What Is Google Assistant? How to Use It to Full Potential

While Apple's Siri started the mobile voice assistant craze, it's easy to argue that Google Assistant has surpassed it. Combining a natural speaking format with the power of Google, having Assistant around is one of the best perks of Android.

In this guide, we'll explain what Google Assistant is, what it's used for, and how to start using it yourself.

Google Assistant is Google's virtual voice assistant. It's an evolution of old Android feature known as Google Now, which provided you information about your interests before you even asked. It competes with Apple's Siri, Amazon's Alexa, and (to a lesser extent) Microsoft's Cortana.

Assistant launched in May 2016 as part of Google's smart messaging app Allo, which is no longer around. After a brief time of exclusivity on the first Google Pixel phone, Google Assistant is now available on pretty much every Android device running Android 5.0 above.

Though it's most well-known on Android, Google Assistant is available elsewhere too. You can access it on Android Wear, on iPhone and iPad through the Google Assistant app, through the Google Home line of smart speakers, and on other devices too.

Note that in the screenshots and instructions below, we're using a Pixel 4. This features the revamped version of Google Assistant, but the differences are mostly aesthetic.

On an Android device, you can summon Google Assistant through a few methods, depending on your phone. This is the easiest way to check if you have Google Assistant ready to go.

If your phone has the three-button navigation bar at the bottom, press and hold the Home (circle) button to summon Google Assistant. With the two-button navigation setup, press and hold on the pill-shaped Home button instead.

On newer Android phones using the all-gesture navigation setup, swipe inward diagonally from either of the bottom corners instead. The Pixel 2 and above support squeezing the edges of your device to bring up Assistant, or you can tap the Assistant button on the Google search widget.

Finally, on many Android phones, you can also say "OK Google" to bring up Google Assistant by voice.

If you see Assistant appear after using any of these methods, then it's built into your phone and ready to go. If you have it built-in but don't have it enabled, you'll see a prompt to enable the feature instead.

On Google Home devices, Google Assistant is built-in.

Went through the above steps and found that you don't have Google Assistant installed? It's easy to get Google Assistant on your device.

On Android, download the Google Assistant Android app from the Play Store. Make sure you've updated the Google app on your device, per the Google Assistant requirements.

In addition, you must have a phone with Android 5 Lollipop or higher, along with a minimum 1GB of memory and a 720p screen. Remember that you don't need this app if Google Assistant is built into your device.

If you use an iPhone, download the Google Assistant iOS app from the App Store. It requires iOS 11 or newer.

And in case you're wondering, Google Assistant does not cost money. It is completely free, so if you see a prompt to pay for Google Assistant, it's a scam.

To call up Google Assistant on compatible Android phones, use the gestures mentioned above or say "OK Google." With some phones, you can also say "Hey Google." On an iPhone or iPad, you'll need to open the Google Assistant app and either say "OK Google" or tap the microphone icon.

If you don't want to use your voice, you can also type out a question. Touch the keyboard button at the bottom-right to enter text into Google Assistant. It will respond just as if you were talking.

A handy feature of Google Assistant is that it understands context quite well. For example, if you ask "When was Denzel Washington born?" and then say "What movies is he known for?", Google knows you mean Washington when you say "he" in the second command.

Once you've pulled up Google Assistant, you can ask it anything you'd like. Assistant can interact with lots of apps and services, and it will pull up Google results if it can't help with your question.

Now that you have it set up, what is Google Assistant used for? As it turns out, Assistant can help you with any kind of information you'd like to learn, or action you'd like to take on your phone.

Some of the most popular questions you can ask Google Assistant include prompts like:

  • How's the weather?
  • Find sushi restaurants near me.
  • Navigate home.
  • Call Sam.
  • Text Mary "I'll be there in an hour."
  • Wake me up at 8am.
  • Remind me to clean the bathroom when I get home.
  • Play some country music.
  • Did the Giants win their last game?
  • Define "vivacious."
  • How do I say "Where is the train station" in Japanese?

  • Decrease the brightness.
  • How old is Gal Godot?
  • Open Telegram.
  • Let's play a game.
  • Turn off my bedroom lights.

This is just scratching the surface of what the Assistant can do. We didn't even mention the smart home functionality, since that requires you to have compatible devices.

Check out lesser-known Google Assistant functions if you're interested in more. And if you'd like to have a few laughs, there are also many funny questions you can ask Google Assistant.

Setting Up Google Assistant for Efficiency

Google Assistant doesn't require any real setup to start working. But you can tweak a few options to make it work to your liking.

To find all options related to Google Assistant, navigate to the buried menu at Settings > Google > Account services > Search, Assistant & Voice > Google Assistant.

