Google Home tips and tricks: Get up and running with Google Assistant

All the Google Assistant cheats you'll ever need

Google Home tips and tricks

If you're expanding your connected home with a Google Home, the likelihood is that you're barely scratching the surface of what your new smart speaker can do.

Google is still fleshing out what Assistant can do after launching after the Echo, but it's ever so surely becoming a feature-rich assistant.

Whether it's updating you on the traffic or teaching the difference between a lager and an IPA, Home can do a lot, but there are also quite a few tricks worth knowing to get the most out of your device. Here's a roundup of the best tips so you can get up and running and master Google Home like no one else.

Make sure you also check out our super comprehensive Google Assistant missing manual, the best Google Home Easter eggs and the top Google Assistant compatible devices.

Set your preferences first

If you haven't already, you can add in your home address for more specific weather and traffic reports. In the Google Home app on your smartphone, just tap your name after selecting 'More settings' and type in your home and/or work address - Google Maps offers the same feature.

From that same 'Personal info' menu, you can also set a nickname that Assistant will use for you. Then under 'Preferences,' you can choose a preferred temperature unit (Celsius or Fahrenheit). Make sure this is one of the first things on your list once Home is set up.

Google Home tips and tricks

Using wake words

This one might be obvious but just in case you're not sure, Google Assistant responds to two sets of wake words: "OK Google" is the main one you'll hear but "Hey Google" rolls off the tongue better. You don't have to change any settings either as Assistant will hear both.

Unfortunately, you only have these two phrases for now, so best get used to saying Google a lot. Though Google is said to be working on custom wake words - we should hear more at Google I/O in May.

Change music sources

Assistant will play music from a variety of sources - Google Play Music, Pandora, Spotify and YouTube Music - but you can ensure it always chooses the platform you like the best. Head to 'More settings' in the app then choose 'Music' or simply choose 'Music' from the sidebar menu. From there link whatever accounts you want and then select your go-to one as the default player.

It should be noted that YouTube Music and Spotify require premium paid accounts but Google Play Music and Pandora have free options.

Google Home tips and tricks

Connect Google Home to Bluetooth speakers

Google Home speakers will now hook up to existing speakers via Bluetooth which means you can connect it to a better sounding device. That's particularly useful for the cheap and cheerful Google Home Mini. Just go to the Home app, pair the speakers in Devices and then set as your default speaker.

Set up multi room audio

If you want a Google Assistant powered multi-room set up, you can do this via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth now. With the Wi-Fi route, you can hook up your smart speakers with any Chromecast built-in speakers or speakers with a Chromecast Audio. With Bluetooth, you can pair your smart speaker/s with any Bluetooth speaker and multi-room audio will be enabled.

Google Home tips and tricks

Casting with Google Home

If you've already set up your Chromecast or Chromecast built-in device then you're halfway to casting with Home. If not, it's a relatively simple process that involves plugging in the device and syncing it up to the same Wi-Fi network Google Home is on.

From there, you should definitely rename your Chromecast something like 'TV' or 'living room' - basically something easy to remember and say. Head to 'More settings' in the Google Home app. Then tap on 'TVs and Speakers.'

Link a new Chromecast TV or speaker (or device with Chromecast built in) by tapping the plus symbol. Google has also added support for casting Netflix and Google Photos, meaning you can say "OK Google, play House of Cards from Netflix on my TV".

Get it talking to your phone

Right now only a certain number of smartphones offer Google Assistant, but that number is growing all the time. And as this is the same Assistant inside Home, you can have your smart home helper throw information to your phone by simply asking it to. Nifty.

Control smart home devices

To get your Google Assistant smart speaker controlling your smart home kit, add them in the Google Home app under Devices (once they're set up of course). Here you can rename devices and set up Rooms as groups too.

Google Home tips and tricks

Make free voice calls

Free Wi-Fi calls on Google Home speakers are now live in the US, the UK and Canada. To call numbers or local businesses, there's nothing to set up. If you want to say the name of contacts like "Hey Google, call Mum" then you need to head to the Google/Google Assistant and Google Home apps to turn on Personal Results sharing first.

Add multiple users with Voice Match

Like Amazon, Google will also support multiple users, and Home will discern who is who by recognizing your different voices via its Voice Match feature. By doing so, it will serve up information relative to your profile, such as commute time, personal music playlists and even Netflix profiles.

To set up multiple user profiles, each user just needs to find the Home device on their smartphone app, connect to it and add a voice recording to confirm. You can have up to six profiles on one Google Home at a time.

Google Home tips and tricks

Actions speak louder with words

Though they weren't there at launch, Google Assistant now supports Actions (also referred to as 'Assistant apps'), which are its equivalent of Alexa's Skills. The difference is that you don't have to install them; Google Home learns Actions - also referred to as Services - automatically when they're dispatched by developers. That means you'll probably want to know what's available.

Head to the menu and then 'More settings' > 'Assistant apps' for the full list of around 200 Actions which includes skills from Uber, Domino's, Fitbit, Hearst, Headspace, Disney and the NBA. Tapping each one will bring up more info and an example of things you can say to make them work. Google's started improving the discovery part of the app to help you find more of these features, but it's good to have a way to see them all.

Turn Home into a travel guide

If you've used Google to book a holiday before, you'll know that its flight search tool is pretty good for getting a sweet deal. This extends to Home, as you can ask the tiny assistant to search for flights on certain dates, and get Google to keep track of them for you. If there's a change in price, Google will email to notify you. It's an impressively pain-free experience.

Check your history

Like the Echo, Google Home always has a record of your activity at hand so you can see what you (or others in your house) have been asking the smart assistant. In the main menu go to 'More settings' and then scroll to the bottom to 'My Activity'. It will take you to your history page and you can also delete Google Assistant recordings here.

Google Home tips and tricks

Get smarter with IFTTT

Until all the devices in our homes talk to each other seamlessly, we'll have to make do with IFTTT. But that's OK because we really like it, and Google Home plays nice with it too. First you'll need to make sure the IFTTT app is installed, then log yourself in.

You'll then need to search for Google Assistant, and once you've got them connected, you'll be able to say things like "OK Google, turn on the kitchen lights when the front door opens", assuming you have the right smart appliances.

Remember Assistant is contextual

One of the Assistant's key advantages over Google Now is that you can ask follow-up questions and it will remember the context. Try asking something like, "Hey Google, what's the capital of Spain?" and then follow it up with, say, "And what's the most populous city?". It means you can treat Google Home a little bit more like an actual assistant, and less like a piece of tech.

Google Home tips and tricks

Use the power of touch

You might not have noticed yet, but the top of Home has a touch interface. You can use taps to play/pause music, or even move your finger in a circular motion to control the volume. There's a full list of available touch commands here.

Set up guest mode

You're having friends over but can't be bothered to make a playlist, let them do it instead. In the top right corner of the home screen, tap on the 'Devices' icon to see your Google Home(s). Then, tap the three-dot icon in the top right corner of the device you want to enable guest mode.

Users will be able to pair with their phones (Home transmits an inaudible signal to verify devices). If that doesn't work though, you can find the guest mode pin number in the device settings and enter it manually.

Use it as an alarm clock

Like Echo, Google Home also functions as a reliable alarm. Just say "OK Google, set an alarm for 7am" and you're in business. If you want to set a timer, you could say "OK Google, set an alarm for 10 minutes time."

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