Fancy new features are fan-frickin’-tastic. But let’s face it: We aren’t all carrying shiny new phones right now. And we don’t all have shiny new Android versions in front of our shiny faces this time of year.
That doesn’t, however, mean we can’t enjoy the gift of useful new goodies on our favorite Googley gizmos. Android is absolutely brimming with buried treasures — phenomenal time-saving and productivity-boosting possibilities built right into the software on our existing phones, no matter who made ’em or how old they may be (within the realm of reason, anyway; if you’re still totin’ around a phone with Froyo, sorry pal, but you’re on your own).
And that’s never more true than within the domain of Google Assistant — the friendly if sometimes slightly sassy virtual companion that’s always standing by and ready to lend a helping hand (and/or voice).
Assistant may be on the brink of a major transformation, but for the moment, at least, it’s hangin’ around on our phones in its traditional form and waiting to be called into action. And the best part about Assistant-associated gems is that they’re every bit as beneficial with a four-year-old Moto jalopy as they are with a high-end 2023 flagship. The only issue is that since Assistant commands are inherently invisible, they’re all too easy to overlook or forget, and plenty of advanced Assistant actions remain unknown and unused for the vast majority of Android-adoring animals.
So without further ado, I give you 15 outstanding Google Assistant commands you should really remember to use on Android — no matter what Android phone you’re carrying or which version of Android it’s running.
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Google Assistant Android trick #1: The voice in your head
This first Google Assistant trick for Android is one of my all-time favorites. It’s one of Assistant’s most practical and impressive powers — and yet, hardly anyone seems to realize it’s available.
Once you know it’s there, though, good golly, will you be giddy. So here it is: Anytime you’re viewing an article within Chrome, the Google app, or the Google News app on your Android phone, you can summon Assistant — by saying Hey Google or using whatever method you like — and then say one of the following commands:
- Read this page
- Read it
- Read this
- Read aloud
- Or Read this please (if you want to be extra-polite)
However you phrase it, Assistant will merrily oblige and start reading the article on the screen out loud to you. It’s an awesome way to catch up on Very Interesting Content™ whilst driving, walking, horsey chasing, or whatever it is you get up to.
And the experience is actually quite lovely: Just like if you were listening to a traditional podcast, you can skip around in the audio and adjust the playback speed via a bar at the bottom of your screen. You can even control the playback with a panel that’ll pop up in your notification panel anytime the audio is playing.
The only requirements are that you’re running 2014 Android 5.0 release or higher (and if you aren’t, we’ve got bigger fish to fry) and that you’ve got Assistant’s language set to English.
Google Assistant Android trick #2: Power status
Wondering how your phone’s battery is doing toward the end of a long day? Maybe one filled with much horsey chasing? No problem: Just ask your Android-dwelling Assistant What’s my battery level, and you’ll have the answer in half a hoofbeat.
What makes this command especially useful — and especially easy to overlook — is the fact that it’ll also work from an Assistant-connected speaker or Smart Display, so even if your phone isn’t right there with you, you can still ask Google how much power it has left.
In that instance, just be sure to add an extra dash of specificity into your command, with What’s my phone’s battery level as your spoken request. Assistant will rattle back the exact remaining percentage, no matter where your phone may physically be.
Google Assistant Android trick #3: The instant phone finder
Next, let’s step back a bit from there and get to an even more basic but still oft-relevant and out-of-sight option: When you can’t find your phone at all, remember the Google Assistant command Where is my phone as your one-stop phone-finding solution.
This one works on a couple different levels:
- If you have multiple Android devices connected to the same Google account — say, a work phone and a personal phone — you can give this command to any one of those gadgets and have it return results for the others.
- No matter how many Android devices you’ve got on your account, you can give the command to an Assistant-connected speaker or Smart Display or even a current Chromebook, so long as you’re signed into the same Google account on that device.
Whichever way you go, Assistant will offer up the missing phone’s last known location and also offer to ring it for you.
Google Assistant Android trick #4: The swift shusher
Another useful option from the phone control file is Assistant’s ability to silence your device on demand whenever the need arises.
It may seem obvious, but it’s easy to forget: A quick uttering of Silence my phone will cause Assistant to turn your device’s garsh-dang volume all the way down to avoid any interruptions.
And just like some of the other Assistant commands we’ve mentioned, the real trick with this one is that it’ll work both on your actual Android device and on any Assistant-connected speaker, Smart Display, or Chromebook where you’re signed into the same account.
Just remember to say thanks when you’re done.
Google Assistant Android trick #5: Find yourself
All right — we’ve covered what to do if you can’t find your phone. But what if you have your phone and yet still don’t know where you are?
First things first, try cutting back on the peyote, pal. And if that doesn’t work, say Where am I? to your friendly neighborhood Assistant. That’ll cause it to pop up a map showing you your own current location at that very moment.
Google Assistant Android trick #6: Find your place
If your noodle is as mushy as mine tends to be these days, these next Android Assistant commands can go even further in helping you remember important information about location.
First, asking Assistant to Remember where I parked is a supreme superpower you shouldn’t forget. It’s technically tied to parking, as you may have surmised from the phrase (you crafty koala, you!) — but don’t let yourself be limited by that framework. You can use the same command to have Assistant remember your current location anytime, anywhere, and for any reason and then store it for later retrieval.
Whenever you’re ready to return to that spot, simply ask Where did I park? — and the answer shall appear faster than you can ask Alexa to order you almonds (since, let’s be honest, that’s mostly what Alexa exists to do). You can even tap the map Assistant pulls up for you if you want a little extra help navigating your way back.