These are the most useful sections under the You tab:

  • Your places: Enter your home and work addresses, as well as anywhere else you want to give the Assistant by name. This makes for easy navigation, perhaps while using Android Auto in your car.
  • Your people: Add family members so Assistant knows who "Grandma" is.
  • News: Choose your favorite news sources, which are used for your daily digest when you ask Google Assistant for the latest stories.

Under the Assistant tab, take a look at the following:

  • Assistant voice: Change the way your Assistant sounds.
  • Continued Conversation: Enable this and Google Assistant will listen for follow-up questions right after it's done talking to you.
  • Voice Match: Teach your Assistant how your voice sounds for better recognition.
  • Home control: If you use smart home devices, set them up to work with Assistant here.
  • Routines: An incredibly useful feature; Google Assistant Routines let you set up groups of actions that run with one command.

Finally, under Services, have a look at the following options:

  • Notes & Lists: Choose a provider to sync your Google Assistant notes with.
  • Music: Set your preferred music provider so Google Assistant knows what to play your requests on.

Most of the other settings here affect Google Assistant in some way, but these are the most useful ones.

You can disable Google Assistant if you never use the feature or are concerned about Google listening.

To do this, head back to the same menu above Settings > Google > Account services > Search, Assistant & Voice > Google Assistant. Switch to the Assistant tab at the top, then pick Phone (or your device's name) at the bottom to access options specifically for your device. There, disable the Google Assistant slider to shut the feature off.

Once you've done this, if you try to launch Google Assistant in the future, you'll see a prompt to turn the feature back on. You can also follow the above to turn Assistant back on if you prefer.

We've taken a look at what you should know to get started with Google Assistant. Now you know what it does, whether you have it, and how to use it. Voice commands are super useful, so you're in for a treat if you haven't used Assistant yet.

If you love voice commands, why not go further and try controlling Android entirely with your voice?


20 Useful Telegram Bots to Wean You Off WhatsApp | MakeUseOf

Telegram bots are useful tools that can do everything from helping you streamline your productivity to keeping you abreast of the weather forecast.

There are thousands of bots available on Telegram. And these are the best Telegram bots available today. They may even tempt you to get rid of WhatsApp.

It's not easy to find cheap flights---there are so many providers and the prices change so frequently that it's hard to keep up.

If you'd like to make sure you're getting a good deal next time you book a plane trip, it's worth investigating AirTrack. Just tell the bot your desired route and it will let you know via notification when the price moves up or down.

Contrary to popular belief, RSS isn't dead. It remains one of the best ways to stay abreast of the sites you care about.

Feed Reader is one of the most useful bots on Telegram. It works with regular RSS feeds, but can also read public Facebook pages, and YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter accounts.

You can think of Song ID Bot as Shazam for Telegram. It can recognize and identify songs.

To use the bot, open a chat window and hold down the Record button. Release the button to send the recording, and, after a few seconds, the bot will tell you the name of the artist and track.

You can also use the bot to identify songs from screen recordings of Instagram.

The IMDb bot will scan the Internet Movie Database to provide details on movies you're interested in.

It can provide plot lines, actors/actresses, directors, trailers, ratings, and more.

Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ethereum; the list of cryptocurrencies goes on. Today, there are thousands of altcoins out there. If you have a diversified portfolio, it's difficult to track the price movements you care about.

Crypto Whale might be able to help. It provides on-demand charts, prices, and market capitalization for most coins. It'll even let you know about upcoming ICOs.

Like many other social media apps and platforms, Telegram highlights verified channels and groups with a blue tick.

Verify Bot is Telegram's official verification tool. It can help you get that prestigious blue tick on your own account. The bot will guide you through the entire verification process.

GetMedia lets you download photos, videos, and audio from most of the leading social networks and video sites.

YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, SoundCloud, and Twitter are all supported. Just make sure you don't breach any copyright laws when grabbing content.

The Pomodoro technique is a time-management methodology. It introduces brief "rests" into your working day. According to the philosophy, you should split your time into 25 minutes of work and five minutes of respite, but use whichever split work for you.

HotelBot is another of the best Telegram bots. It is the perfect complement to AirTrack. It works in the same way, just let the bot know the name of the hotel and the city, and it will monitor the cost over time so you can make sure you book when the price is cheap.

Make sure you enable notifications so you don't miss the alerts as they arrive.

The core purpose of Skeddy is sending you reminders.

The bot can understand natural language, thus allowing you to set reminders with your voice. It can also create recurring reminders and postpone existing reminders.

