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 assistants mentioned above, Google's version is more conversational, which means you can ask follow-up questions if you need more information. Google Assistant is built into the Google Pixel line of devices, the Android TV streaming platform, and Google Home, its 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.

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 the 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 Vermont's capital city and then get directions to Montpelier or ask for its population. If you ask to see nearby restaurants, you can then filter that list to see only 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 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. You can also use Google Home as an intercom and set alarms with the Family Bell feature. If you create a Google Family Group, family members can communicate from any device with the Google Home app, including their phones.

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

Easy App Access With Google Assistant Shortcuts

Google Assistant shortcuts make it easy to access an app and activate its functions with just your voice. Say something like, “Hey Google, pay my Capital One bill,” or “Hey Google, check my Yahoo Finance stocks.” The Assistant will open the app and finish your task or show results on the lock screen.

To see all your voice command options for Google Assistant shortcuts, say, “Hey Google, shortcuts,” and you’ll see what else you can do based on your installed Android apps.

Subscription Settings Offer Daily or Weekly Options

With Google Assistant, you can set up subscriptions for specific 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 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're going 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 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.

Was this page helpful?