, you can link accounts from four different music services: Google Play Music, YouTube Music, Spotify, or Pandora.
2. Using Google Home to Control Your Smart Home
The headlining feature of Google Home is the ability to control smart home devices including lights, switches, thermostats, IFTTT triggers, and more with your voice.
You can take a look at the complete list of compatible devices here, which includes popular smart home products like the Philips Hue lighting system, Nest Smart Thermostat, and many others. The list is constantly growing and covers a wide variety of different devices.
Adding a Smart Home Device
When you’re ready, you can add any of these smart home devices using the Google Home companion app. From the sidebar menu, head to Home Control. Hit the + sign to start adding devices. If you don’t already have the Google Assistant app on your phone, it will need to be downloaded to your iOS device.
On most Android devices, the Assistant can be enabled through the Google app. Hit the Menu button on the top left corner and then select Settings. Scroll down to Google Assistant and make sure to tap Settings and then Turn on.
After picking the specific smart home device, you’ll need to provide the credentials for that service. It will then appear in the Devices tab. To make it easier to identify and control with a voice command, each device can also be given a nickname. Just tap the device and select Nickname.
In the future, you can access your device at any time through the Devices tab.
Just to note, any nickname you’ve given to a smart home device, like lights, will only appear in the Google Home app and not in any other location (including the device’s native app).
Creating and Modifying Rooms on Google Home
With multiple smart home devices, it’s a great idea to create different rooms in the app and assign devices to specific areas. Doing this allows you to control multiple devices room-by-room instead of just individually.
For example, if there are a number of different lights in the living room, they can be controlled by just saying OK, Google turn the Living Room lights off. In the long run, especially if you plan on adding a number of compatible smart home devices, it will definitely save you time when giving Google Home voice commands.
All modifications can be done in the Rooms tab of the Home Control menu.
To create a room, tap the + button. You can either select one of the preset names or scroll down and select Custom room. Enter the name you’d like and then hit OK. You’ll then be shown any devices not attached to a room to so you can assign them to a certain area.
Also, when adding a device you can quickly and easily create or assign it to a room by just hitting the pencil icon on the right side of the name.
When you’d like to modify a room name or the devices in it, once again select the pencil icon. The page will show all of the lights, thermostats, or other products in the room. You can either add a device or move something to another room. Just hit Move next to the name of the devices.
To rename a room, just select it from the menu and type in a new name selection. Hitting the trash can icon in the upper-right corner will completely delete a room from your hierarchy. However, be aware that you’ll need to move all the devices assigned to it first.
Using Voice Controls
Along with being able to control devices through the Assistant app, the easiest way to control your smart home using Google Home is through a simple and self-explanatory voice command. All voice commands need to start with the phrase “OK Google” to trigger the assistant to begin listening to you.
Here’s the complete list of commands for the most popular kind smart home device on the market — lighting:
“OK Google. . .”
- Turn on/off [light name].
- Turn on/off lights in [room name].
- Dim the [light name].
- Brighten the [light name].
- Set [light name] to 50%.
- Turn [light name] green.
- Turn on/off all of the lights.
Thermostat voice commands are similar:
“OK Google. . .”
- Make it warmer/cooler.
- Raise/lower the temp.
- Raise/lower temp 2 degrees.
- Set the temperature to 72.
- Turn on the heat/cooling.
- Set the thermostat to cooling/heating.
- Turn thermostat to heat-cool mode.
- Set the heat to 68.
- Set the air conditioning to 70.
- Turn off thermostat.
- Set the [room name] thermostat to 70.
- What’s the temperature inside?
Finally, plugs and switches are simple with a quick “OK Google. . .” Turn on [device name] or Turn off [device name].
Thanks to the far-field microphone technology, there’s no need to be anywhere near the Google Home to say the voice command. You can be across a loud room, and more than likely, the smart speaker will hear and easily recognize what you’re asking.
Deleting a Smart Home Device
If you ever need to delete a smart home product from the Google Home app, the process isn’t exactly obvious or intuitive.
In the main Home Control menu, select the … on the upper right-hand side of the screen and then Manage Accounts. You’ll then need to select a specific smart home device account and unlink it. Add the account back in and make sure not to select the item you want to delete.
Hopefully, Google will make this process easier in the future.
Using Google Home With SmartThings
Even if you’re already a smart home pro, with Samsung SmartThings you can quickly and easily connect your existing hub to take advantage of Google Home’s voice controls.
Just go through the process of adding a new smart home device and then select SmartThings/Samsung Connect. After entering your account email address and password, all SmartThings devices and Routines will be imported.
Select Automations > SmartApps > Google. After that turn the toggle switch off that says Allow Google Assistant to access all devices and Routines.
You’ll then need to tap Switches or Thermostats and select the checkbox for each device Google Home can access. With Routines, they can all be available or unavailable to the smart speaker.
