Looking to buy one of the Google Home smart speakers or a Chromecast? Or, perhaps, you want to make the most of the one you already own? Regardless of which camp you fall in, we have you covered. Here’s a list of the best hidden Google Home features, along with some Google Chromecast tips.
Google Home tips and tricks
Find your phone
Having previously relied on IFTTT add-ons, Google introduced native compatibility to find your phone using its smart speaker. Google Home can make your phone ring when you’ve left it under a cushion or in the other room, even when it’s on silent. All you have to do to get the job done is say, “Ok, Google find/ring my phone.”
To make sure the feature works, you’ll need to be on the same Google account on both your phone and Home hub. Google should be able to call your phone if it’s connected to a mobile network or Wi-Fi. Keep in mind that you can also view all your visible devices under android.com/find.
Remember where you left things
As well as finding your phone, Google Home can also work as a handy reminder for those all-important, yet easily forgotten items dotted around your home, like your passport or house keys. For example, say something along the lines of, “Ok, Google, my passport is in the filing cabinet,” and it will remember when you later ask, “Hey, Google, where’s my passport?”
Share your smart home
Exchanging Wi-Fi passwords with guests is a chore at the best of times, and setting up a friend on your smart home is even more laborious, especially if they just want to cast a new song for you to check out. One of our favorite Google Home tips makes this process simpler with its “Guest Mode.”
Enabling this Google Home feature in its settings allows other people with the Home app to quickly connect to your home’s devices by bursting an inaudible four-digit PIN to your guest’s smartphone. Simple. To get the job done, open the Google Home app on your phone, switch to the home you want to share, tap the + icon up top, select the “Invite home member” option, and then add in the person’s email address and tap “Add.” The person will then receive an email with instructions on what to do.
Learn your family by voice
Many of Google Home’s most useful features, such as managing your calendar or getting traffic advice for your route to work, are tied to your unique Google account. Fortunately, you can add multiple accounts to your Google Home, which allows your assistant to recognize commands from each individual family member by voice alone. This way it’s possible for each family member to add new items to their own calendar or receive tailored news reports in the morning.
Want to test if Google is paying attention? Ask “Who am I?” or “What’s my name?” and hopefully your home assistant will be able to tell everyone apart. You can set up multiple accounts for your smart speaker in the Google Home app.
Ask it to remind you to exercise
Sometimes we get so busy, we forget that we need to take care of ourselves. If you like to exercise at a certain time of the day or week, you can ask Google Home to remind you to work out at a specific time. It’s one of our favorite Google Home features.
Get word definitions
Ever taken a pause to ponder a word or phrase while reading a book or article? One of the Google Home features can help with that too. Simply ask, “What does ‘pontificate’ mean?” and you’ll see what I’m getting at.
If you’re looking to expand your vocabulary further, one of our favorite Google Home tips can help you out with a word of the day too.
Bored? This Google Home tip can give you something to do to whittle away a few minutes, thanks to a selection of games. 20 Questions is a classic guessing game and with third-party app integration you can have a go with, “Ok, Google, let me talk to Akinator.” Think of a celebrity, answer Akinator’s questions with yes or no, and within just a few rounds it will guess who you were thinking of.
Google Home has a host of other voice-activated games and entertainment, from fast-paced trivia to a geography quiz, or even a selection of curated Dad jokes. To see them all, click here.
Some Google Home features include handy shortcuts/routines for some of your most commonly uttered phrases. If you’re fed up with asking for your favorite radio station or playlist when relaxing after work, you can simply set up an, “Ok, Google, chill,” shortcut to handle it for you. These fully customizable options are tucked away under Settings > More Settings > Assistant > Routines in the Home app.
You can also trigger multiple actions with just a single phrase. So for example, saying “Good morning,” can give you weather, traffic to work, and news headlines.
Oh, did you know you don’t have to say “Ok, Google”? A casual “Hey, Google” does the trick too. Another of the Google Home tips you can try.
Control your Chromecast
Expanding your smart home beyond a single Google Home hub opens up a world of possibilities. The first add-on you should consider is a Chromecast, freeing your TV to stream pretty much anything from the internet.
Read next: How to use Google Home with Chromecast?
