Google Assistant: What It Is and How to Use It

A guide to Google's conversational personal assistant

Google Assistant joins Apple's Siri, Amazon's Alexa, Samsung's Bixby, and Microsoft's Cortana in the lineup of digital assistants that can understand your voice and respond to commands or questions. Google Assistant is the driving force behind Google Home, and it's also available as an app for smartphones and tablets.

The information below should apply no matter who made your Android device: Samsung, Google, Huawei, Xiaomi, etc.

What Is Google Assistant?

While Google Assistant shares some features with the aforementioned assistants, Google's version is more conversational, which means you can ask follow-up questions if you need more information about a particular question or search. Google Assistant is built into the Google Pixel line of devices, the Android TV streaming platform, and Google Home, the company's smart home hub.

Google Assistant keyword
Google Assistant keyword. Ethan Miller / Getty Images

How to Get Google Assistant on Your Android Phone

The Google Assistant app is available for devices running Android 7.0 (Nougat) or later. Update your operating system if you need to, then go to the Google Play Store to download the app.

If you're willing to root your Android device, you may be able to get Google Assistant on a handful of older Android devices, including some Google Nexus and Moto G devices, as well as the OnePlus One and Samsung Galaxy S5. After rooting your device and installing Android 7.0, you can use an app like the BuildProp Editor to essentially trick Android into thinking your phone is actually a Google Pixel device, which will allow you to download Google Assistant from the Play Store.

Rooting your device incorrectly can result in irreparable system errors. Carefully weigh the pros and cons of rooting.

How to Use Google Assistant

To launch Google Assistant, you can either long-press your device's Home button, or say "Hey, Google" or "Okay Google." You should typically only have to do this the first time you open a conversation with the Assistant; enhancements to the original Assistant include a feature that allows you to ask multiple questions within the same request. However, once an interaction has ended, you'll need to say "Okay, Google" or "Hey, Google" again to start a new session.

You can ask Google Assistant anything you'd ask a search engine, including information about state capitals, local weather, movie times, and train schedules. For example, you can ask for the capital of Vermont, and then get directions to the city of Montpelier or find out its population. If you ask to see nearby restaurants, you can then filter that list to just see Italian restaurants or ask for a particular restaurant's hours. Google Assistant can even make a dinner reservation for you using an app like OpenTable.

You can also ask the Assistant to set reminders, send messages, or get directions. If you use Google Home, you can even ask it to turn on the lights and control your thermostat.

If Google Assistant turns on when you aren't trying to access it, you can turn off the OK Google voice feature.

Subscription Settings Offer Daily or Weekly Options

With Google Assistant, you can set up subscriptions for certain information, such as daily weather and traffic updates, news alerts, sports scores, and more. Just type or say "show me the weather," and then tap Send daily to subscribe.

With Google Assistant, you can set up subscriptions for certain information, such as daily weather updates.

You can even tell the Assistant what time you'd like to receive your subscriptions, so you can get weather information before you leave for work and news alerts while you're drinking your morning coffee. At any time, you can call up your subscriptions by saying "Show my subscriptions."

Google Assistant Smart Replies

Like many Google products, the Assistant will learn from your behavior and will tailor its responses based on past activity. These are called smart replies. For example, it may try to predict a response to a text from your spouse asking what you want for dinner, or if you want to see a movie by suggesting relevant searches or canned responses like "I don't know."

Ask Google Assistant Questions Offline

Even if you have a burning question when you're not online, you can still talk to the Google Assistant. It will save your query and then answer you as soon as you find a Wi-Fi hotspot. If you're on the road and spot something you can't identify, you can take a picture of it and ask the Assistant what it is or what it's made of using a reverse image search. The Assistant can also read QR codes.

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