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Smart hubs explained

Google Assistant and Alexa commands

By Oliver Trebilcock

Article 3 of 3

Our experts select the best voice assistant commands for Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri devices and more so you can make the most of your device.

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If you've recently purchased a new smart hub or smart speaker 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 with a voice assistant 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. In addition to the built-in commands, you can add even more via each voice assistant’s store such as the Alexa store – these are often known as ‘skills’. Each platform supports thousands of unique commands – find out which are the most useful below.

Keep reading to find out the most popular smart hub commands, along with some hidden tricks you can do to have some fun.

Looking to buy a speaker with voice commands? Find our which are the best by checking out our smart speaker reviews.

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

Weather, news, traffic and directions

'Alexa, what's the weather in London 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?'.

  

'Hey Siri, what's the news today?'


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

  

‘Alexa, 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.


'Hey Google, 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.

'Alexa, ask Uber to request a ride.'


Need to make a quick trip? Enable ride hailing skills such as Uber in the Alexa store and you’re good to go. 

Have some fun


‘Alexa, tell me a joke.'


Some are good, some are bad and some are downright bizarre – but it’s great fun regardless.

‘Alexa, tell me something weird.'


You asked for it. 

 

‘Alexa, play True or False.'
'Hey Google, let's play a game.'
‘Alexa, open Yak Yak Quiz.'


Trivia games are built right into Google and Alexa voice assistants. Some games are multi-players so you can tell your voice assistant how many people are playing. The winner at the end of the game may even be treated to a congratulatory message and a song.

'’Alexa, tell me some words of wisdom.'


Voice assistants can not only be fun, they can actually change or life (or not).

Alarms, alerts and reminders


'Hey Google, set a reminder for 10am tomorrow.'


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 way. Siri and Bixby will set the reminder on your phone.


'Hey Google, set a timer for 30 minutes.’


If you don’t want to fiddle around with the egg timer while cooking, you can easily perform these tasks hands-free with your voice assistant, without having to stop what you’re doing.


'Alexa, set the alarm for 7am.’


Now you no longer need to fiddle around in the dark before you go to bed. Simply ask your voice assistant to set the alarm for you.


'Hey Google, 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.


'Alexa, 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.


Music and radio


'Hey Siri, play BBC Radio 4.'


You no longer need a dedicated radio to access your favourite stations. And since they use internet radio, accessed through services such as TuneIn Radio, the audio quality is often higher and there are more stations to choose from all over the world. Larger Amazon Echo and Google Home devices, plus the Apple HomePod, also often have larger speaker drivers than a dedicated radio, so can have better sound quality.


'Alexa, play something upbeat.'


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

‘Alexa, play some 80s music.'

‘Alexa, play The Beatles.'

‘Alexa, reduce the volume.'

‘Hey Siri, stop the music.'

 

Simple questions and searching the internet


'Alexa, what’s five pounds in ounces?'


Make unit conversions a breeze and free yourself from your calculator.

'Hey Google, when’s the next Olympics?'


Voice assistants are great for answering trivia questions or simply asking for things that pop into your head.

Calls and messaging


'Alexa, call Bob.'


Alexa can only call other Echos and any device with the Alexa app while Google Home speakers (but not all speakers with Google Assistant) can call most mobiles and landlines. Siri and Bixby are usually found on smartphones where this command works well.

Cooking


'Hey Google, find me a paella recipe.'


Keen cooks will be pleased to hear that voice assistants can help in the kitchen. You can ask your cheery assistant to read out instructions for recipes step-by-step if you've got your hands full. Smart hubs with a screen like the Google Home Hub and Amazon Echo Show can be particularly useful for this, showing what you need to do ask you cook on their screens.

  

Shopping lists and online ordering


'Alexa, add milk to my shopping list.'

You no longer need to look for a pen each time you’re adding to your 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.


'Alexa, buy kitchen roll.'


Voice assistants can be a real time-saver for repetitive purchases. 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 flour', 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 Marmite to my basket'. Check where your previous purchases are by asking 'Alexa, where is my order?'.

Online booking


'Alexa, I’d like to order KFC from Just Eat.'


If you’ve got in late at night, it’s as easy as asking your voice assistant to get a great night in. You can order from a wide range of restaurants using skills like Just Eat and Domino’s Pizza which you can add to your device.

Finding TV programmes and films


‘Alexa, what’s on at the cinema?’

Alexa can automatically work out what’s the closest cinema to you, and let you know what’s currently playing. On voice assistant devices with a screen such as the Google Home Hub and Amazon Echo Show, you can even watch film trailers to decide what to see.


‘Alexa, what’s on TV tonight?’


Find out what are the top programmes on TV this evening. You can even be more specific and ask for specific channels. Enable skills such as the UK TV Guide from the Alexa store.

 
Control your smart devices

If you have some other internet-enabled devices set up in your house, you may be able to control them through using your voice assistant. The list of compatible smart devices continues to grow, with the line-up including smart lights, plugs, smart thermostats, doorbells, wireless security cameras and smart wireless speakers.

'Alexa, play The Crown 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.

 

'Alexa, dim the living room lights.'


Buy some Philips Hue smart lights, for example, and you can have Alexa dim your living room lights when it's time for a Netflix binge.


‘Hey Google, turn the temperature down.'


If you have a smart thermostat such as a Nest thermostat, you may be able to connect them to your voice assistant so you no longer need to physically go to the thermostat to change the temperature or change the times the heating is on, and can do this from anywhere in your home without having to get up from your chair. Feeling a bit too warm in the middle of a film? Just ask Google Assistant without even having to pause the film.

Do the commands differ between assistants?

Some do. When we've used the different assistants we've noticed that some commands require more exact wording on some 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, trial and error is best: 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 in case you need them, but will only start recording and responding to what you say once they hear the following commands for your voice assistant:

• 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’. Then simply ask your question after it (not before), such as ‘Alexa, what is the time?’

• Google Assistant - you need to say 'Hey, Google' or 'OK Google', for example: ‘Hey Google, what’s the weather like?’. 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. Say something like: ‘Siri, what’s six feet in metres?’

• Bixby - you simply need to say 'Bixby' within earshot of your device and Samsung's assistant will start listening. So you could say: ‘Bixby, tell me the news.’

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. Even more commands, such as those for specific companies like Just Eat, can be added via their stores, such as the Alexa store – these are often known as ‘skills’.
Voice assistants 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.

Smart speakers

If your voice assistant device a speaker? Read more about what you can do with it in our smart speakers guide.

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