What is Google Assistant: Everything to Know

Google Assistant is a voice-controlled virtual assistant that can, once asked, give you information on just about everything. You can ask this intelligent device about the weather and news, and even use it for random Google searches.

Want to know who the actor was in the movie you watched last night? Simply ask. Want to play some music while you’re relaxing or create a shopping list? Request that, too. Best of all, it’s completely hands-free. Google Assistant is built into Android phones and in a number of standalone products like smart speakers and smart displays.

Helpful tips and tricks for Google Assistant

To get Google Assistant’s attention you need to say the “wake word.” Google Assistant is listening for that word, or in this case phrase, to know you’re talking to it. You can’t just say “what time is it?” You’ll need to say “OK Google, what time is it?” You can also say the “Hey, Google” voice command to get its attention.

While some other voice assistants let you change the wake words—like Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Amazon’s Alexa—Google Assistant only has those two. However, on many devices you can change the voice of Google Assistant itself, with a variety of male and female voices to choose from. You can also change what it calls you. The default is the name on your Google account, but you can change that to another name or nickname.

You can also use Google Assistant with a compatible messaging app on your preferred device, whether it’s a smartwatch or Google Pixel phone. That way, if you’re driving or simply have your hands full, you can still enjoy messaging functionality by utilizing this helpful feature. Your virtual personal assistant can read you messages that you’ve received or send one for you.

Connectivity and apps

You can connect the Google Assistant app to smart lights, locks, and other devices in your home. Once set up you can say, for instance, “Hey Google, turn off the living room,” and whatever lights you’ve chosen will shut off. This can be very handy for rooms or areas with hard-to-reach light switches.

Most apps on your phone or tablet will also work with Google Assistant. For instance, try saying, “OK Google, play Julia Nunes on Spotify.” This is especially handy when using a smart speaker in a kitchen. You can tell it to play some music or say, “Hey, Google, set a two-minute timer” so you don’t forget to flip the steak. Google Assistant will even set alarms if you ask: “OK Google, set alarm for 7 a.m.”

Where can you find Google Assistant?

You can access and use Google Assistant on Android devices with a swipe, squeeze, or tap, depending on the model. Alternatively, many smart-home devices and speakers have Google Assistant built in, particularly those in the Google Home series.

Here are some of the available devices with integrated Google Assistant.

Google Nest Mini

The Google Nest Mini is a tiny, 3.85-inch diameter smart speaker that can fit anywhere. The fabric top and much of its body are made from recycled plastics. A single 40mm driver provides the sound, while three far-field microphones help pick up your voice and instructions from all directions. Both WiFi and Bluetooth allow for connections to your phone, home network, and the internet. The Nest Mini is available in three colors and comes with a one-year limited warranty through Google.

Google Nest Mini, 2nd Generation, Chalk
Google Nest Mini, 2nd Generation, Chalk

Google Nest Audio Smart Speaker

The Google Nest Audio Smart Speaker is a seven-inch-tall Google Assistant-enabled speaker that can play music and help you control lights and other smart devices throughout your home. Inside is a 0.7-inch tweeter paired with a three-inch woofer for room-filling sound. Three microphones help it listen for the wake word even if there’s other noise. For stereo sound, you can pair two Nest smart speakers together. It can connect to 2.4 and 5 GHz WiFi, and it comes with a two-year limited warranty through Google.

Google Nest Audio Smart Speaker
Google Nest Audio Smart Speaker

Google Nest 7″ Touchscreen Nest Hub

The Google Nest 7″ Touchscreen Nest Hub is a smart display, sort of like an inexpensive tablet that stays on your desk or counter. It can display weather, traffic, pictures from your photo albums, and more. Like Google Assistant smart speakers, the Nest Hub lets you control any connected smart device, from security cameras to lights. In addition to streaming audio, the Nest Hub can play videos from YouTube and you can even connect your Netflix account. The seven-inch screen has a resolution of 1,024×600 while the audio is provided by a two-inch full-range speaker in the base. 

Google Nest 7 Touchscreen Nest Hub with Built-In Google Assistant
Google Nest 7 Touchscreen Nest Hub with Built-In Google Assistant