If you're a fan of personal digital assistants, the Android platform has one you shouldn't overlook. Google Now offers some fantastic “hands off” actions that allow you to easily interact with your device when your hands aren't available to navigate the interface.
In the latest iteration of Google Now (running on Android 4.4), there are a few new features that make Google Now even better -- especially to business users who are prone to misplacing their phones. Let's take a look at the newest features to hit Google Now and how they can make your daily life a bit easier.
How to use Google Now
If you've never used Google Now, fear not. This feature is very simple and, once you start using it, you won't go back. The basic usage of Google Now is to say the phrase “Okay Google Now...” followed by a command. Here are some examples:
- Okay Google Now...Remind me to call Stephanie at 5:00 PM
- Okay Google Now...Wake me up in 20 minutes
- Okay Google Now...Note to self; I parked my car in Fish 42
- Okay Google Now...Create a calendar event Date Night with Stephanie Friday 6:00 PM
- Okay Google Now...Send SMS to Stephanie Mobile I'm on my way
- Okay Google Now...Weather
- Okay Google Now...Make me a sandwich (this one is an Easter Egg)
Lock Screen Commands
You can also enable Google Now to work from your lock screen. While this makes it even easier to use, it bypasses your screen lock. To secure your device, you have to set up a screen lock (either by PIN, password, pattern, or facial recognition). However, if you want the easiest experience possible with Google Now, you can enable this feature by following these steps:
- Go to Settings
- Tap Touchless Control
- Tap Google commands to enable (Figure A)
- OK the warning
Google Now running on a Verizon-branded Moto X.
Now that you have Touchless Control enabled, let's take a look at how you can use it.
Find my phone
A new feature in Google Now will help out tremendously if you happen to misplace your device, and you know it's within speaking range. Just say the following phrase:
Okay Google Now...find my phone
If your phone is indeed in speaking range, you'll hear a beep and then the phone will chime (and continue chiming) until you locate and tap the screen of the device (Figure B).
Google Now informing you that you've found your phone.
I tested this in a couple of situations. First, I put my device in my bag and spoke the command. Immediately, Google Now chimed in and I was able to locate the device. The second test was a bit more challenging. I shoved the phone between two cushions on our couch and then spoke the command. Nothing. I spoke louder. Nothing. On the final command (at a near shout), Google Now responded, and I located the phone.
This feature won't work if your phone is outside of hearing distance, but the ability of Google Now to help you locate your phone when it's "right in front of your face" will save some people a lot of time.
Google Now is an incredibly powerful feature on an already powerful platform. Start using Google Now and you'll never look back.
What is your favorite Google Now ability or command? Share your opinion in the discussion thread below.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.