How To Set Up Voice Commands On Android And iOS Devices

May 1, 2017 • Shannon Flynn


Gone are the days of playing “Snake” on our old-school Nokia phones. Today, you can do almost everything on your smart phone. We can handle everything from banking to work to social engagements all from the supercomputer in your pocket.

One of most useful features is one that most people overlook: voice commands. You can do more than ask Siri for the weather or make your Android phone search Google.

Voice commands are the best way to optimize your productivity and turn your smartphone into the perfect multifunctional tool.

Why Should You Set Up Voice Commands on Your Phone?

You might think that because you’re already using your phone regularly and typically not experiencing problems with its functionality, there’s no point in learning how to set up voice commands on it. But if you’ve reached that conclusion, it’s likely because you’re not thinking of how helpful it could be to use your phone in a whole new way.

For example, what if your spouse just got diagnosed with spondylolisthesis? It’s a condition where one of the vertebrae in the back slips down over the bone below. Then, you’d understandably want to research the topic but might not immediately know how to spell the condition. Plus, because there are so many conditions involving the back, it’d be too time-consuming to look through lists of them and pick out the name that seems right.

However, once you set up voice commands, the only thing you need to remember is how to say the disorder property. Then, hopefully, the service you use will fill in the gaps and allow you to do research without being a spelling whiz.

Also, as you’ll learn later on, voice commands let you avoid the often cumbersome task of typing on a too-small keypad to communicate while using your device. That’s convenient if you’re driving or have a lot to say and don’t want to waste time trying to get your points across and probably making several typos along the way.

After you set up voice commands for your phone, the device could become more accessible to use in unexpected circumstances, too. For example, what if you break your arm and have to wear a cast? That situation would undoubtedly make it much harder to use your phone. You’d probably figure out a way to keep using the keypad, but why do that when you could speak instead?

Or, what if your phone slips out of your hand, causing the once-pristine screen to have a deep crack? To make things worse, the gadget still works — but thanks to the accident it’s nearly impossible to type out characters on the left side of the keyboard because they’re nearest to the part of the touchscreen that has the crack.

Maybe people have to get used to your words missing some key characters and filling in the blanks themselves. If so, your phone may allow activating the microphone without using a keyboard — such as by pressing a button on the side — thereby making it worthwhile to set up voice commands and let your talking take care of the text-based communications.

Now that you know there are some practical reasons why it’s helpful to control your phone with your voice, how can you set up voice commands on your Android or iOS device? Let’s find out by walking through a step-by-step tutorial.

“OK Google” — Set Up Android Voice Commands

Android has offered voice activation since version 4.4 of its operating system was released, meaning you don’t need an ultra-new phone to make voice functionality work. Just say, “OK Google” to activate the Android’s voice commands. See? The setup is probably a lot simpler than you thought.

If you haven’t turned the voice activation option on, it’s easy to fix. Simply open your Google app and click Settings.

You’ll see a couple of options. The first lets you set up voice commands for Android by turning on the voice activation. The second lets you access those voice commands from any screen so you don’t have to open the Google app or an Android productivity app to take advantage of these tools.

“Hey Siri” — Set Up on iPhone

Siri has been a part of iOS for as long as we can remember, but until recently you had to tap the home button to activate her voice settings. Now, you can use voice commands to activate Siri without touching your phone.

Simply open the settings on your iOS enabled device, tap General and select the Siri settings. There, you’ll see an option to allow “Hey Siri,” which turns on those voice commands.

What Can I Do With Voice Commands?

Now that you’ve set up voice commands, what can you do with this newfound power? Here are a few things you can do with both Android voice commands and iOS voice commands to make your life easier and improve your productivity.

This is a general list, meaning you might need to check the specific functionality for your device, but for up-to-date iOS and Android devices, most of these voice commands should work as described:

  • Make a call: If you actually use your phone’s address book, simply tell your phone to call a name that’s saved in your phone’s memory.
  • Send a text: Same concept: tell your phone to send a text to “X” and then dictate the message.
  • Be a wizard: Are you a fan of “Harry Potter?” Activate your Android voice commands and tell your Android phone “Lumos” to turn your phone’s flashlight on or “Nox” to turn it off again. You can also use the silencing charm “Silencio” to turn off your phone’s volume.
  • Get scores for your favorite sports teams: Ask what the score is for your team and the information will be provided.
  • Find out what song is playing: Ask “What’s that song?” and hold your phone up to the source of the music. If it’s clear enough, your phone should be able to identify the song. That could be helpful if you’re at a music festival and you randomly come across an excellent-sounding band but don’t have the event schedule handy.
  • Set alarms or reminders: Set an alarm to remind you to be somewhere or a reminder to call someone when you get home or get to the office. If you’ve got the addresses for places like home or work saved in your phone, your device will use your location to activate the reminder when you arrive.
  • Add events to your calendar: Similar to setting alarms, you can add upcoming dates or events to your calendar so you never forget important meetings, appointments or deadlines.

You can do all of this with the sound of your voice and without having to download another Android productivity app on your phone.

A Few Things to Remember

Setting up voice commands is a great way to get the most out of your phone, but there are a few things that you should remember when you’re talking to your phone:

  1. Speak slowly and clearly: Talk too fast and “What’s that song?” becomes “What’s Up Song” and brings up a totally different result.
  2. Be considerate of others: No one wants to hear you screaming at your phone when your voice commands don’t work. Siri has a “Raise to Speak” option that activates Siri when you lift your phone to your ear, with her voice coming through the phone’s earpiece instead of the speaker.
  3. Make it a habit: Your phone will take a while to get used to your particular way of speaking, so make a habit to use your voice commands as often as possible.

Voice commands can be the best way to get the most out of your phone. Just be patient, speak clearly and make a habit of using Siri or Google, and you’ll find that tasks take a fraction of the time they once did.