Android

Set up Google Now relationships for more efficient contact interaction

Jack Wallen shows you how to set up contact relationships to make Google Now more efficient and reliable.

Google Now

How many times have you been on the go and needed to quickly call your mother, father, spouse, child(ren), sibling, girlfriend, boyfriend... only to hear Google Now say, "Which Stephanie (or fill in the name) did you mean?" It can get frustrating, especially when you're in a hurry. Thankfully, you can strip away that confusion by associating contacts with relationships.

When you open up a contact to locate the option to set up the relationship, you won't find the setting. No matter how deep you dig, you won't find that relationship option in the contact itself. That's because these relationships are set up with the help of Google Now. In fact, you make and break these relationships completely through the Google Now voice command.

Please note that these Google Now relationships have nothing to do with contact Groups (which include Family, Work, etc). In fact, Groups play no part in the Google Now relationships. Also, this feature does depend upon a fully functioning contact database. I tested this feature on the following devices:

  • Samsung Galaxy S4
  • Motorola Moto X
  • Huawei Ascend Mate
  • HTC One Max
  • Motorola Droid Razr Maxx HD

On every device but the Droid Razr Maxx, the feature worked perfectly. The Droid, however, refused to recognize the contacts properly. If you experience this same issue, try migrating your contacts to your Google account (see "Pro tip: Migrate all of your Android contacts to Google"). If that doesn't work, you may have to delete your Google account on the device and set it back up (and make sure contact syncing is in working order).

Setting up the Google Now relationship is quite simple. You open up Google Now (in the manner in which you are accustomed, such as speaking "Okay Google...") and then say something like:

"Scruff Mcgruff is my dad."

When you first speak this, you may have to tap YES, I'M IN (Figure A) to okay Google contact recognition (otherwise Google Now will keep searching online when you want to use a contact).

Figure A

Figure A

Opting into Google contact recognition on a Verizon-branded LG G phone.

Now that you have contact recognition set up, you're good to go. Speak the phrase above (only using the real name of your father (or whatever relationship you want to set up). Google Now will then do one of two things:

  • If you have multiple phone numbers for that entry, you'll be required to select the correct phone number. Once you've done that, you'll move to the next step, which is...
  • Allow you to tap Add relationship (Figure B) to set the relationship

Figure B

Figure B

Setting the relation of father to a contact.

The relationships that are currently supported include:

  • Father/dad
  • Mother/mom
  • Brother
  • Sister
  • Cousin
  • Niece
  • Nephew
  • Aunt
  • Uncle
  • Grandmother/grandma
  • Grandfather/grandpa
  • Wife
  • Husband
  • Girlfriend
  • Boyfriend

As of now, contact relationships do not include designations like boss, co-worker, overlord, friend, wingman, bestie, BFF, etc. I'm sure that Google will see just how this feature could be used within the world of business and expand it soon enough.

Now, what happens when you break up with that girlfriend and wind up with a new soul mate? You certainly don't want to accidentally call the old girlfriend, as that would wind you up in a world of hurt. And since you cannot see the relationship in the actual contact, what do you do? You have to tell Google Now to break off the relationship like so:

"Okay Google, Olivia Dunham is not my girlfriend."

You'll only have to speak the heartbreaking phrase but once. You can then add the new special person as your love du jour.

Once this is set up, you can then say "Okay Google, call my girlfriend" or "Okay Google, text my dad."

If you're looking for even more ways to make your Android device more efficient, give Google Now contact relationships a try and see if it helps you interact with your family faster and more accurately.

Would you like to see Google expand this feature to include work relationships? How would that help your Android experience during the work day? Share your thoughts in the discussion thread below.

About

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 jackwallen.com.

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