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Screen secrets: Essential Google Smart Display tips and tricks

How to get the most out of your Smart Display

Google Smart Display tips and tricks
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With the holidays quickly approaching, there's a good chance you'll either be gifted one of Google's Smart Displays or pick one up on your own via a sale (keep an eye out for them in our Black Friday buying guide).

Running on Android Things – or Cast if you've got a Home Hub – there are a number of things you can do with a Smart Display, from YouTube cooking recipes to calendars and visual weather. All of this stuff also means that it can be hard to wrap your head around everything.

So what do you need to go do get the most out of your Smart Display? We've assembled some of our favourites below.

Don't forget to connect Google Duo

Smart Displays can be used to video chat with your friends and family, so long as they have a Google Duo account. That's why you should go ahead and download the Duo app to your phone and log in with your Google account.

Read this: How to set up Google Duo

Then, you should head over to the Google Home app, select your Smart Display and connect it to Google Duo. You'll get to have high-quality video calls with the people you care about. It's a great feature, but you're going to have to remember to set it all up first.

Enable Night Mode

Smart Displays – the Google Home Hub in particular – are a good night-stand option. You wake up, you watch some news, get the weather and check out your day's calendar. Plus, it's a nifty alarm.

However, putting a big display on your night stand can be distracting. What if it accidentally lights up bright while you're sleeping or, when you wake up and want to use it, it's way too loud in response? Enter Night Mode, which will dim your display a bit and turn down the volume.

Just open up the Google Home app, tap your Smart Display, then go through Settings > Menu > Settings again and toggle Night Mode. You'll sleep better.

Smarten up: Google Smart Display essential tips and tricks

Make sure Personal Results are on

Google will serve you a whole bunch of recommendations on Smart Displays, but only if you've got Personal Results on. If you don't, you won't get its usually helpful recommendations and reminders – which can include Google Photos, emails, calendars, recipe recommendations and more.

There should be a prompt when you're setting everything up, but it's not hard to check if you've got it enabled. Just open up the Google Home app, select your device, tap the settings cog, tap More and toggle on Personal Results.

You can change your Ambient Mode

When you first set up your Smart Display, you'll get to choose what Ambient Mode you want to use when your device is just sitting there. You can go back and change it though, if you want. Just open up the Google Home app, select your Smart Display and click Settings. Then tap over to Ambient Mode.

You'll have three options: Google Photos, Art Gallery and full-screen clock. Google Photos pulls in your photos, art gallery is a bunch of art and full-screen clock is, well, a full-screen clock. Art Gallery is interesting, but Google Photos is definitely the most personal option. Speaking of Google Photos…

Smarten up: Essential Google Smart Display tips and tricks

Set up some Google Photos live albums

Just because you have a Google Smart Display and a Google Photos account doesn't mean you have a live album all set up and ready to go. I definitely didn't. Obviously, you're going to need a Google Photos account and the app downloaded on your smartphone.

Once you do that, you can create Google Photos live albums either in Google Photos or in the Google Home app. You can get the full rundown on how to do that in our handy how-to guide.

Take a break with Digital Wellbeing

Sometimes you just need a break from technology, or you need to impose some restrictions on your kids' YouTube addiction. You can do that with Digital Wellbeing, which is two main parts working in tandem.

Filters place restrictions on what members of your family can do with Google Assistant. You can even restrict certain services for certain people. Downtime, on the other hand, will turn off certain features during a certain time period. Like you won't be able to watch YouTube past 10pm, or check the weather until 6am.

Don't forget about Home View

Smart Displays are primarily voice driven. You speak, it does things. So it's easy to forget that Smart Displays also have touchscreen displays that you can actually swipe around in. They're super useful for when you don't want to talk to Google Assistant, and just want to switch off the lights as quick as you can.

Just remember that it's there, and that you can get to it by swiping down from the top of the display. You may even want to train yourself to use the touchscreen sometimes, like when you go to sleep – or if you wake up in the middle of the night and don't want to wake up your partner.

Smarten up: Google Smart Display essential tips and tricks

Watch your smart home

Smart Displays can be literal windows into your smart home. All you have to do is make sure your smart home cameras and video doorbells – especially the Nest Cam and Nest Hello video doorbell – are connected to Google Assistant. Once you've done that you can ask Google to show your front door, living room or nursery right on your Smart Display.

Take advantage of YouTube and Chromecast

YouTube is the biggest depository of videos on the internet, and Smart Displays have access to all of them. You'll be able to watch music videos, cooking recipes and learn how to do things like tie a tie or install a thermostat. Or, you know, you could just watch whatever you currently watch on YouTube – from cat videos to political commentary. Go wild.

Similarly, don't forget that your Smart Display is also a Chromecast device. You can use Google Assistant to cast things from your phone to your Smart Display. So if you want to watch the latest season of Netflix's Stranger Things on your Home Hub, you can.


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