Math Teacher Bot is a Telegram bot for kids. It will let your children practice their basic math skills through a series of questions that are based on the four basic skills of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

Three difficulty levels are available.

Game of Thorns is an interactive story bot. You play the role of a poor villager in a medieval kingdom.

The aim of the game is three-fold: collect all of the hidden images, discover the history of your sword, and survive!

If you run a large Telegram group with thousands of users, the automatic message saying "[Username] has joined/left the group" can become annoying; it can overwhelm the flow of conversation.

By making this bot an administrator in your group, you'll never see those messages again.

A good GIF is a surefire way to brighten up a chat, or perhaps make people groan, depending on your standpoint.

Giphy GIF Search works across all your existing Telegram chats. Type @gif [search term] to find the perfect animation.

It takes years of frequent practice until you can say you're truly fluent in a new language, although with some well-deployed online language-learning tools you can be conversational quickly.

With PronunciationBot, you'll be able to convey your needs wherever you find yourself. The bot supports 84 languages.

The Now Trending Bot monitors Google Trends, Twitter's Trending Now, and YouTube's trending videos so you'll always know what's hot.

If you struggle to type using an on-screen keyboard---or if you're just downright lazy---Text to Speech can help. As the name suggests, just start speaking and the bot will transcribe your voice into text. It can use both the and Google Speech backends.

Telegram and WhatsApp both suffer from their fair share of spam. Shieldy has a few build-in commands that'll help you to start fighting back.

For example, you can use it to ban users, remove users from groups who fail captcha tests, automatically delete links to other Telegram groups, and a lot more.

(Check out our guide to spotting WhatsApp spam to learn more)

Time for a bit of fun. PokerBot lets you play Texas Hold 'Em against both your friends and random Telegram users.

But rest assured that PokerBot is not a gambling app, and no money is involved.

Trello is one of the web's most popular task management apps. If you're new to it, check out our article on the best Trello tips to learn more.

This bot lets you receive card events, perform actions, and create new cards. You will need to authorize the bot to access your Trello account.

These are the best Telegram bots we could find. And they all add useful and usable tools to Telegram. They might be all that you need to finally dump WhatsApp and go all-in on Telegram.

Another reason to switch from WhatsApp to Telegram is the range of Telegram channels you can join.


The 6 Best Android Phones With Wireless Charging for Every Budget

It's been a long time since wireless charging capabilities first started to appear on Android phones. The HTC Droid DNA---released in 2012---was one of the first examples in the United States.

In the intervening years, the demand for wireless charging has grown considerably. Today, if you're in the market for a new top-of-the-range Android device, wireless charging is one of the first features you should look for.

But which are the best Android phones with wireless charging technology? What about the cheapest wireless charging phones? Here are our top phones with wireless charging for every budget.

[amazon id="B08B8Y5R4Y" title="Samsung Galaxy S20"]

The Samsung Galaxy S20 was released in March 2020. It is Samsung's current flagship device. With a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor, a 1440p AMOLED screen, and 8GB of RAM on the base model (up to 12GB available), the S20 is one of the most powerful Android phones on the market.

Inside, the non-removable 4000 mAh battery supports Qi wireless charging at 15W. You can even charge other Qi devices using the S20's battery---a feature that the company calls Samsung PowerShare. Wired charging is also available.

Note: The other devices in the S20 range---the Samsung Galaxy S20+ and the Samsung S20 Ultra---also support wireless charging.

[amazon id="B07YMNLXL3" title="Google Pixel 4"]

The Pixel 4, released in late 2019, is Google's premium Android handset. It has a 5.7-inch screen, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor, up to 128GB of storage, and 6GB of RAM. There's also a 16MP camera; it's not as good as the camera on the Samsung Galaxy S20, but still eclipses many mid-range Android handsets.

The 2,800 mAh battery (non-removable) supports 11W fast wireless charging. The presence of fast charging on the Pixel 4 differentiates it from the earlier Pixel 3, which only supported fast charging on Google's own Pixel Stand accessory and a tiny number of third-party chargers.

There is still a catch, however. If you want to benefit from fast charging, you'll need to make sure your charger supports Qi's Extended Power Profile (EPP). EPP support is becoming more common, but older chargers might lack the feature.

Note: The cheaper Pixel 4a, which Google unveiled in mid-2020, does not support wireless charging.

[amazon id="B07451RCZN" title="LG G6"]

The two phones with wireless charging we've looked at so far are both premium handsets; as a result, you'll need to pay a premium price. But wireless charging isn't restricted to the newest phones on the market. The technology has been around for a few years.

