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.
Whether it's giving you the latest traffic report or explaining difference between a lager and an IPA, Google 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 Google Assistant tips and tricks so you can get up and running and master your Google Home like no one else.
Set your preferences first: Address, nickname, payments and more
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 the Settings icon on the home screen.
From here you'll be able to enter your home and/or work address, set a nickname, choose your preferred mode of transport (for when asking Assistant for directions), add payment methods and more. Make sure this is one of the first things on your list once Home is set up.
Change music sources
Assistant will play music from a variety of sources - Google Play Music, Pandora, Deezer, Spotify and YouTube Music - but you can ensure it always chooses the platform you like the best. From the home screen, tap on the Settings button, scroll down and you'll see Music listed under Google Assistant services. Tap on that and you can choose your default provider.
Google Home speakers can hook up with other non-smart speakers via Bluetooth which means you can connect to a better sounding device. That's particularly useful for the cheap and cheerful Google Home Mini, which doesn't pack much punch in the sound department.
Just go to the Home app, select your speaker and go into Device settings. You'll find Bluetooth pairing in there.
If you want a Google Assistant-powered multi-room set up, you can do this via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Going 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.
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' ‚Äď something easy to remember. Head to Settings in the Google Home app, then look for your Chromecast device under Rooms, groups and devices.
Link a new Chromecast TV or speaker (or device with Chromecast built in) by tapping the plus symbol on the home screen. Google has also added support for casting Netflix and Google Photos, meaning you can say "OK Google, play The Witcher from Netflix on my TV".
Make Google Assistant bilingual
The Google Assistant can now support two different languages on your Home speakers. For homes where more than one language is spoken, this is super useful, so long as Google already supports those languages. Is someone learning a new language? Why not use the Google Assistant to test your progress?
Just hit the profile icon at the top right of the home page, then Assistant settings, then tap the Assistant tab, then select Languages. You'll then be able to choose your two input languages. If you want to just remove one, select the language and then select None at the top.
Sick of hearing the same voice talking back at you? Google now lets you choose from 12 different voices, which now include Issa Rae and John Legend. On the smartphone app, tap your profile icon at the top right > Assistant settings > Assistant > Assistant voice.
You should now see a row of voices to choose from, each one set to a different color. Try them all out and see which one suits you best.
Get it talking to your phone
The number of smartphones offering Google Assistant has grown significantly. 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.
Pump up the bass
One feature that came quite late on Google Home was the ability to adjust the EQ settings. To do this, simply select the speaker from the home menu, tap the settings cog in the top right, then select Equalizer from the menu. This will let you fine-tune the bass and treble.
To get your Google Assistant smart speaker controlling your smart home kit, add them in the Google Home app by simply selecting the plus icon that's at the top left of the home screen, then tapping Set up device. Here you can rename your Google Home devices and set up Rooms as groups too.
Free Wi-Fi calls can be made on Google Home speakers in the US, UK and Canada. To call numbers or local businesses, there's nothing to set up. All you have to do is 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.
Google Home's Broadcast feature lets you send a message from a speaker or phone to other speakers around the house. Dinner's ready? Have Google tell the kids. You'll need two of more Google Assistant speakers or Smart Displays to make it work, and one member of the house must be signed in on all of them. Then it's simply a case of asking Google to do the rest of the work with a simple voice command.
Turn on Continued Conversation
This is a really good one. It can be tiresome having to say "Hey Google" or "Ok Google before each command. Continued Conversation allows the Assistant to listen for a few seconds after each command for any follow-up questions. So for example, you could say "Hey Google, how long will it take me to get to work?" and then follow up with "And will I need a jacket today?".
To turn this on, open the Google Home app, hit the profile button at the top of the home page, tap Assistant settings > Assistant > Continued Conversation, then tap the toggle to on. Should you be worried about privacy, this is also where to come to turn it off.
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.
Actions speak louder with words
Google Assistant 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 Settings > More settings > Services > Explore to see a list of Avtions, which includes those 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.
Kids: Can't live with them, can't stop them from accessing the dark corners of the internet. Except you can with Google Home if you turn on parental controls. There are several things you can do here (click above for a full guide) ranging from restricting access to inappropriate YouTube content to making them say "please" when asking the Assistant to do things.
Use the Nest Hub as a digital photo frame
One of, if not the best feature of the Google Nest Hub is how it functions as a digital photo frame when not in use. Or at least it can, if you enable the feature. To do so, select your Nest Hub from the home screen, select the gear icon and then Ambient Mode. Here's a guide on getting your photo albums working on Google smart displays.
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.
One of the more recent features allows you to set a schedule for Routines, meaning you'll no longer need to manually activate them. Go to Settings > More settings > Assistant > Routines and you'll have the option to add a routine and then set the time and day you want it to happen. There are also some ready-made options to choose from for things like bedtime or commuting to work.
Shhh... switch on Night Mode
Google's Night Mode will ensure the Assistant keeps its voice down when responding between select hours of the night. You can also reduce the brightness of LEDs if your Google Home has them. To switch on Night Mode and set its parameters, select the speaker from the home screen, click the settings cog top-right, and then scroll down to Night Mode.
You can even choose the days that it's active on, and whether you also want to switch on Do not disturb, which blocks notifications and broadcasts (but will still let alarms and timers play).
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. From the home screen tap your profile icon, tap Assistant settings, then select Your data in the Assistant at the top of the page. There are also directions for deleting via the web here.
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 your accounts 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. Check out our list of the best IFTTT Applets.
One of Assistant's latest tricks is acting as your personal translator. Just say "Ok/Hey Google" followed by something like "Help me speak Italian", "Be my Spanish interpreter" or "Translate Japanese to Hungarian". You can also just say, "Turn on Interpreter mode".
Ask Google Assistant to remember things
Forgetting stuff all the time? Lucky for you that Google's voice assistant has a pretty good memory.
You're having friends over but can't be bothered to make a playlist. Let them do it instead. On the home screen tap on the device you'd like to add Guest Mode to. Tap on a speaker from home menu, select the Settings cog in the top right and then scroll down to 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.
NB: At the time of updating this article guest mode had vanished from all Home speakers, and we're not certain it will return.
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."
Use Google Home to play white noise
If you prefer to drift off to the sound of rain or a babbling brook, you can ask Google Assistant to do just that. It comes with a range of built-in sounds, the above two included, but it may revert to your music service for some specific requests. But best of all, the Google Home has a sleep timer function, so you can say, "Hey Google, play the sound of the ocean for 30 minutes." Same goes for music and podcasts.