3. Using Google Home for Everything Else
Now that you’ve seen how Google Home can control a smart home, it’s time for the real fun to start. Let’s take a closer look at the smart speaker.
Controlling Google Home With More Than Your Voice
While your voice will be the main way to interact with the Google Home, there are a few pointers you’ll need to know about the speaker itself.
The entire speaker top is a touch-sensitive surface so you can control the speaker if you’re not in the mood to bark orders. A single tap can be used to stop or pause audio. Draw a circle with your finger to turn the volume up and down. Long press the surface to make a request to Google Home.
Multicolor LEDs will light up on the top of the speaker when it is waiting to hear a request.
On the back of the device is a small status light that will let you know if the speaker has power. Above that is the microphone on/off button. When muted, there will be four yellow LEDs on the top of the speaker. If the mic is muted, you will have to press the button again to allow Google Home to listen and respond to voice commands.
If you ever need to reset the speaker to its factory settings, you’ll need to press the microphone button for 15 seconds. It will then play a confirmation message.
Changing Google Home Bases
If you’re not happy with the light gray base of the Google Home, you can purchase another colorful option to help the speaker blend into a home’s decor.
For about $20, you can purchase a fabric base in one of three colors — mango, marine, and violet. Three metal base choices, carbon, copper, and snow, are available for approximately $40. All the bases can be purchased on Google’s site.
When it’s time to install your stylish new base, first unplug the power cord. You’ll then need to grab the base of the speaker and pull down. Simply replace it with the new base, letting the magnets help guide it into the correct position.
Enabling Multiple User Support With Your Google Home
One of the unique features of Google Home, when compared to other smart speakers like Amazon’s Alexa line, is multiple user support. Up to six users can link their Google account and voice to a single speaker. That means each user will be able to hear personalized information like their favorite music, daily brief, commute times, calendar information, shopping lists and more. Google Home automatically recognizes each user.
Each user will need to link both their Google account and voice to the speaker by using the companion app.
First up, you’ll need to be using the same Wi-Fi network as the Google Home. Then open up the app and confirm that the Google account shown is the one you’d like to link to your voice. Once that’s done, select the devices icon in the upper right-hand corner of the screen.
Select the banner that says Link your account or Multi user is now available. After that, you will teach the speaker to recognize your voice by saying OK, Google and Hey, Google. Both of those phrases can activate the Google Assistant, but for simplicity in the rest of the guide, we’ll just use OK, Google.
Just to note, thanks to far-field microphone technology, you can say that command at a regular volume from even across the room and the Google Home should pick it up without any issues.
Playing Music on Your Google Home
As we mentioned, Google Home can play music from four different popular sources — Google Play Music, YouTube Music, Spotify, and Pandora. If you’ve already linked one of those accounts during setup, it’s time to rock out. Stations from TuneIn Radio are also available without needing to link an account.
To start listening, after saying “OK Google” you can request a specific song, artist, or album and even tunes based on a certain genre/mood/activity. If you’re unsure of what you want to listen to, you can simply command Google Home to “Play some music” or play a specific genre of music.
So, for example, you can say “OK Google, Play ‘Don’t Fear the Reaper'”,”Play Blue Oyster Cult”, or “Play Agents of Fortune.”
If you have more than one music service linked to the speaker, you can also specify what service to play music from (e.g. “OK Google, Play The Beatles from Spotify“)
When listening to music, voice commands can also pause, resume, stop, skip, tell you the song that’s playing, and change the volume. With a linked Chromecast or Chromecast Audio, it’s also easy to play music on a certain set of speakers or a specific TV.
If you ever need to link a specific music service, this can be done in the Google Home app by selecting Music in the sidebar menu.
You can also start playback of some items through the app as well.
If you just want to play music or other media from a Bluetooth device on Google Home, you’re also in luck.
In the Devices section hit the … and then Settings. Scroll down to Paired Bluetooth Devices. Hit Enable Pairing Mode on the bottom right-hand side to connect with a smartphone, tablet, or another device.
Overall, the speaker packs a surprisingly powerful punch for such a small device. It’s far from the quality of a Sonos or other high-end speaker, but can definitely get the job done in most situations, even at higher volumes.
Using Google Home to Access Services
While Google Home doesn’t boast Amazon Echo’s 14,000 different skills, it does have a significant advantage. Instead of having to search for and enable a third-party service, each service available on Google Home is already active on your device and ready to go with a single command.
To take a look at all the available services, select the sidebar menu in the Google Home app and then choose Explore.
All of the services are organized into one of these categories:
- Social & Communication
- Education & Reference
- Music & Audio
- Games & Fun
- Home Control
- News & Magazines
- Health & Fitness
- Food & Drink
- Arts & Lifestyle
- Movies, Photos & TV
- Travel & Transportation
- Business & Finance
When you find a service that sounds interesting, just select it to find out more information including what exactly to ask Google Home.
One of the fun things you can have Google Home do is read step-by-step cooking instructions with recipes from Food Network, Epicurious, Bon Appetit, and the New York Times. You can even shop with just your voice.
