By Tracey Dowdy
If you’re using an Android phone, you are well aware of all the handy features offered by Google Now, Google’s intelligent personal assistant. You can tell it to set an alarm, launch an app, or give commands like “Call my mother” or “Email my boss” when you customize your contacts. You can even can switch to a British accent and suddenly you have your very own Mr. Carson to make you feel very Downton Abbey-esque.
Some of the features on this list have been around for awhile, some are new, but all can help you make the most of your pocket personal assistant.
- Never forget where you parked again. If like me, you get lost walking around your kitchen table, you’ll love that Google Now will recognize when you’ve stopped driving, pinpoint the spot, and display the location as a card. It won’t tell you what parking space you’re in, but it will give you enough information so you’ll know which side of the parking lot or garage you parked.
- How Tweet it is. I know, I know, that’s a terrible pun, but did you know can Tweet without opening the app simply by saying, “Post to Twitter…” and then rattle off those 140 characters? Well now you do.
- Be precise. Google Now allows you to ask specific questions like “Will it rain on Thursday?” or “Can you play Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud?” You can also make more complex requests like “Remind me to take chicken out of the freezer when I get home” and Google will use your phone’s location-based services to create a reminder. There’s a great list of 70+ ‘Okay Google’ voice commands here.
- “I know it’s in here somewhere…” Use the search bar to find everything from music to messages. Type in the keywords and Google will go through your phone and pull up matches. To customize what gets included in the search, go to Settings > Phone Search.
- Guys, grammar is important. There are miles of difference between “Let’s eat, grandma!” and “Lets eat grandma!” Google Now allows you to include punctuation and smileys when you dictate. Simply say, “Hey comma please set the DVR to record Walking Dead period” or “Thank you for the flowers smiley face,” which sounds like you’re calling someone “smiley face” but Google Now knows what you mean.
- Shazam everything. Not only can you find out what song is playing by saying, “What am I listening to?” (and have the option to purchase the song), but you can also use the same feature with live TV. Just say “Listen to TV” and Google Now will provide additional information about whatever movie or show you’re watching.
- History repeats itself. If you’re okay with Google keeping a record of what you’ve searched for, Google Now will create cards displaying your recent Web history. Because it’s intuitive, it recognizes patterns in the topics you search for and will direct you to additional information. It will also alert you to blog updates for sites you regularly visit.
- This is your pilot speaking. Well, not actually, but you can track flights through a dedicated Google Now card. Search by flight number and the next time you launch Google Now you’ll see the card with updated flight information. (Web history has to be activated in order for this feature to work.)
Finally, one of the most significant differences between Android and iOS is the level of customization Android allows. Users can download third party apps like Commandr for Google Now that will read your text messages aloud, switching Wi-Fi on or off, pausing music or raising and lowering the volume of your ringtone along with a multitude of other features. The possibilities are almost endless.
Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.