Apple’s Siri kicked off the craze for mobile voice assistants, but there’s a good chance Google Assistant has surpassed it. Google Assistant combines a natural voice format with the power of Google and is one of the best features of Android.
Below, we’ll explain what Google Assistant is, what the assistant can do, and how to easily get started with it.
What Is Google Assistant?
Google Assistant is Google’s virtual voice assistant. This is an evolution of the old Android feature Google Now, which gives you information that interests you before you ask. It competes with Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and ,to a lesser extent, Microsoft’s Cortana.
Assistant was released in May 2016 as part of Google’s smart messaging app Allo, which no longer exists. After a brief period of exclusivity on the first Google Pixel phone, Google Assistant is now available on almost all Android devices running Android 5.0 and above.
While it’s best known on Android, Google Assistant is also available elsewhere. You can use it on Android Wear, on iPhones and iPads through the Google Assistant app, through Google Nest series smart speakers, and on other devices. We will focus on Android here.
Note that in these screenshots and instructions below, we are using the Pixel 4. Google Assistant on your phone or tablet may look a little different, but it functions essentially the same across your Android device.
Do I Have to Google Assistant?
On Android devices, there are several ways you can call Google Assistant, depending on your phone’s navigation style.
If you have a three-button navigation bar on the bottom of your phone, press and hold the Home screen (circle) button to summon the Google Assistant. If it’s a two-button navigation setup, press and hold the pill-shaped Home button. On modern Android phones with a full gesture navigation setup, swipe inward from any bottom corner to launch the assistant.
Pixel 2 to Pixel 5 allows you to squeeze the bottom edge of your device to bring up the Assistant, or if you use it, you can click the Mic button on the Google Search widget. Finally, on many Android phones, you can also say “OK Google” to call up Google Assistant by voice.
Your device may offer additional options to display the Assistant. For example, on Pixel 4, you can turn off diagonal swipe gestures by visiting settings > System > gestures > System navigation and tapping the gear icon. > gestures > the settings > system, you can also choose to show The Google Assistant when you press and hold the power button.
If you see the assistant appear after using any of these methods, it is already built into your phone and ready to use. If you built in the Assistant but haven’t enabled it yet, you’ll see a prompt to enable the feature.
On Google Nest devices, the Google Assistant is built-in.
How to get the Google Assistant
To get Google Assistant on your device is easy, on Android, download the Google Assistant Android app from the Play Store. Make sure you’ve updated the Google app on your device and that your phone meets the requirements of Google Assistant. If Google Assistant is built into your device, you don’t need this app.
You must have an Android 5 Lollipop or later phone, as well as at least 1GB of RAM and a 720p screen to use the Google Assistant app. If not compatible, your device is old and should be upgraded as soon as possible when you have the ability.
If you’re using an iPhone, download the Google Assistant iOS app from the App Store. But you need to have iOS 13 or later.
In case you’re wondering, Google Assistant doesn’t cost money. It’s completely free, so if you see the prompt to pay for Google Assistant, it’s a scam.
How to Use Google Assistant
To call Google Assistant on a compatible Android phone, use the above gesture or say “OK Google”. For some phones, you can also say “Hey, Google”. On your iPhone or iPad, you need to open the Google Assistant app and say “OK Google” or tap on the microphone icon.
If you don’t want to use voice, you can also enter a question. Touch the keyboard button at the bottom right to enter text into Google Assistant. It will respond as you would when you talk to it.
A convenient feature of Google Assistant is that it understands the context in a conversation. For example, if you ask “When was Denzel Washington born?” and say, “What movies are he known for?” When you say “he” in the second command, the assistant knows you’re referring to Washington.
Once you call up google assistant, you can ask it any question you want. The assistant can interact with many apps and services, and if it doesn’t help you solve your problem, it will pull out Google’s results.
What Can Google Assistant Do?
Now that you’ve set it up, what is Google Assistant for? It turns out that the assistant can help you get any information you want to know, or the actions you want to take on your phone.
Configure Google Assistant for maximum efficiency
The Google Assistant doesn’t require any physical setup to get started. But there are some options you can adjust to suit your preferences.
To find all the options related to Google Assistant, navigate to the hidden menu located in the Google > Settings > Google App Settings > Search, Assistant & Voice > Google Assistant.
There are too many options to cover them all. Here are some of the most useful Google Assistant options you can take a look at.
1. Assistant voice & sounds: Change the way your Assistant sounds and how conversational it is.
2. Continued Conversation: Enable this and Google Assistant will listen for follow-up questions after it’s done talking to you. This saves you from saying “OK Google” every time.
3. Food preferences: Note your dietary preferences, favorite cuisines, or ingredients you like/dislike, and Assistant will keep these in mind for any recipe and restaurant-related queires.
4. Hey Google & Voice Match: Teach your Assistant how your voice sounds for better recognition.
5. Home control: If you use smart home devices, set them up to work with Assistant here.
6. Languages: If you speak a second language or are learning one, you can speak with Google Assistant in multiple languages.
7. Music: Set your preferred music provider so Google Assistant knows what to play your requests on.
8. News: Choose your favorite news sources, which are used for your daily digest when you ask Google Assistant for the latest stories.
9. Notes & Lists: Choose a provider to sync your Google Assistant notes with.
10. Routines: An incredibly useful feature; Google Assistant Routines let you set up groups of actions that run with one command.
11. Shortcuts: Assign short phrases to jump to content in apps. For example, you might assign “Mobile deposit” to open your bank’s app to the direct check deposit menu.
12. Your people: Add family members so the Assistant knows who “Grandma” is.
13. Your places: Enter your home and work addresses, as well as anywhere else you want to give the Assistant by name. This makes for easy navigation, perhaps while using Android Auto in your car.
How to Turn Off Google Assistant
If you don’t use the feature or are worried about Google Listener, you can disable Google Assistant on your Android system.
To do this, head back to the same menu mentioned above: Settings > Google > Settings for Google apps > Search, Assistant & Voice > Google Assistant. Scroll down to General and open that menu. There, disable the Google Assistant slider to shut the feature off.
Once you’ve done that, if you try to launch Google Assistant in the future, you’ll see a prompt to turn the feature back on. If you prefer, you can also return to the above menu to reopen the assistant.
Get started with your Google Assistant
We’ve looked at what you should know in order to get started with Google Assistant. Now you know what Google Assistant does, whether you own it, and how it works. Voice commands are super useful, so if you don’t already use assistants, you’ll reap the rewards.