Android Voice Actions

The recent release of iOS’s Siri has brought renewed attention to mobile phone and tablet voice control.  While the press has made ado of Siri, Google’s Voice Actions have existed for far longer and can do virtually everything Siri can do.   With Ice Cream Sandwich right around the corner, we anticipate an even more powerful and useful catalog of actions.

Before we dive into the more advanced Voice Action commands, here’s a refresher on the basics.  Activate any of these commands by tapping the microphone next to the Google search box and speaking after you see the “Speak now” dialog box appear.

Android Voice Action Basics Review:

Directions to or Navigate to [address or business name].  For example, say: Directions to 1000 Main Street, Austin, TX 78701 or Directions to Papa Johns Pizza.

Call [contact name, full phone number, or business name and place].  For example, say: Call Lindsey Smith or Call 512-555-1111 or Call Bob’s Cafe Mountain View, California.

Send text to [contact name or full phone number] [message].  For example, say: Send text to Lindsey Smith Hi there or Send text to 512-555-1111 Hi there.

Send email to [contact name] cc [contact name] bcc [contact name] subject [message subject] body [message].  For example, say: Send email to Lindsey Smith cc Antonio bcc Joel subject This is a test body Please let me know if you receive this message successfully.

Go to [website].  For example, say: Go to CNN or Go to www dot purple dot com.

Map of [address or place name].  For example, say: Map of 1000 Main St, Austin, Texas or Map of San Francisco, California.

Listen to [album, song, or artist name].  For example, say: Listen to Bach’s greatest hits or Listen to 1812 overture or Listen to Mozart.

Note to self [message].  For example, say: Note to self Remember that it’s our anniversary tomorrow.

Also remember that you can search for anything on Google by clicking on the microphone next to the search box and saying whatever it is you would like to search for.

While those commands are the only official ones Google publishes, there are certainly more actions that Google hasn’t publicly announced.

Advanced Google Voice Actions

Set alarms: You can set an alarm by saying: Set alarm for [time] .  For example: Set alarm for 7 AM Monday morning wake up.  The first time you set an alarm, you can choose to have Voice Actions integrate with either Android’s native alarm clock or any alarm clock apps you have downloaded.

Add Calendar entries: To add calendar entries, you first need to log on to your Google Calendar account at  Then click on the gear icon and “Calendar Settings.”  From there, click on the “Mobile Setup” tab and follow the on-screen instructions.  After you have entered the verification code sent to your phone, create a phone contact named “Calendar” and set its phone number as “48368.”  Once that is done, you can use Voice Actions to create calendar items using the following format: Send text to calendar [event name] on [day] at [time].  For example: Send text to calendar “dentist appointment” on Friday at 11 AM.  You will receive a text message confirming the addition of a calendar item if successful.

Update social media sites: You can use Voice Actions to update both your Twitter and Facebook pages.  For Twitter, add a Twitter contact with number 40404.  Then use the send text to twitter [message] command to post a new tweet.  You also have to log in to your Twitter account and enable mobile updates under settings if you haven’t already.  For Facebook updates, add a Facebook contact that has its email address designated as your Facebook upload email address (usually your Facebook username  Then use the send email to Facebook body [message] command.

Calculate and convert numbers: By combining Voice Actions with Google’s own search technology, you can easily do arithmetic, calculate tips, convert measurements, and make currency conversions.  For example, try saying any of the following into your Android device:

  • Twenty two  times zero point four six or cosine of 160 degrees
  • 15 percent of 152
  • 15 kilograms to pounds
  • 6,000 USD to Canadian Dollars

Obtain other factual information: Google will try to answer most statistical questions you pose via Voice Actions, including both economic and population data related ones.  For example, try saying Unemployment rate of United Kingdom, population of Phoenix, or China GDP per capita.

If you’re still feeling envious, you could also try downloading Iris, a recently released free Android Market app that functions almost exactly like Siri.

Do you use Voice Actions on your Android device?