Beyond that, the best way to see what the speaker can do is to browse all of the different categories of services.
Using Google Home to Make Calls
One of the most useful services available on Google Home is the ability to place a phone call to any business, family, friend, or any other number by using your voice.
The simplest way is to make a call is just read the number out loud and say “OK Google, call 321-867-5309″. When you’re done with the call, just tap the top of Google Home or just tell the speaker to hang up or disconnect.
You can even place a call on hold to ask Google Home a question. The person on the other line can’t hear what you are asking, but you can’t hear what they are saying either. After the action is complete, the call will resume.
Thanks to Google’s business directory, you can also just request a specific business name to make a call (“OK Google, Call Mary’s Flowers”), and the call will begin.
Finally, you can even sync your Google contacts to make calls to friends and family. First, make sure Personal results are on. To do that, you’ll need to go through the app tap the sidebar menu and then select More Settings. Select Devices and then pick the specific Google Home. In the Adjust settings for this device section, make sure the Personal results slider is turned on.
With Personal results active, Google Home can also read out private information like a shopping list, calendar notations, and your specific flight information. It can also help with making payments and completing reservations.
Once that is complete, you can just say “OK Google, call mom”. This is one time when enabling multiple users works really well — using its voice recognition, Google Home will always dial the user’s own mother.
Unless you use a Google Voice or Project Fi number, all outbound calls will show an unlisted number on the other party’s caller ID.
Using Google Home to Get Answers and Much More
Thanks to Google’s vast search expertise, Google Home does a great job answering pretty much any question you can imagine. From music to sports to stocks and more, the smart speaker is likely to have the answer. Think of it as a voice-controllable Google search.
Another great feature is the Google Home’s ability to understand and answer a follow-up question. For example, you can say “OK Google, who was the 42nd President of the United States?” And then after hearing the answer, you can ask “OK Google, how old is he?” and the Google Assistant will know to provide the correct answer based on the conversation’s context.
If you’re in the mood for some fun, you can even find some funny easter eggs by asking things like “OK Google, I am your father”, or “OK Google, are you Skynet?“.
4. Troubleshooting Google Home Issues
As with any technology, you’re bound to run into some issues when using Google Home. We’ve found some of the most common Google Home issues and some solutions you can try to get everything back to normal.
Google Home Can’t Connect to the Internet
To work properly, Google Home needs a constant internet connection. But sometimes that is easier said than done depending on the location of the speaker and your router.
The first, and simplest, option to try is unplugging the speaker for one minute before restoring power.
If the power cable is out of reach, reboot the speaker using the app. Hit the Devices button on the upper right corner. On the specific Google Home, select the … and then hit Reboot.
You should also power cycle your internet modem and router. Often these two steps will cure any connectivity issues.
If you’re still having issues, it might be time for some more in-depth actions. First, you can move the Google Home closer to your router. Or, you can also place the router in a more central location in the home.
Finally, you should consider replacing your router with a mesh Wi-Fi system like Eero, Orbi, or even Google WiFi. No matter what system you choose, mesh technology shares your internet connection over a larger area and makes a drastic improvement to your wireless upload and download speeds in certain dead spots in a home.
“OK, Google” Command Not Activating Google Home
Another common issue is that the OK, Google command doesn’t activate Google Home. If this happens, first check the speaker itself and make sure that the microphone is listening. If you see four orange dots on the top of the speaker, the microphone is on mute. To unmute, press the microphone button on the back of the speaker.
Also, make sure that the device is far enough away from sources of audio interference like a TV, a radio, or a loud fan.
If this doesn’t work, your best bet is to restart the Google Home using the app or by doing a power cycle.
Google Home Randomly Responds
Google Home can also have the opposite problems — randomly responding when you haven’t asked any questions. The speaker’s microphone is listening 24/7, and can respond to something it thinks is “OK” and “Google” close together. Many times, the best way to handle this is to make sure that the speaker is far enough away from other audio sources such as televisions, computers, and radios.
Both Your Phone and Google Home Respond to “OK, Google”
Another problem can pop up when you say “OK Google”, and both your smartphone and the Google Home respond. Normally, in this scenario, only the Google Home should respond. If you have more than one Google account, make sure the account you are using for Google Home is also added to your smartphone. This quick fix should cure the issue.
Unfortunately, if either the phone or the speaker in question isn’t your own, there is no specific fix.
Turning It Up to 11
Hopefully, with this guide, you now have a greater understanding of Google Home and how it can be used to help with a wide variety of tasks in your home. While smart speakers are definitely a new technology, products like Google Home are showing that the future is bright for the interesting and unique category. It’s time to see where your “OK Google” commands can take you.
Do you have any questions about Google Home, how to set it up, or how to use the smart speaker? If you have a Google Home, what do you think of the smart speaker and Google Assistant? Let us know in the comments below!