How to get “OK Google” working from any screen on Android phones

One of our favourite features on Android is how you can launch Google’s voice activated Now assistant by just saying “OK Google.”

Sadly, the feature is only available natively on a few phones, and it’s generally ones made by Motorola or with Google’s stock Android OS on them, like the Nexus phones. But with a minor tweak, you can bring this to pretty much any Android phone out there.

The loophole that makes this happen appears to be similar to one we found at the beginning of the year that brought the “OK Google” voice functionality to more devices, provided you switched to US English.

Since then, Google has opened the “OK Google” functionality to Australian English, but only if you say “OK Google” from a home screen with the updated widget on it. If you want to say this from your phone’s menu or even the lock screen, you’re mostly out of luck if you happen to leave the phone on the Aussie English setting, which most of us in Australia are probably doing just because, well, we have no reason to change it.

But if you do change it, well, that opens up Google Now’s voice initialisation on any app screen — Instagram, Google Play Music, calculator, a web browser — as well as the lock screen, and even if you decide to use a different launcher, which is something we tested with Aviate.

Making this happen is easy, with a few changes to the language system of Google Now, so go there the way you normally do.

For most people, it’ll be holding down a home button or sliding up from the home icon and loading Google Now, but every Android phone is different.

Once you’re there, what you’ll be doing is switching to US English from Australian English, but rather than switching entirely, we’re just making US English the primary language until Google gets this working for Aussie voices, too.

To make this happen, go into Google Now settings, select “Voice,” and then hit languages. Scroll down to English (US) and hold it down for a second or so, until it becomes the primary language. You can keep English (AU) selected, and it will be a secondary language in the system, just make sure to hit “save” once English (US) has been made the primary language.

Once you’ve left the languages option, press ““OK Google” Detection” and you’ll see a few options here.

When Australian English is the primary language, only one of these is selectable, but with US English, you can do more than just say “OK Google” from the search app. In fact, with US English engaged, you can say it from any screen when this option is checked, as well as say it from the lock screen once you’ve trained a small voice model for Google to pick up on, which you’ll do when “from any screen” is checked.

It’s an easy process, and while we obviously prefer Australian English, this is a great way to make an Android phone better at picking up your voice, rather than just activating the Google Now voice system through the regular way of loading the app.

Now we just need to get it working when it’s on standby without us needing to touch the phone.

Here’s hoping support for that will be along soon, and won’t require us to buy a new mobile.