Android's 'OK Google' voice controls now let you Shazam a song, start your car, and more

google now voice primary
Credit: Jason Cross

Android voice actions just became even more awesome. There are now a handful of third-party apps that will respond to specific voice commands.

Say, "OK Google, Shazam this song" into your phone, for example, and seconds later Shazam is open and identifying the music you're hearing. That's much easier than fumbling with a touchscreen and hoping to get Shazam going before the song ends.

Previously, you could only use voice actions to open third-party apps, using commands such as, "OK Google, Open Shazam." Google's first-party apps have had their own custom voice actions for some time. For example, you can tell Play Music to play a specific song or navigate to a specific place with Google Maps.

For a comprehensive list of voice actions check out our list of all the Google Now voice commands.

Right now, the number of third-party apps that work with Android voice actions are extremely limited. Google didn't announce a specific number in its announcement on the Android Developers Google+ page; however, Google's support page for voice actions lists twelve apps:

  • Flixster: "Show me Inception on Flixster."
  • Instacart: "Show instacart availability."
  • Lincoln: "Start my Lincoln MKZ."
  • NPR One: "Listen to NPR."
  • Realtor.com: "Show rentals near me on Realtor."
  • Shazam: "Shazam this song."
  • TripAdvisor: "Show attractions near me on TripAdvisor."
  • Trulia: "Show homes for sale in Boston on Trulia."
  • TuneIn Radio: "Open TuneIn in car mode."
  • Walmart: "Scan my receipt on Walmart."
  • Wink: "Activate home mode on Wink."
  • Zillow: "Show me open houses nearby on Zillow."

Google probably should've lined up a stronger app selection to debut such a killer feature, but maybe too many app devs are busy getting their Google Now cards ready for primetime.

The impact on you at home: Google is on a roll integrating third-party apps into Android. Bringing third-party commands to voice actions follows the expansion of Google Now cards from third-party apps. Voice actions, however, are by far the more exciting feature. Getting traffic updates and workout reminders in Google Now is nice, but it's nothing like telling Flixster to start playing a specific movie or starting a Lincoln with a voice command.

Custom voice actions

The new third-party voice actions are part of a new feature Google is testing called Custom Voice Actions. This appears to be an API that developers can use to harness the power of Google's voice actions to carry out commands specific to individual apps.

It's not clear if Google plans to open up its API to all third-party apps or if it will slowly add specific partners over time as it is doing with Google Now cards.

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