10 Google Assistant features that save you time

It's time to get over it and just start talking to your phone, because certain tasks are much faster with Google's digital aide.

google assistant android
Derek Walter

Some tasks are much faster with a voice command

At first it may have been easy to laugh off the Google Assistant as one of those clever party tricks that isn't all that useful in day-to-day life. 

Not so. Google's digitial assistant gets smarter and more capable all the time. If you learn some of the most useful commands, you'll spend less time swiping and searching on your phone and instead can get just what you want.

While the capabilities are changing all the time, several useful commands have bubbled up to the surface. Here are some impressive and time-saving voice directives that will help you to find information faster and offer an occasional helping of delight.

my flight ticket
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Check those flights

While your Google Feed does a good job at organizing your travel details, sometimes it’s easier to get an answer about a flight right away. You can ask, “check my flight ticket” or “show me my flights” to get a rundown of your upcoming itinerary.

With this command and others (“show me my hotel reservations” is also helpful), pay attention to the suggestions that appear on the bottom of the screen. Often there's a useful follow-up command that is the logical next step you’d take. In this example, you can get directions or create a reminder about when to check in for your flight.

Google lumos
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Lumos!

Even if you're not a Harry Potter aficionado, this trick is pretty cool. If you say, "OK Google, Lumos!" your phone will launch the flashlight. A large card pops up on screen that enables you to easily turn the light off.

Alternatively, you can say, "Nox!" to to banish the light. If shouting magic commands is a little too juvenile, you can just say, "OK Google, turn on the flashlight" and get the same effect.

my google photos
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Find specific photos

Let's say you want to show off some vacation pics or the latest shots of family. Instead of diving into your image catalogue, you can tell Google exactly what you want to see.

The Google Assistant can understand queries about specific people in your Google Photos, like places, specific objects, cities, tourist attractions (like the Eiffel Tower), dates, and albums you've created.  It's a lot faster to say "Show me my photos from Christmas last year" than it is to browse through all your images.

As with other commands, the list of suggestions that follow the results will sometimes be helpful if you want to see more images.

google assistant near me
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Find out what's going on nearby

There are those times when you know that you want to get out of the house, but you’re not sure what to do. Google may be able to give you some options. Commands like “what’s going on this weekend?” and “fun places to go near me” might find you some off-the-beaten-path fun you hadn’t heard of yet.

This is also worth trying when you travel, as it can give you some quick feedback about events going on in your guest city. 

poems
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Poems, riddles, and more

The Google Assistant isn’t all just work. There are a large number of time-killing performances it can put on. You an ask for a poem, riddle, play a game, get an interesting fact, or even just ask for random fun. 

I hadn’t really given this area much thought, feeling it was mostly one of those, “hey, look what we did!” features. But there might be value in exposing people to some of the finer pursuits like poetry, thoughtful quotes, or even a little-known fact. So instead of just getting lost on Twitter, give this a try next time you need a mental break.

google assistant netflix
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Start streaming

There are times when you know exactly what you want to watch. So when you’re ready to launch a Stranger Things binge session, you can tell Google to do exactly that. Similar specificity can be performed with Spotify and Google Play Music playlists, albums, or titles in your Google Play Movies & TV catalogue. 

Sometimes I’ve found the program will start streaming right away, while other times it’ll take you to the product screen and you’ll still need to press play. Such is the inconsistency that happens at times when living in the future. Either way, it’s faster to say “OK Google, play Stranger Things on Netflix” than it is to find the app, open it, and find the show.

show emails
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Show me my emails

Unfortunately, you can't escape the daily slog of email. If you want just a glimpse at what you've been avoiding, you can ask the Google Assistant to show you your latest emails. It'll pull up the most recent pair. Touch the arrow to see more or head to Gmail for the full rundown.

This may be a much quicker method of taking a peek at your email without opening Gmail and then getting lost as you scroll further down, with no end in sight.

send text google assistant
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Fire off a text message

Whether you're driving or hard at work on the computer, sending a quick text message is one of those features that is often best accomplished by voice. 

It also works with other apps, like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. You may need to speak like someone from the 1920s dictating a telegram to get those question marks and periods to show up, but it's a faster way to send off some quick thoughts. 

Once you get over the seeming weirdness of talking to your phone, you'll find that it's a head-clearing way to send off an important message without disrupting your workflow.

atms near me
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Gas, ATMs, and more

Gas stations, ATMs, coffee shops, and grocery stores are some of the places that necessitate a quick stop, especially when you're traveling. While Google Maps and other apps are great tools for finding what you need, the fastest route may be through asking Google. 

The Google Assistant will glady oblige, giving you a direct answer and address for where you can fill up. Such utility is also appreciated in the car, where you don't want to put yourself in danger by staring at your phone.

hotel reminder google assistant
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Some short-term memory help

I'm notorious for walking into the hotel on a trip and totally blanking on my room number. Usually I know the floor, but that doesn't help if you're in one of those large facilities with 20 stories and 30 rooms on each floor.

The Google Assistant is very helpful in situations like this. Short-term details like your hotel room number, bicycle combination, the name of the contact that you're interviewing (don't judge), can all be remembered and then recalled from Google's omnipresent brain. As you see from the screenshots, you can delete the information so that presumably Google will forget about it also.