Getting Google Assistant to play nice with ... Google Assistant

Now that Google Assistant is coming to more phones than just the Google Pixel a lot more people are going to be able to have it on their phones. A lot of those people (maybe you're one of them!) will also have a Google Home, which also works by using Google Assistant. Getting the two of them to co-exist can be a little tricky.

Just like people with a new Android Wear 2.0 watch, which also has Google Assistant, you're going to soon find that Assistant acts differently depending on what hardware it's on; sometimes one thing with Assistant would be a better thing to work with than the other, and that friendly-voiced computer isn't sure what needs to be done on which. And there's no way for you to tell it where to do anything.

Assistant needs to get smart and figure out which of your things to answer from. In the meantime, we have to be smart and work around it.

Google Assistant is really cool. It's uncanny how it can answer some things and native device control, as well as IFTTT support, means it can control just about every other smart device on the planet. We don't want to sound negative or make you think you might not want all this smart stuff because we love it. But like a lot of things — especially things from Google — there are growing pains when they are new.

But a couple tips can make your life a little easier when you want the right information, at the right time, from the right device.

Use the same Google account on both your phone and Google Home

When you set up Google Assistant, whether you're doing it from your phone or through the app for a Google Home, part of the process is linking it to your Google account. Right now Assistant can't handle multiple accounts, so the temptation to use your account on one thing and a family member's or roomie's account on the other is there. But it just doesn't work.

Everything you need to know about the Google Home app

The AI assistant who can work for more than one person first will be the "winner".

Remember, you can't say, "OK Google, tell me what's on my calendar for Monday, but do it on my phone." You say you want to know your agenda for Monday and Assistant will answer from Google Home every time, as long as it's within earshot of you. If your spouse is signed into the Google Home, it can't tell you what you want to know unless both accounts have the same information. Your phone will tell you it's "answering on another device" and won't be any help.

We've heard rumors that Google is working on some solution for multiple people to use the same Google Home, but nothing's official. For now, keep everything that can hear you on the same account, so no matter where you get an answer, it will be the right answer.

Know how to shut the microphone off

This is the ugly and inelegant solution for forcing Assistant to communicate through your phone when you're somewhere a Google Home can hear you. And one of the things Google Home does really well is hearing you from distances you didn't think it could.

Who knew an off button could turn out to be a lifehack?

Like I said above, as long as Google Home is around, it will take in everything you ask Assistant to do, even if it can't do it. Asking Assistant to call someone and having the thing which can't make phone calls (yet) take the reigns and fail is comical at first but can quickly get old. And there are other things that work better on one or the other, like playing music or looking at Google image results.

  • When you need or want Google Home to listen and do the thing you're asking, just make sure it can hear you.
  • When you want Google Assistant on your phone to do something while a Google Home is in the room, shut off the microphone on the Google Home.

You can shut the mic off two different ways. There's a button on the back of Google Home that toggles the mic on and off, or you can tell Assistant to turn the mic off for you by saying "OK Google, turn off your microphone." Of course, you'll have to walk over and press the button to turn it back on.

Google seems committed to Assistant and surely is aware of the small issues, like getting more than one thing using it to play nice with others. We can also think of some easy fixes for this behavior, so we're confident Google can do a great job keeping the experience great while working out these kinks. We're looking forward to it just like you are!

