When the Amazon Echo brought voice commands to the masses, most people within the industry assumed it would be that year's Furby, a flash in the pan Christmas craze that would be all but forgotten by February. It's not often that the Googles and Microsofts of this world get it wrong, but on that one, they misjudged in a big way. The Google Assistant was rushed to market with almost indecent haste as soon as they realized they had been caught napping.
Four years on, voice commands are part of life, and you don't even need a separate device. Just switch on "OK, Google" on your Android device and you are ready to start the conversation. Lost for words? Everyone's specific needs and circumstances are different, so it is hard to define the "best" commands per se. But here, we'll run through some that practically everyone will find useful from time to time.
Set a reminder
We all live busy lives, and it is impossible to remember everything. These days, few of us have a PA or secretary to remind us about that 3PM call, or indeed family birthday. If there's something you just mustn't forget, ask Google Assistant to remind you.
The thing we love about this command is its versatility. Google Assistant can consult your other apps, so you can ask it to check if you've missed anything important, or to verify when something is happening and give you a reminder. But it's not just about calendar dates and meetings. You can even say something like "OK Google, remind me to buy milk in the morning," or "OK Google, remind me the car keys are in the kitchen drawer."
Open an app
No hands to spare? No problem. Whether you want to open a webpage or check social media, your Google Assistant can open any app on your phone. It's particularly useful when you are busy in the kitchen or bathroom and your hands are either dripping wet or covered in ingredients for your latest culinary creation.
Read to you
Let's stick with that cooking example for a moment. You're covered in cake mix and Google Assistant has dug out that recipe again, just so you can make sure you don't go wrong now. Say "OK Google, read it" and your trusty Google Assistant sous chef will narrate the content so that you can keep your eyes on what you are doing.
This function is, of course, massively liberating for those with special accessibility needs. But as the above example shows, it's something every single one of us will find useful from time to time. Google Assistant can even translate the page to another language as it reads it if you want it to.
Play a game
Gaming has become a hugely important component of our leisure time. Over the past couple of years, the shift towards mobile has been plain for all to see, and mobile gaming is now bigger than PC and console gaming combined. Games are by far the most popular category of apps to be downloaded on mobile devices, and we all have at least a few installed.
All you need to say is "OK Google, play Words with Friends," or whatever your game of choice might be. Nowadays, it's even possible to take a quick gamble at an online casino through voice command. You do, however, need an account at one of the newer and specifically mobile-oriented solutions to make it work.
Get some good news
Asking your Google Assistant to bring you up to date with the latest news stories is one thing. But let's be honest, the way things have been going in the world lately, do you really want to put yourself through that? Instead, you can ask your Google Assistant to be a little selective. Say "OK Google, tell me something good," and it will find an uplifting story from today's news to help you feel a little better about the world.
Get the latest score
Speaking of good news, there's always the world of sport, and fans will be mightily relieved things are gradually getting back to normal there. As the backlog clears and new seasons make a belated start, there will actually be a huge amount to keep up with, so being able to ask questions like "Who won in the English Premier League yesterday" means you can try to keep abreast of everything. Incidentally, sports geek will love the fact that you can ask the Google assistant practically any piece of sports trivia from the pages of history and it will know the answer.
Another great throwback to the day of the PA was to casually ask him or her to "book a table at a nice Italian for tomorrow evening." That's easy as pie for the Google Assistant. It can come up with nearby recommendations and prioritize them in terms of distance, price, ratings or whatever other parameters you might choose. It will even give you directions or call them up for you. It doesn't just apply to restaurants. Whether you need to get the car serviced or are looking for a great nightclub, Google Assistant is like that know-it-all friend who can always suggest the perfect place.
Of course, knowing where to go is one thing – there's not always any guarantee you will be able to get in. Suppose you want to impress by taking your date to see a new movie release. Just ask Google what is playing at the cinema, and then ask for showtimes for a specific movie. It can even book the tickets for you in advance through the Fandango app. No waiting in line or finding that the theatre is full, which is a bigger risk than ever under the current circumstances.
Set an alarm
Finally, it's one of the most basic smartphone utilities but also the most useful. Even the earliest brick-like mobile phones had an alarm function, and we've been using our cell phone as an alarm clock ever since. With Google Assistant, it's just a case of saying "Hey Google, wake me at 7AM." You can even add the type of wake up you want, for example "Wake me at 7AM to Pink Floyd," and it will go through your playlist to find some appropriate tunes.