A smart speaker that places the power of Google Search and its associated services in your home and from which all the family can benefit, Google Home is one of the best new consumer devices to hit the UK this year. (Also see our full Google Home review.)

If you haven’t already bought one, and aren’t already using Amazon Echo or an alternative smart speaker, we couldn’t recommend it enough. You can pick up a Google Home for £129 from the Google Store, Argos, Currys, John Lewis and Maplin.

Getting to know Google Home and what you can and can’t do takes a bit of trial and error and getting to know each other, though.

We’ve spent sufficient time with the device to put together a list of tips and tricks to help both Google Home newbies and those who perhaps aren’t using Home to its full potential. Check out what you might be missing in our guide to the best Google Home tips and tricks.

You can be whoever you want to be

If you’ve linked your Google account (or multiple accounts) to Google Home then it can recognise your voice and it knows your name. Ask it “Okay Google, who am I?” and it will tell you your name.

But that’s not much fun. Wouldn’t you rather be the king, the boss, the master of the house, Superman…? You can be whoever you want to be.

Launch the Google Home app, tap the three lines in the top left corner and choose ‘More Settings’. Now select ‘Personal info’, ‘Nickname’ and, under ‘What should the assistant call you’, tap the pencil icon and enter a new name.

Google Assistant can be a really funny gal

Google’s smart speaker isn’t all about answering your queries, telling you what to expect from the weather and serving up media. It also has a sense of humour.

Ask it to entertain you, tell you a joke, make you laugh or play a game. One of our personal favourites, ask it to talk dirty to you. Honestly, try it!

We’ve put together 100 funny things you can ask Google Home for an entertaining response.

You don’t have to spend any money

One of the most enticing things about Google Home is its ability to play any song you like, any time you like – just ask.

Except that only really works if you sign up to Google Play Music, which after the three-month free trial costs £9.99 per month.

There are two potentially more attractive workarounds to this, one which won’t cost you a penny and another just a fraction of that outlay.

The one we’ve personally opted for is to sign up for a family subscription. It’s a bit more expensive at £14.99 per month, but it allows you to sign up five other users beside yourself (don’t worry, it won’t know if you’re not really family). And £14.99 divided by six is… well, it’s a lot less than £9.99.

The free option is to listen to online radio streams (good, but no cigar) and to set up personalised playlists in the Google Play Music app with the tracks you already own. You can ask Google to play any playlist by saying “Okay Google, play [name of playlist]”.

 

The catch: you can pause and skip tracks but you have no other control over the songs in that selection. And you have to remember their names – make them something obvious.

Stick it up on the big screen

Google Home can tie into other Google devices such as the Chromecast, and can act – to an extent – as your remote control. Why not tell it to cast a specific TV show or movie to your TV?

In the UK this works best with Netflix (provided you have a subscription), because to select a specific YouTube video you need paid-for YouTube Red which is not available outside the US.

You can sign up to a free trial for Netflix here.

Google Home tips & tricks

Control all the things

A smart home device doesn’t have to specifically support Google Home in order to work with Google Home. If that device supports IFTTT – and a great many do – you just create your own Applet.

Download the free app from the Play Store and sign up for a free account. Tap the My Applets tab, then the plus sign in the top right corner.

Select ‘this’, then scroll down to and select Google Assistant. You’ll need to allow IFTTT permission to connect to your Google account.

Tap the top field, ‘Say a simple phrase’, and on the next screen enter the command you want Google Home to act upon, for example “Lounge lights on”.

In the bottom field you can specify what you want Google Assistant to say in response. Something simple like “Okay”, or how about “Yes, boss”? Your imagination is the limit, and if you want Google Home to ask you what your last slave died of, just enter that in the response field.

When you’re happy tap the tick icon at the top right, then on the next screen tap ‘that’. You’ll see a list of services that work with IFTTT, so select the one you want.

In our case we’re opting for LightwaveRF Lighting, telling it to ‘Turn on light’ on the next screen, choosing the specific light in our home we want to control and then tapping the tick icon at the top right.

Be sure to disable the slider next to ‘Receive notifications when this Applet runs’, then tap Finish.

Send a text message the lazy way

You may have used the Google Assistant to dictate a text message on your Android Wear watch before, but did you know you could also do it from Google Home? This one you’ll need to set up in advance, though, so it’s most useful only for your most frequent contacts.

As in the previous tip, you’ll need to use IFTTT to make this work. Download the free app from the Play Store and sign up for a free account. Tap the My Applets tab, then the plus sign in the top right corner.

Select ‘this’, then scroll down to and select Google Assistant. You’ll need to allow IFTTT permission to connect to your Google account.

This time tap the field that says ‘Say a phrase with a text ingredient’, and on the next screen enter the command you want Google Home to act upon, for example “Text Michael $”.

Here the $ is really important, because it allows you to dictate your message. In other words, you don’t say “Text Michael $”, you just say “Text Michael” followed by your message.

Again, in the bottom field you can specify what you want Google Assistant to say in response, such as Okay. Now tap the tick icon at the top right, and on the next screen tap ‘that’.

You’ll see a list of services that work with IFTTT; select Android SMS, then ‘Send an SMS’. You’ll be prompted to add a phone number that includes the country code, then tap the tick icon at the top right of the screen.

Don’t lose track of time

If your Google Home is in the kitchen, no longer do you need to worry about fiddling around with those frustrating buttons on the oven to set timers for when your dinner’s cooked. Instead, just say “Okay Google, set a timer for X minutes.” Quick, easy and, we’d argue, life changing.

Take notes

Google Home integrates with Google Keep to jot down notes or shopping lists at your request. The latter is particularly useful – if you run out of loo roll, just say “Okay Google, add toilet roll to my shopping list” and it will. That list will then be accessible from the Keep app on your phone when you’re at the supermarket.

Get physical

If, like me, you have a particularly quiet voice or people often complain that it’s difficult to understand you, sometimes Google Home will ignore your calls of “Okay Google” or “Hey Google”. This is particularly common in a noisy environment, and it’s annoying. Give it a slap.

No, no, don’t do that! A gentle tap atop its surface will suffice. Google Home should then spring into action and listen out for your request. This can also pause and resume playback.

We’ve also found when you’re playing music at 100 percent volume Google Home will struggle to hear your requests to turn it down. Swipe your finger in a clockwise or anti-clockwise motion across its top to turn up or down the volume.

Keep tabs on what it’s been up to

Google tracks all the requests you and your family make to Google Home. You can see who’s been asking what at any time by launching the Home app, tapping the three lines icon at the top left, choosing more settings, then tapping the three dots at the top right and choosing My Activity.

Show it who’s boss

From time to time Google Home will play up. You could simply cut off the electricity supply for a few seconds to force it to reboot, but the correct method is to open the Home app on your phone or tablet, select Devices, then tap the three dots in the top right corner of the Home card and select Reboot.

If it’s being especially naughty, Google Home can be factory reset by pressing and holding the microphone button on the rear for 15 seconds.

Follow Marie Black on Twitter.



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