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Smart hubs explained

Essential smart hub commands

By Tom Morgan

Article 3 of 3

Want to see what your smart hub is capable of? Here's a selection of the most useful smart hub commands to help you navigate your day.

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If you've recently purchased a new smart hub and want to see what it can do, we've rounded up some handy voice commands for you to try out.

Whether you own a device powered by Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri, a smart hub can help you manage your work schedule, tell you the latest news headlines and send messages to contacts on your phone. Each platform supports thousands of unique commands, but some are more useful than others.

Keep reading for an overview of the most popular smart hub commands, along with some hidden tricks that may give you a chuckle.

Shopping for a smart hub? See which models have impressed us most with our guide to the top smart home hubs.

Do the commands differ between assistants?

They may do. When we've used the different assistants we've noticed that some commands require more exact wording than others. The useful requests we've listed below should work with Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri and Bixby. But if you don't get the right answer when you ask, try varying some of the wording a bit and trying again.

One thing that is definitely unique to each assistant is the 'wake' word. The assistants are always listening, but will only start recording and responding to what you say once they hear the following commands.

  • Alexa - you just need to say 'Alexa' to get Amazon's assistant to start listening. But if that causes confusion because someone in the house has the same name then you can change the wake word to Echo or Computer
  • Google Assistant - you need to say 'OK Google' or 'Hey Google'. Google is also planning to update its smart hubs so you can choose any wake word you like.
  • Siri - saying 'Hey Siri' is enough to get Apple's assistant to pay attention.
  • Bixby - you simply need to say 'Bixby' within earshot of your device and Samsung's assistant will start listening.

Voice assistants are being constantly updated, so it's worth experimenting with some new commands every now and then and checking to see what new requests have been added. They are chock full of fun little discoveries to be made. Try asking them to tell a joke or story, or ask what they think of certain topics. The answers are often fun. 

Useful voice commands for Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri and Bixby

Alarms and alerts

'Set a reminder for...'

If you're a tad forgetful, a voice assistant can save the day. Say 'Alexa, remind me to take the food out of the oven in 30 minutes' and the smart hub will oblige. Depending on your assistant, you don't need to be right next to your device to use it for alarms, either – open up the Alexa app on your smartphone and assign that alert to your smart hub. Google Assistant works the same same way. Siri and Bixby will set the reminder on your phone. 

'Find my phone.'

To enable this feature for Alexa, you'll need to download a third-party app. Download IFTTT (which stands for If This, Then That), link your hub and install the 'Tell Alexa to find your phone' command. When you say 'Alexa, find my phone', your smartphone will ring at full volume. This is a must-have if you misplace your phone more often than you'd like. No extra apps or skills are required to use this feature with Google Assistant. Say, 'Siri, where are you?' and Alexa will respond with 'Right here', which is helpful if it's in the same room as you.

Shopping

'Add [food] to my shopping list.'

Adding an item to your shopping list with any assistant is very quick, and you can keep track of the full list from the lists app on your phone whether that's on the Alexa app or a dedicated iOS or Android lists app. If you're at the supermarket, you can open up the app and tick items off as you go.

'Buy [product].'

This one is best on an Amazon Echo. Amazon Prime members with a UK shipping address can buy a selection of items using Alexa. After you say 'Alexa, buy [product]', the smart hub will read back your request to make sure it has picked out the right product. As Alexa keeps a record of what you've ordered before, it'll remember your preferred brand if you order something generic such as 'toilet paper'.

If you want to 'save' that item rather than order it right away, you can say 'Alexa, add [product] to my basket'. Check where your previous purchases are by asking 'Alexa, where is my order?'.

Control your smart devices

'Play [TV show] on Netflix.'

If you have an Apple TV, Google Chromecast or Amazon Fire TV stick then you can use Siri, Google Assistant and Alexa to control each one respectively. You can ask them to bring up specific shows or apps.

Navigation

'How long will it take to drive to work?'

Not all the voice assistants can tell you this, but Alexa can once you've told it where you work in the Alexa app. Once that's done, asking 'Alexa, what's my commute like?' will give you up-to-date details on your route. This is a handy voice command to try out if you're about to set out to work in the morning and need to know about the conditions on the road.

'What Indian restaurants are nearby?'

You can ask your assistant for some top-rated nearby restaurants (based on customer reviews), or find a contact number for the local fish and chip shop.

Weather

'What's the weather in [location] this weekend?'

Try asking your assistant about the local weather if you're making plans for a day trip. You can ask for an overview of the week or get into specifics with a request such as 'Will it snow on Monday?'.

Calendar

'How does my day look?'

Manage your schedule with some simple calendar-related commands. You may need to open your assistant's smart phone app and set your default calendar, but once that's done it will tell you all your events.

Have some fun

'Let's play a game.'

A fun trivia game is built right into Google and Alexa smart hubs. Tell your hub how many people are playing and you'll then be asked a series of multiple-choice questions. The winner at the end of the game will be treated to a congratulatory message and a song. 

Cooking

Calls and messaging

'Call [name].'

Alexa can only call other Echos and any device with the Alexa app while Google Assistant can call most mobiles and landlines. Siri and Bixby are usually found on smartphones where this command works well. 

Music

'Play something upbeat.'

Amazon Echos, Google Homes and Apple HomePods act as speakers. They can play specific tracks from a variety of streaming services or you can make more general requests for genres and playlists.

News

'What's the news today?'

Start your day with a report from your assistant on the latest headlines. Asking 'what's the news today?' will have it read out news briefs from top news sources. 

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