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19 Sep 2019

Chatterbox: five things you didn't know you could ask your smart speaker

Time-saving smart speakers from Amazon and Google can help you find your lost smartphone, call UK landlines and turn on smart plugs from your sofa

Whether you're buying a brand-new smart speaker or looking to get more from your existing home setup, we've rounded up some handy voice commands for you to try at home.

Your smart speaker might be brainier than you think. Aside from the essential commands that let you set alarms and play music, the best smart speakers can also interact with other smart products, including smart speakers under the same roof.

See our list of lesser-known smart speaker commands below and let us know if there are any fun ones we've missed.

Best Buy wireless, smart and Bluetooth speakers - find a top speaker for sound and voice commands

Five voice commands to try with your smart speaker

1. Make phone calls

Both Amazon and Google's own smart speakers will let you call most UK mobile and landline numbers for free.

If you're in the living room and your phone's out of reach, a simple voice command will have you nattering through your smart speaker in no time. You'll be charged if you use your smart speaker to call an international number, though.

  • Amazon Alexa - head over to the Alexa app, tap the Calling & Messaging tab and give the app permission to access your contacts. Then, try 'Alexa, call [contact name]'.
  • Google Assistant - sync your phone contacts by going to Settings > Accounts & Privacy > Google activity controls > Device information on your phone. With that sorted, you just need to say 'OK, Google, call [contact name]' or 'call [phone number]'.

2. Track down a lost smartphone

With a voice-enabled smart speaker sat in your house, searching for a missing mobile isn't as big of a pain as it once was. As long as your phone has location settings enabled and it's connected to mobile data or wi-fi, you can make it ring.

  • Amazon Alexa - you can make your smart speaker even brainier by downloading some custom Alexa skills. With the Find My Phone skill, saying 'Alexa, find my phone' will make your phone ring at any time.
  • Google Assistant - for this to work, you'll need to have the Find My Device service set up. If you haven't enabled it already, head to Security > Find My Device. To end the search for a lost smartphone, say 'OK Google, find my phone'.

3. Make your 'dumb' tech smart

A smart plug is an internet-enabled plug that you can interact with from your phone or tablet. With a smart plug and smart speaker running off the same wi-fi network, you can control plug-in appliances from anywhere in the house. Most smart plugs support scheduling, so you can set an appliance to automatically turn on or off at a certain time of day.

Smart plugs will work with floor lamps, fans, electric heaters, coffee machines and other gadgets that are usually plugged into the wall.

  • Amazon Alexa - with an Alexa-compatible smart plug, simply say 'Alexa, turn on the [plug name]'.
  • Google Assistant - with a Google-compatible smart plug, simply say 'OK Google, turn on/off the [plug name]'.

For more details on how a smart plug can automate dull jobs for you, see our guide on seven things you didn't know you could do with a smart plug.

4. Make an announcement

If you own a couple of smart speakers, you can relay a message into one of them and have that announcement broadcast from another smart speaker. Both of the smart speakers will need to be running off the same wi-fi network.

Sharing your voice messages between smart speakers will come in handy if you're trying to grab somebody's attention while they're in another room. It's a quick way of making sure everybody makes their way to the dinner table.

  • Amazon Alexa - to make an Alexa announcement, just say 'Alexa, announce [message]'. From the Alexa smartphone app, you can also go to the Communication icon, then hit the Announce option. The message you type will be read out by the smart speakers in your home.
  • Google Assistant - at least one member of the household needs to be signed into each of the Google Home smart speakers. Then, say 'OK Google, broadcast [message]'. You can also say 'OK Google, tell everyone [message]' or 'OK Google, announce [message]'.

5. Test your general knowledge

Pass the time with Alexa and Google Assistant, and put yourself to the test with some fun trivia games. A couple of the games will let you battle it out with friends, so you won't always be left chatting to your smart speaker on your lonesome.

  • Amazon Alexa - With downloadable Amazon Alexa skills, there are lots of games you can try on your Alexa-enabled smart speaker. One of the most popular picks is Trivia Hero, which gives you 60 seconds to answer as many tricky questions as possible. To play, say 'Alexa, play Trivia Hero'.
  • Google Assistant - Google's Lucky Trivia game is a fast-paced game show for up to five people. To test your knowledge, just say 'OK Google, play Lucky Trivia'.

If you've recently bought a new smart hub or smart speaker, check our guide on Google Assistant, Siri and Alexa commandsfor the need-to-knows.

Have your say: what are your most-used voice commands?

Use our interactive form below to tell us how you use your smart speaker at home.

How to set up your smart home

Smart products come in all shapes and sizes, from video doorbells to coloured light bulbs that you can control from your smartphone or tablet. They're all designed to make your life at home a little bit easier, whether you're managing your schedule or controlling other products at home.

If you're shopping for a new smart product, you'll have four ecosystems to pick from - Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant and SmartThings. In the Which? test lab, we've put smart speakers from big-name brands through their paces, with our list of tested products including the Google Homeand Polk Audio Assist.

Streamline your everyday routines and tasks with our expert guide on how to set up a smart home.