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

  • It all gets worse when you have it on your watch as well, since they watch doesn't know that your phone has already answered you.
  • Don't have 2.0, but if you turn on theater mode, won't it not respond?
  • It sounds like a half backed product...
  • I guess the keyword for late 2016 going into 2017 and beyond is "machine learning". Learning is a process that often occurs over time. Even Google is learning and working on addressing these things. Rest assured that the product will improve and Google will figure out a way to recognize multiple user voices and be able to toggle profiles the moment a person speaks. An easy work around would be the ability to name the Assistant whatever we want and have it learn its new name. So you could name the assistant on your phone something different than the assistant on your watch.
  • I just wish that you could turn off the light when the mic is off. At least its not blue.
  • Has anyone received assistant on a non Google device like the note 5 or s7?
  • yes, anyone who installed Allo.
  • I have it in my s7 edge
  • I received it on my Note 4 earlier tonight.
  • I'm on a Nexus 5X with Google Fi and I still haven't received it!
  • I have it on my HTC 10 haven't checked the v20 yet
  • Yes I cannot understand why it can't figure out that I want my phone to make the call. It should know my phone is in the room right?
  • There are so many simple solutions to these issues: To answer the multi-user argument: If someone in the house says "OK Google" and the gHome hears it, it can check with every other Assistant-enabled device to see who else heard it (supposedly, this already happens), then any of those devices which use Trusted Voice can basically say "Hey guys, I recognized the hotword as Mom's, so she's the one that's talking" to the rest of the triggered devices. Then, gHome can push the query to Google's servers attached to Mom's profile. Hell, gHome could ever push the signature of the "OK Google" input to all Assistant-enabled devices on the network and see if any of them positively recognize the voice, regardless of where the user's phone is... To answer the "things only the phone can do" issue: Similar to before, gHome should respond depending on the level of surety of the user talking. If Mom and Dad both use gHome, and Dad says "OK Google, text Jimmy, What time are you going to be home, dinner's at 7.", gHome can communicate with Assistant on the phone to verify it positively identified his voice on the phone, then send the task as if the phone heard the message and gHome didn't. If Mom said the phrase, Assistant on her phone would just tell gHome, "Hey, that was Mom; go ahead and send the text from this account." The beauty of this system is that it could work for anyone on the same WiFi network. Dad's friend, Bob, is the first there for a party, and their friend, Leo, is coming by later, Bob can ask the gHome to text Leo and remind him to bring more beer. gHome recognizing a generic "OK Google" input, and while it listens to the rest of him query, gHome and his phone talk to verify he actually said OK Google (through voice signature comparison and location data), and the gHome can say "OK, Bob, here's your text" and go through with the standard process with no problems. There may be times where there are hiccups, but it would put gHome WAY above Alexa and set the standard for these interactions. The best part for Google: guests can take part in the whole experience without going through any set up!
  • If I have to stand up and turn off the mic on Home, then I might as well hit the microphone button on my phone to activate assistant.
  • Have you noticed that when a Google Home commercial comes on and the Actor says "Ok Google" the home lights up but doesn't respond? Thought was kinda strange that didn't trigger it to answer question that was asked.
  • It's the same way that your devices can "listen" to music and identify songs... They broadcast sounds that humans can't hear but microphones can. For recorded music, that helps the device look up the song without actually listening to the music we hear (and because the data isn't there in live music, that makes identifying songs played live much more difficult). For the Google Home commercials, it tells Google Assistant (on Home, phones, and watches) not to respond.
  • Good article, waiting for your take on "Year Zero" by the CIA
  • Same!
  • My Note 4 on 6.0.1 just got Google Assistant tonight!
  • What a coincidence...while reading comments in this thread, my Galaxy S7 edge literally just got Google Assistant! I'm on Sprint in case anyone's wondering.
  • Seems pretty simple from my perspective. Basically, there are two things they can do right now to alleviate the issues. 1. Update Home to forward unavailable / unreasonable responses to your other devices(s). It can say "I don't know how to do that, would you like me to forward the request to your phone?" At which point your phone / tablet springs to life with the answer to the request. 2. Allow CUSTOM HOT WORDS!! Moto has had this for years!! You set home to " OK Home" and your phone to "OK Google" and "Walla" (lol) you no longer have the dueling banjo assistant issue. I dunno, maybe they are over thinking it? Granted individual users would be awesome so my search history isn't filled with kids songs, homework questions, and all the other "nonsense" they ask it. :D
  • The first one would be amazing. It could definitely be called "smart" if it could do things like that, seamlessly connecting with other Assistant enabled devices
  • Google is shameless in their self-promoting way. By now, having to say "Ok Google" whenever you want to use it, is getting old. Ok google, we get it! You made it, and you want everyone to know. By now, there should be a option to change the trigger command, natively. Why can't there be a custom avavtar maker too? Assistant has conversations, but two way functions are on it's terms, not yours. Google needs to take the shackles off of assistant.
  • You can say Hey Google for Google Home.
  • I just wanted it to play nice on my phone, but it wouldn't stop listening and kept being a battery hog. Had to disable it by reinstalling, and not setting up assistant.
  • If I say call on assistant and Home hears it, it should go to Home, that's it. If I want to use assistant on my phone while around Home, just hold the home button.