Google Assistant Android trick #7: Memory magnification
Locations aren’t the only thing your phone’s virtual wizard can lend a helping virtual hand in remembering. You can ask your Android Assistant to remember virtually anything, in fact — and then spout it back to you anytime down the road.
So, for instance, you might ask Assistant to remember that the door code is 8675309 — or to remember that Gertrude’s daughter is named Gilly.
Then, when you need to recall the associated info, just ask for it:
- What’s the door code?
- What’s Gertrude’s daughter named?
Or, if you’d rather:
- What did I tell you about the door code?
- What did I tell you about Gertrude’s daughter?
And not to worry: Gertrude will be none the wiser.
Google Assistant Android trick #8: Your screenshot genie
Android allows you to snag screenshots with a variety of mechanisms, both on-screen and physical-button-based, but those commands aren’t always convenient. Sometimes, you need a screenshot saved when you don’t have a hand and/or hoof free for one reason or another.
In those moments, simply shout out to your Android Assistant and then say these magic words: Take screenshot. And that’s it: Assistant will save an image of whatever’s on your screen at that moment — no tapping, button-pressing, or frustrated fussing required.
Google Assistant Android trick #9: The screenshot hop
Aside from capturing screenshots, Android’s Assistant can also now help you get to your saved screenshots in the blink of an eye.
This one requires a teensy bit of setup, but you’ll only have to do it once:
- Say Hey Google, Assistant shortcuts to zap yourself into the Assistant shortcuts configuration area.
- Scroll down until you see Google Photos and tap it. (If you don’t see Google Photos, go install it, you silly salamander.)
- See the line that says “View screenshots”? Tap the plus symbol next to it, then tap the line itself if you want to customize the command that’ll call it up.
Once you’ve done that, you can activate Assistant and say Show my screenshots (or whatever specific command you used a second ago) — and, boom: You’ll be transported directly into the screenshots section of the Google Photos app.
Not bad, right?!
Google Assistant Android trick #10: The widget wizard
Here’s a really neat one few mere mortals realize is possible: You can call up an on-demand version of any available Android widget on your device simply by asking Assistant to open it. So, for instance:
- Hey Google, show me the Google Calendar widget
- Hey Google, show me the Keep widget
- Hey Google, show me the Clock widget
- Hey Google, show me the Google News widget
You get the idea. Whatever you ask, Assistant will show it to you right then and there:
In theory, this can work with any app that offers a widget, but it’s up to each developer to enable the support — so it can be a little hit and miss in reality. But it works fairly consistently with Google’s own apps, at least, and then sporadically with apps beyond that.
And it can be a quite handy way to get a glimpse at relevant info without interrupting what you’re doing.
Google Assistant Android trick #11: Snappy photo snapping
Taking a picture typically takes both patience and fingers — at least, in the traditional ways of handling that task. When you need to snap a photo on your phone without all the usual requirements, keep some of these oft-overlooked Assistant possibilities at the front of your bustling brain — though take note that these particular commands are specific to Google’s Pixel phones and may not be available on all Android devices:
- Take a picture
- Take a selfie
- Take a video
And for the real Assistant-flexing power, add in 10 seconds (or whatever amount of time you need) to the end of any of those commands — again, on a Pixel. That’ll cause Assistant to start a countdown timer so you’ll have time to pose your squared-shaped head just right and start smiling all purty.
Google Assistant Android trick #12: The sanity-saving noise-maker
Whether you’re back in the office and trying to adjust to all the workplace racket or working from home and trying to tune out all of that racket, Assistant has an excellent option to help you focus.
Let’s all say it together now: Play white noise.
And if that ever isn’t cutting it for you, you’ve got a bunch of other variations just waiting to be embraced:
- Play relaxing sounds
- Play nature sounds
- Play water sounds
- Play running water sounds
- Play babbling brook sounds
- Play oscillating fan sounds
- Play fireplace sounds
- Play forest sounds
- Play country night sounds
- Play ocean sounds
- Play rain sounds
- Play river sounds
- Play thunderstorm sounds
- Play thrashing death metal sounds*
*Not actually available on Assistant yet, but maybe it should be
Google Assistant Android trick #13: The settings shortcut
Assistant’s got a lot of options, especially on your phone. But, rather ironically, getting to the Assistant settings on Android isn’t exactly intuitive. You’ve usually gotta go through either the Google app or the Google Home app and wade your way through multiple murky menus to find what you want.
Well, here’s the better way: Holler at Assistant and say Assistant settings. Bam. Problem solved, seconds saved.
Google Assistant Android trick #14: Auto-repeat
If Assistant ever says something you didn’t quite catch, try a variation of one of these little-known commands:
- Can you repeat that more slowly?
- Can you repeat that more loudly?
- I didn’t hear you
You could also always just squawk out a loud “HUH?!” in your best old-fella-asking-you-to-speak-up impression — but odds are, Assistant won’t acknowledge it.
Google Assistant Android trick #15: The most useful command of all
Well, my dear, there’s bad news: We’ve nearly reached the end of this Assistant Android collection.
But wait! There’s good news, too: We’ve saved the best for last.
Assistant, y’see, is a lovely virtual creature. It can be quite helpful and often even pleasant. But it also has a habit of sometimes butting in and responding to something when you didn’t actually want its involvement.
The next time Assistant starts flappin’ its digital yap out of line, just remember these four magical words:
That wasn’t for you.
Easy, right? Now if only we could find a way for that to work on humans, too.
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