I don’t want to talk to my Android phone when I’m in the office, so is there some way I can type and interact with Google Assistant instead?
While voice systems are designed for you to have a dialog with the device, there are actually plenty of situations where typing and reading is more appropriate. Fortunately all of the major systems have been slowly adding the ability to type as an alternative input method. It ends up being like texting your phone, which is a bit weird if you think about it, but hey, it’s the 21st century and if it works…
Google Assistant does a particularly good job of typed input interaction with lots of handy suggestions and shortcuts offered, but you have to figure out how to get to the typing interface in the first place. On my Google Pixel 3a Android smartphone, the process looks like this:
First off, here’s the lower portion of the main screen of the phone:
You’ve probably used that handy search box plenty of times, but did you realize that if you tap on the four colored dots on the right side of the input box that you can jump to the Assistant? Yup. Tap on it to see.
It brings up a small sub-window that looks like this:
At this point it’s listening: this is the alternative to saying “hey Google” (assuming you have your phone set up to be listening for that trigger phrase). If you want, just speak your request and it’ll proceed. Or swipe up on the white window and it’ll expand to cover the entire screen:
Weather, parking maps, a reminder of some of the features available in Assistant, it’s all very handy.
But what you want to focus on is the tiny keyboard icon to the right of the microphone icon on the very bottom. Tap on that and you can then have a text-based interaction with Google Assistant instead of talking to it. Oh, and the dot with the square around it? That’s a shortcut to get to Google Lens for QR codes, product scanning, translations and more.
Tap on that tiny keyboard icon, however, and here’s what you’ll see:
It’s ready to go! You can now type in whatever your request or query is and Google Assistant will respond with more text, rather than talking to you. For example, if I wanted to know the weather in London, England, I could try this:
As I tap in my request, you can see that Assistant is trying to help with suggested phrases just above the on-screen keyboard. You don’t need to add a question mark if you’re asking a question either, but it’s okay if you do because, like me, you prefer to communicate in full sentences!
A tap on the blue “submit” button [I think it looks like a paper airplane, but that’s another story] and…
Notice that it’s a single tap for me to set up a daily weather update from London or to continue with a subsequent query about this weekend’s weather (presumably in London) too. Darn helpful. And you can continue to type in additional queries or requests to Assistant too.
Ultimately, it’s really handy to be able to interact with Assistant through typing. Getting to the right point is a bit clumsy, however, and I’d like to someday see a special text message recipient that’s Assistant, perhaps, or some other mechanism that makes it a single tap from the home screen rather than so much fiddling. Still, now you know how to use Google Assistant without saying a word. Useful!
Pro Tip: I’ve been writing about Android for quite a long time. Please check out my Android help while you’re here on the site!