If you're looking for budget phones with wireless charging, you could consider previous flagship phones that are now a couple of years old. One such example is the LG G6. LG released the device in 2016, so don't expect cutting-edge hardware, but it still holds up surprisingly well.

The device has a 5.7-inch LCD screen, an IP68 waterproof rating, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor, 4GB of RAM, and up to 128GB of storage. Wireless charging is available on US models. The charging runs at 18W and can charge the device to 50 percent in 30 minutes.

[amazon id="B086KC734X" title="OnePlus 8 Pro"]

OnePlus has manufactured some of the best mid-range Android handsets in recent years. The OnePlus 8 Pro, released in early 2020, is no different. The device has a 6.78-inch AMOLED screen, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor, and an incredible 48MP camera. It also comes with two SIM card slots---perfect if you have a personal and work number that you want to go to the same device.

It has 256GB of storage and 12GB of RAM. You can replenish the 4,510 mAh battery using the OnePlus Warp Charge 30 Wireless Charger. Like the LG G6, it will boost your power to 50 percent in 30 minutes. Sadly, the OnePlus 8 (non-Pro version) does not have wireless charging. If you live in the US, make sure your check GSM network compatibility before you buy.

[amazon id="B08B9SGGRS" title="Motorola Edge+"]

If you're looking for Motorola phones with wireless charging, check out the new Motorola Edge+. It was released in May 2020. With dimensions of 161 x 71 x 10 millimeters, it's officially classed as a phablet. If you don't like larger devices, you might want to give this one a wide berth.

You'll get a Snapdragon 865 processor with an Adreno 650 GPU, 256GB of storage, 12GB of RAM, a 25MP camera, and a 5,000 mAh battery. The screen is a 6.7-inch OLED panel. Like all Motorola phones, the Edge+ runs an OS that's almost identical to stock Android. The phone offers fast wired charging at 18W or wireless charging at 15W.

[amazon id="B081T54Y4Z" title="Ulefone Armor 7"]

Another of the cheapest wireless charging phones is the Ulefone Armor 7. It was released in October 2019. Classed as a rugged smartphone, the device is drop resistant at up to 1.2 meters and has an IP69K waterproof rating. Down the sides, you'll find rubber edges for added protection. The rubber backplate of the previous models, however, has been ditched in favor of a smooth plastic alternative.

Under the hood, there's a Mediatek Helio P90 CPU, a 48MP camera, and a non-removable Li-Po 5,500 mAh battery. The screen is 6.3 inches. The device includes 8GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage on the base model. If you want to spend a bit more, you can boost the internal storage up to a mammoth 2TB. It even boasts a built-in heart rate sensor and pedometer. Disappointingly, there is no headphone jack.

Wireless charging is supported at 10W. If you're happy to use wired charging, it will run at 15W. A full charge is achieved in three hours. According to the manufacturer, the Armor 7 will last for more than 550 hours in standby mode once fully charged. The device ships with Android 9.0, but you can update to Android 10 as soon as it's out of the box.

Ultimately, your budget will dictate much of your buying decision. If you're willing to spend big money, you can choose from any of the flagship devices for 2020. A mid-range budget will see your number of options reduced, while a low budget will restrict you to older flagship phones.

But don't forget that wireless charging is a luxury, not a necessity. You can still find plenty of great phones that don't support it. If you would like to learn about other Android phones with unique charging features, make sure you read our article on the best smartphones with micro-USB.


5 Reasons Why Your Phone Is Charging Slowly | MakeUseOf

Is your phone charging slow? Your smartphone can do a whole lot---but not if the battery's exhausted. Unfortunately, as your phone gets older, it might take longer to charge.

Let's talk about how mobile device charging works and the different charging methods available for current-generation phones. We'll also see why older phones might require more time to charge and what you can do about it.

Every mobile phone has a battery. For the most part, each battery delivers power the same way.

A cell battery contains two electrodes (one positive and one negative) and an electrolyte. Through usage, ions form in the electrodes, which drives a flow of electronics to your battery's negative outer terminal, thereby giving off a charge.

In non-rechargeable batteries, these chemical reactions only occur one time. With rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, like the ones found in phones, the chemical reactions are "reversible." Thus, recharging allows the cell to absorb power.

In broad terms, there are two ways to charge your smartphones: wired and wirelessly. There are pros and cons for both.

Like other consumer electronics, smartphones have always shipped with cables for charging purposes. For a long time, these cables didn't change.

For almost a decade, non-Apple devices have shipped with USB cables that have supported the USB 3.0 architecture. By contrast, since 2012, Apple devices have used Lightning, a proprietary computer bus and power connector.

