Learn What Your Android Phone’s Built-In Voice Actions Can Do For You [Android 2.2+]

February 15, 2012 | In: Uncategorized

google voice androidAndroid phone owners in want of voice transcription software somewhat similar to the iPhone’s Siri can now rejoice. The formerly US-only Voice Actions by Google has expanded to the UK, France, Italy, Germany and Spain, making it easier for users in these areas to speak to their Android phone and get things done more easily and quickly.

Though no system is perfect yet, Voice Actions provides a good amount of functionality that might just facilitate part of your daily routine with your Android phone. Let’s not get snarky though and talk smack about what the other brand doesn’t offer. I’m not here to argue which system works best as there are features that suit different needs in either system. I do have an Android phone however, so this will be an Android-centric post. Let’s check out what Voice Actions can do for us.

Commands To Know

google voice android

You probably have the Voice Search app in your phone, which features Voice Actions. You can also download it on the official page or from the Android Market. Once you have the app, long-press on your phone’s hardware search key, launch the Voice Search app or tap the microphone icon of the search widget, and start talking. Voice Actions recognizes certain commands as you can see detailed in this YouTube video from August of 2010 (back when Voice Actions was introduced).

In case you didn’t watch the video, the commands that you need to know in order to use Voice Actions are (as indicated in Google Mobile’s blog post):

  • send text to [contact][message], e.g. “send text to John Smith”.
  • call [business] [location], e.g. “call The Daily Catch in Boston”.
  • call [contact], e.g. “call John Smith”.
  • go to [website], e.g. “go to makeuseof.com”.
  • navigate to [location/business name], e.g. “navigate to Sweet Tomatoes in Newton”. This brings up voice-guided directions (GPS).
  • directions to [location/business name], e.g. “directions to Javier’s Cantina in Irvine”.
  • map of [location], e.g. “map of Panama”.
  • note to self [message], e.g. “note to self buy milk”. This is essentially an email to yourself.
  • listen to [artist/song/album], e.g. “listen to OneRepublic”.
  • send email to [recipient] [subject] [body] where subject and body are optional.

Any other phrase you might throw at it, Voice Actions will naturally do a Google search on it, as long as you enunciated the words clearly. Enunciation is key to making Voice Actions work like it should, though sometimes it might not exactly do what you expect. For example, I tried saying “listen to Backstreet Boys” expecting it to play the Backstreet Boys-labeled songs in my SD card.

android voice recognition

Voice Actions actually recognized the artist, but instead of launching, say, the Music player app, it offered to launch either the Pandora or YouTube apps. I selected Pandora, which started a Backstreet Boys radio. It essentially worked, except not with the Music player app like I thought.

You might have to try these commands yourself to see how these will work on your phone, depending on what you have installed. There will be fewer surprises for other standard actions like sending an email or a text message, as those work like you would expect.

Extend Voice Actions With Third-Party Apps

Voice Actions may not remember contacts’ relationships with you or have location-based reminders like Siri does, but you can definitely get an enhanced voice-recognition experience by obtaining a few third-party apps. You can use Voice Actions in conjunction with many available voice-recognition apps.

For instance, you can dictate to Dragon Go! using natural language, post to Facebook and Twitter with Speaktoit Assistant, and book hotel rooms with Vlingo.

android voice recognition

For location-based reminders, check out Skyvi.

google voice android

Some of these apps might overlap in functionality, but you can always try them to see which one works like your dream virtual assistant.

Which ones have you tried? Let us know in the comments below!


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