5 hidden settings for a smarter Android Google Assistant experience

Ah, the Google Assistant. Sure, it seems like our trusty friend who lives on Android is getting scratched a lot lately, right?

First came the fact that Google made no mention of his honey-voiced virtual genius at the big consumer electronics show in Vegas last month – and this is after years of the Assistant and its slogan “Hey Google” plastered almost everywhere during this event and to be the core business of the company.

But even more broadly, the current focus is on ChatGPT-like AI tools and the awkward disconnect between what those services can offer and what the assistant has been able to handle for a long time. While the AI ​​in these new tools absolutely goes beyond Assistant’s current capabilities, it’s curious that hardly anyone makes the connection or talks about how all these new things look more like a to improve to what is already available with Assistant than any sort of entirely new configuration.

We wait for hear a lot more about Google’s growing AI ambitions at this year’s Google I/O event in the spring, but in the meantime I thought it would be a good time to focus on our familiar Android AI companion and work to uncover some of his currently underestimated abilities.

All Easily Forgotten Assistant orders aside, Google Assistant has some beautifully useful settings that are out of sight and all too easy to overlook – and if you take the time to dig them up and review them, you’ll find yourself enjoying a smarter, more efficient and a more productive, up-to-the-minute assistant experience.

Keep reading to see what you’ve been missing – and when you’re ready for even more advanced Android knowledge, come on over. check out my free supercourse on android shortcuts. We’ll go way beyond the Assistant and explore tons of time-saving tricks each part of your personal Android experience.

Google Assistant Android Setting #1: The Sensitivity Slider

If there’s one Assistant-related complaint I hear more than any other, it must be Google Assistant’s habit of being too dizzy and responding on the wrong device.

You know what I’m talking about, don’t you? If you have more than one Assistant gadget in your home or office (a combination of Android devices, Smart screens or speakers, or maybe even Chromebooks with Assistant – it’s an all-too-common annoyance that your “Hey Google” utterance is picked up by a device other than the one you intended.

We could talk for days about how useful Google would be for letting us customize that Assistant launch phrase and use different phrases for different devices – but, well, we have summer do that for years now. And that clearly gets us nowhere.

So instead of just typing, take advantage of the next best thing: Assistant sensitivity settings.


  • Say Ok Google, Google Assistant settings to view your phone’s Google Assistant settings.
  • Scroll down until you see the line labeled “‘Hey Google’ Sensitivity”.
  • Tap it, then tap any device on your list to make it more or less sensitive – and therefore more or less likely to respond to your voice commands when it hears you speak.
Android Google Assistant: Sensitivity J.R.

Good to know, right ? And speaking of talking…

Google Assistant Android parameter n°2: The listening alert

Whether you have multiple Assistant devices around or a single Android phone, it’s good to know which gadget is listening to you at all times.

All on-screen indicators aside, you can give yourself an audible alert whenever the Assistant thinks it’s heard your “Hey Google” command and has aroused its powerful virtual ears. Aside from the general awareness benefits, this will save you from issuing a long command only to realize a moment later that the assistant wasn’t even paying attention (oh!).

But this one is about as buried as it gets, and it’s unlikely anyone even at normal range will know how to activate it. Luckily for us, I’m anything but normal:

  • First, go to your phone’s regular Android system settings and open the Accessibility section.
  • Look for an option called “Change Access”.
  • Tap it, then tap the toggle next to “Use Switch Access” to turn it on. Confirm that this is what you want to do. (For some bizarre and totally undocumented reason, enabling this system is the only way to get the assistant alert sounds working!)
  • Pause briefly to eat a cracker and/or cabbage, then say Ok Google, Google Assistant settings to view your phone’s Google Assistant settings.
  • Next, tap on “Accessibility”.
  • See the toggles for “Mic on notification” and “Mic off notification”? Make sure they are both in the on and active position.

Lo and behold: the next time you spit out a “Hey Google,” you’ll hear a pleasant little chime letting you know your phone is listening. And you will hear another one sound that indicates when it stops.

Pretty gersh-derned sense, wouldn’t you say? And on a related note…

Google Assistant Android Setting #3: Chat Control

Let’s not beat around the bush: As helpful as it can be, the assistant can sometimes get a little too talkative.

But little known fact: you can take full control of the Assistant conversation and tell your phone to be a little less verbose.

Here’s the trick:

  • Say Ok Google, Google Assistant settings to view your phone’s Google Assistant settings.
  • Tap on the line labeled “Voice and Assistant Voice Output”.
  • Below the basic settings for changing the timbre of your assistant’s voice is an easily overlooked control for “Voice Output,” with a line that should say “Phone.”
  • Press that line, and – hey, what do you think? Therein lies an invaluable option to control exactly how much your assistant beats their virtual yelp.
Google Assistant Android: Voice output J.R.

Simply choose your preference or experiment with the choices available, then enjoy your newfound hearing serenity.

Google Assistant Android Parameter #4: The Beautiful Speaker

Another Assistant annoyance is the need to keep saying “Hey Google” after every question or command you say. It’s kind of like the way my five-year-old talks to us, with an inexplicable “Hey Mama/Hey Daddy” at the start of every sentence – no matter how long we’ve been talking.

Wizard, at least, has a way to eliminate that. (I’m still looking for the setting on my son.)

This is only available on Pixel phones, starting with the Pixel 4 and beyond. If you have one of these devices, go back to the Assistant settings and follow these steps:

  • Tap “Continue Conversation”.
  • Make sure the toggle next to “Phone” is in the on position.
  • Perform an embarrassingly enthusiastic celebratory jig.*

* Template optional but highly recommended

Google Assistant Android Setting #5: The Step Saver

Another Pixel-specific Assistant tip for today: If you’re using a Pixel 6 or later, be sure to enable Google Assistant’s one-tap voice actions for your phone.

The feature is usually off by default, but the assistant on these devices can listen to a handful of phrases around alarms, timers, and incoming calls and let you manage those situations. without having to say the usual launch phrase “Hey Google” – at all.

To configure this:

  • Open those Assistant settings again and look for the “Quick Phrases” section.
  • Provided you’re using a Pixel 6 or higher, you should see a pair of options there to enable free “Hey Google” commands to snooze or snooze an alarm or timer as well as answer, decline or mute an incoming call.
Android Google Assistant: Quick Phrases J.R.

And while we’re talking shortcuts, stay tuned – because we’ll be picking up here with another one five Assistant settings out of sight on Friday, and we’ll kick them off with a mighty Assistant shortcut boost punch.

Then come back to complete the improvements to the Assistant or sign up for my weekly Android Intelligence newsletter to get all the information in your inbox, fresh and scorching, the second it comes out of the oven.

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.

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