"Fast Charging" technology has increased wired charging speeds considerably in recent years. This type of technology typically requires a newer USB Type-C connection. Fast charging specifications differ by manufacturer and device. For example, using a 45 Watt charger you can get your Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra up to 70 percent battery in 30 minutes.

The most significant reason to stick with wired charging technology, at least for now, is efficiency. Plus it's relatively universal, so if you forget to pack one when travelling then it's likely your accommodation will have a spare.

Not surprisingly, cables are the biggest reason to ditch wired charging technology. Cables are annoying and can become worn over time.

This brings us to an increasingly popular form of phone charging: wireless. There are many benefits to using wireless charging, although it does come with some drawbacks.

With wireless charging, you no longer have to worry about finding a cable. Instead, you just set your phone on a stationary charging pad---no fiddling around plugging a cable into your phone.

Convenience is another reason consumers are embracing wireless charging. Many of the charging pads on the market today allow you to charge multiple devices at the same time. They are also platform agnostic, meaning the same wireless charger will work for your Android and iOS device.

Wireless charging can be slower and less efficient than wired charging, though of course that depends on what type of charger you buy. However, because most phones can go an entire day between charges, this discrepancy isn't as significant. Just place your phone on the charger before going to bed, and you're good to go.

Wireless chargers also tend to generate some wasted heat, which in very rare cases could lead to your phone overheating. To avoid injury, make sure you only buy certified wireless charging bases. Wireless charging products are also more expensive than wired solutions.

Now that you know how battery charging works, it's time to look at what might be slowing down your older phone while charging.

The most straightforward reason your phone might be charging slower than before might have nothing to do with the phone itself. Instead, you could have a bad cord or adaptor, or weak power source.

USB cables get put through a lot, especially in homes with multiple users and devices. These cables are often dropped, bent, kept in locations where temperatures can vary significantly, and even stepped on. Therefore, before anything else, change the cable and see if that eliminates the problem.

You should also switch out the adaptor and see if that makes a difference. Do you continue to use the same adaptor even after buying a new phone? You should use the newer one.

Ideally, use chargers from reputable companies. The one that came with your phone is the best. If you buy some random unknown brand, you might find that it doesn't charge as quickly as your phone is capable of.

Many people like to charge their mobile devices using a port on their computer. This isn't always an ideal solution, depending on your computer's age and whether other ports on your machine are in use at the same time.

Everything else being equal, you should use a direct source to charge your phone. In other words: use a wall charger whenever possible. And ensure that you are using a safe charger.

Your cable isn't the only element that could have problems from daily charging. Your phone's charging port could also suffer some damage. Look at the port for corrosion or obstruction. While this probably isn't the reason it's taking more time to charge your device, you should at least rule it out.

To find the latter, use a flashlight and magnification to look around inside your phone's port. Try to remove any object (lint, dust, etc.) that doesn't belong, being very careful not to cause damage to the port's components.

You can carefully use a plastic toothpick to remove any objects. Using a small, soft brush inside the port is also good.

Phones that take forever to charge can also have a hard time keeping a charge when in use. A rogue app, or background apps in general, could be the reason for this.

Both Android and iOS have tools for you to find out what apps are running in the background. For Android-based devices, check out the battery usage menu located at Settings > Battery (or it might be under a section like Device care). On your iPhone, select Battery in the Settings app to see which apps are using the most battery.

Some apps might show high battery usage just because you use them often. Look for apps that have minimal time usage but questionably high battery usage. When you think you've located the nasty app, delete it and see if your battery life and charging speed improves.

If your phone is more than two or three years old, and has had heavy use during that period, it might be time to think about having the battery replaced.

Lithium-ion batteries don't last forever and can only be recharged a limited number of times. Therefore, it could be that the battery itself is what's causing the slow recharging.

While it's rare now, your phone might have a removable back so that you can easily buy a replacement battery and swap it out. However, it's more likely that you'll need to take your phone to a repair shop to ask for more information on replacing the battery in your device.

Are you the type of person that has to use your smartphone even when it's charging? Perhaps you're the reason the device takes so long to recharge.

Apps such as Facebook are notorious for sapping battery life on phones. Nowhere is this more apparent than when you're attempting to recharge your device while also leaving posts on your social network.

Some phones will struggle to provide power for use and charge at the same time. Put your phone down and let it charge in peace.

It shouldn't take a long time to recharge the battery on your phone. If you've noticed it slowing down significantly, there's probably an issue that's easy to resolve. If the tips found in this article haven't helped, consider taking your device to the nearest authorized service center to have an expert take a look.

Struggling to get a charge at all? Here's how to fix an Android phone that won't charge.