How to get voice activated Google search working on Android phones and tablets

One of the upcoming features for Google Now is the voice activated search, which makes it possible to activate the Google equivalent of Siri by just speaking, and without pressing a button. So how do you make this work on your Android phone?

To get this going, you’ll need a phone with Android 4.0 and above on it, and while we suspect it should work on 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich,” truth be told, we’ve only tested it on Android 4.1, 4.2, and 4.3, which are all versions of “Jelly Bean.” Owners of a device with Android 4.4 “KitKat” in Australia will want to listen up too, as the settings apply to them also.

Making the buttonless voice search work in Australia is as easy as one-two-three, provided you relinquish the rights to Australian English for the Google voice engine, and that’s because right now (as of the time this was published), Google only has this officially working for Americans.

But thanks to a neat little cheat, anyone from any country can try this out.

To get it working, start by running Google Now on your handset.

Depending on the phone you have, this could be through swiping up from the home button and holding down the “Google” circle at the top (this works on phones from LG and Sony), holding down the menu button (which activates it on a Samsung), or even holding down the home button (which works on HTC devices).

Once you’re in Google Now, you’ll likely find the search bar at the top, and if you press the microphone on the right, you can ask Google a question. That’s all well and good, but Americans can just say “Google” or “OK Google” to activate the search.

To make this work on your phone, we’re going to change the spoken language to American English, which won’t affect your typing whatsoever.

In Google Now, either press the menu button (if you have one) or move down to the bottom of the screen and press the three vertical dots (like a colon, except with three dots instead of two), pressing “settings” once the option pops up.

This will take you to the settings for Google Now, and it’s in here that you should see a space for “Voice.” Tap that and change your Language from “English (Australia)” to “English (US).”

This also works on a tablet, so if you have one of these, you can get it listening out for your spoken hot word, too.

At this point, Google Now will update itself to support the new voice setting, letting you speak at the phone to activate the call search functionality, rather than being forced to press a button.

Depending on the version of Android you have, the start word may be different. For instance, Android versions before 4.3 will be asked to say “Google,” while versions from 4.3 and above will use the Google Glass-connected phrase “OK Google” to start it up.

Regardless of what you use, this tip will let you move beyond the button pushing Siri owners of the world and show what a voice activated future is really like.

Google Now's voice activated search, working from left to right on the Sony Xperia M, Samsung Galaxy S4, and HTC One.