I don’t get it, I say “Hey Google” to my new Pixel phone and… nothing happens. I thought Android automatically had Google Assistant set up and ready to use? In any case, how can I enable it?
If the only way you’ve interacted with your Android device is through tapping on the screen, you’re in for a treat when you enable Google Assistant. Search for the weather app to find out the temperature in a favorite spot? Launch the clock app to set a timer? Use the Google app so you can search the Web? All of these are obsolete once you enable your smart digital voice assistant. But you do have to enable it on a brand new Android device, because by default your phone is not actually listening to you all the time.
Before you enable it, however, I encourage you to spend a moment and consider the privacy implications of Google Assistant. Enable it and your device will be listening to its environment nonstop. If someone else near you says “Hey Google turn on airplane mode” your phone will go offline without any notification, leaving you puzzled and frustrated while you debug the problem. More importantly, if your phone’s on the table and you’re having a confidential discussion, is it listening and processing the information? Ostensibly not, but it’s worth thinking about before you begin these sorts of conversations.
FIND THE GOOGLE ASSISTANT SETTINGS
Decided to enable it? Let’s get that set up and you can then experiment to learn what it can do and how to mitigate potential risks. To start, go into “Settings” and choose “Apps“.
Choose “Assistant” from this point and you’ll find that there are quite a few different setting options:
Not only are there a lot of settings, but they’re sorted by “Popular Settings”, suggesting that the order I see them might be different to the order you see them! I suggest a good starting point is to enable Hey Google on the lock screen. Tap on “Lock screen” to do that:
Not thrilled about the idea of your phone listening when it’s locked? No worries, don’t enable it on this screen.
To start, however, you’ll want to choose “Hey Google & Voice Match“, which offers the main listening feature:
If you want to keep Google Assistant from listening whether your device is locked or unlocked, simply leave this off (as shown above). Want to explore this feature? Enable “Hey Google”.
USING GOOGLE ASSISTANT
Now that the feature’s enabled on your Android phone, all you need to say is either “Ok Google” or “Hey Google” and a small window will appear on the bottom of the screen, indicating it’s now listening. If you simply say the prompt words and don’t keep talking, it will actually suggest a query:
Notice the green microphone indicator on the top right. That reminds you that it’s now actively listening to its environment and you can keep talking by speaking your request. I’ll try “what’s the weather in Phuket, Thailand?” Here’s what it displays:
Looks like a nice, albeit rainy evening. There are two things to notice in the above image too: First, the green microphone indicator is off meaning that it’s no longer listening. You can’t say “and how about in Mumbai?” to get more weather information (without prefacing it with “Hey Google”). You can, however, switch to typing in your queries if you want by tapping on the tiny keyboard icon on the lower right.
Do that and it shows the last query it received, along with suggested related queries:
These are, frankly, a bit weird. “watts the weather”? “wwhat’s the weather”? Why include those as options?? Anyway, it does make it easy to replace our location name with another and submit that query, all without any further dialog:
The suggestions are at least reasonable in this instance, but a tap on the enter key on the lower right and Google Assistant will process the query as if you’d spoken it:
After a moment or two, the weather forecast appears:
In this instance it’s probably easier to have just said “Hey Google what’s the weather in Miami” but… Note that there’s the very handy “Send daily” option if you’d like to get the forecast each day to keep track!
There are a million things you can do with Google Assistant and now your Android device is set up and listening. Have fun!
Tip: There are tons of ways you can customize your Android 13 experience! Keep experimenting and please do check out my extensive Android help area for lots more articles while you’re here too!