Using nothing but voice commands, it’s possible to start up a video of your choice on YouTube or Netflix. The same applies to Spotify, Google Play Music, TuneIn, and other music sites. You can also search for something less specific, such as a recipe video guide, and Google will send a video result straight to your Chromecast. Google Home also supports pause, skip, and volume controls via voice, so you won’t need to reach for your phone or remote.
Relax with the sounds of nature
If you just want to relax after a long day at work, you can ask Google Home to play you the sounds of nature. These include river, forest, or fireplace sounds. You can even tell Google to “play the sound of rain,” and it will pull up an hour-long recording.
There are a bunch of other sounds Google Home has in its lineup. These include the sounds of the ocean and thunderstorm, just to name a few. You can check out the rest of them by clicking here.
Broadcast to all Google Home device
This tip comes in handy for those with multiple Google Home devices in their house. If you’re one of them, you can broadcast a message to all Google Home speakers by saying something like, “Hey Google, broadcast that it’s time to go.” You can use Google’s smart speakers like an intercom system, which means you don’t have to go upstairs to let the kids know it’s time to go or yell like a crazy person.
You can also broadcast to Google Home devices via your phone that you’re on your way to the house while still on the road. If you do, your dinner may be waiting for you when you get home. Or not. It’s worth a shot, though.
Chromecast tips and tricks
Stream local content, too
Google’s Chromecast is all about internet streaming, so beaming local content to your TV has been left as a bit of an afterthought. Using Chrome to stream your PC desktop or your phone’s Cast screen/audio option is a less than ideal workaround, but fortunately, Android apps like Plex, AllCast, and LocalCast can help organize your home media collection for beaming straight to your TV.
If you’re a Plex user, install the Plex Media Server on your PC or wherever you keep the bulk of your video library, and you’ll be able cast your library using your phone. AllCast and LocalCast open up similar functionality for media on your phone, DLNA/UPnP media servers, and even files saved on cloud storage platforms Dropbox and Drive. You don’t have to be limited to YouTube and other video apps.
Keep using your TV remote
Being able to play, pause, and adjust the volume of your casted content from your phone is pretty handy, but it’s not always the best solution if your phone needs to charge or even if it’s just in the other room. Fortunately, Chromecast supports regular TV remote controls for pause/play, etc. You just need a TV that is compatible with HDMI-CEC (Consumer Electronics Control), and have the Routing Control Pass Through turned on in the TV’s settings.
The added benefit of enabling HDMI-CEC Routing Control is that the TV will be forced to switch over to the Chromecast input as soon as you start playing content. So no more scrolling through HDMI input channels.
Some TV manufacturers call HDMI-CEC different names. Here’s a quick list for some of the most popular brands: Samsung calls it Anynet+, Sharp calls it Aquos Link, Phillips calls it EasyLink, LG calls it SimpLink, and Sony calls it Bravia Link.
Play games, even motion-controlled ones
You don’t just have to stream music and video to your Chromecast, games are perfectly viable too. In fact, there are games designed specifically for the Chromecast available to download from the Play Store, so it’s not just a case of casting your Android display onto the big screen. You can see another list of supported partners here.
If you’re up for something a little more experimental, you should try out Super Sync Sports, which is played via motion controls from your phone. Add the game to Chrome, cast the webpage from your laptop to your TV, and start playing on the big screen with up to four players.
Show off your vacation photos
Chromecast already displays some pretty nice-looking wallpapers when it’s not casting your favorite shows, but you’re also free to customize the images and information displayed on the big screen. Hop into the Home app and then into the Backdrop settings for your Chromecast, and you can select images from a variety of sources, including Google Photos, Facebook, and Flickr.
Paired up with Google Home, you can also ask to display photos from a specific location, month, or person straight to your TV. If you’re a Google Photos user, you’ll find your images automatically sorted into various categories thanks to the service’s intelligence algorithms. This is a handy way to show off your latest vacation snaps.
Enable Guest Mode
Just like for Google Home, you don’t have to mess around with Wi-Fi codes to allow your guests to cast content to your Chromecast. Head into the Home app and your Chromecast’s settings. From here you can enable Guest Mode, which uses a guest’s Location settings and audio pairing to quickly connect if they’re within 25 feet of the device.