How to Use Google Assistant on the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4

How to Use Google Assistant on the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4
Screenshot: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 4, the first Wear OS watch worth considering in a long time for Android users, finally has the Google Assistant. We’ve waited nearly a year for the feature. Unfortunately, it’s not entirely all that it’s cracked up to be — yet.

The Google Assistant has undoubtedly helped improve the usefulness of the wearable in some capacity, including adding smart home controls where previously they were limited to third-party apps or Samsung’s SmartThings. But after a few days with it on my wrist, I can already tell you there is room for improvement. There is often a seconds-delay before it answers queries. And if you’re not on a stable connection, it will outright fail at parsing your command.

Fortunately, this isn’t the final incarnation of the Google Assistant on Wear OS or Samsung’s Smartwatches. At least it’s capable of doing as much as the Google-led smart speakers and displays around your house. Here’s how to start using the Google Assistant on your Samsung Galaxy Watch 4.

First, let’s set it up

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This particular smartwatch update was not the most intuitive of the bunch. Typically, I receive Samsung watch updates through the Wear app or the Google Play Store. The Google Assistant installs through the latter method, but you have to search for it on the watch itself.

On your Galaxy Watch 4, swipe up on the main watch face to get into Wear OS’s app drawer. From there, select the Google Play Store app. Once it’s launched, tap on the Search icon at the very top of the window, and type in “Google Assistant” on the watch’s display. Search for that, then tap on Google Assistant when it appears, and select the option to Install (in some cases, you might see an Update button instead).

After it installs, you can fire up the Google Assistant from the same application drawer to get it configured or tap on Open from the Play Store menu screen on the watch. You’ll be prompted to open up your phone to finish the installation.

Figure out how you want to activate it

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There are three ways to summon the Google Assistant on the Galaxy Watch 4. You can do it manually by navigating to the option in the app drawer or setting the watch to always listen for the “Hey Google” prompt. You can also program a shortcut, but I’ll show you how to do that in a later slide. I’m a stickler for a smartwatch with battery life, so I chose the first option for accessing Google Assistant. (Although, that still didn’t help my battery life.)

If you’re keen on shouting into your watch like some futuristic cartoon character, follow along with the prompts on your smartphone to set up “Hey Google.” (But again, beware if you’re doing that on top of using the Always On Display, and other perks of the Galaxy Watch 4.) If you’ve already set it up with a smart speaker or your Android device, you won’t have to go through retraining your voice.

Set up a shortcut

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If you opt not to call on the Google Assistant with your voice, head into the watch’s Settings panel to set up a shortcut button. Tap on Advanced Features > Customise Keys, then select whether the Google Assistant should pop up with a double-press or press-and-hold of the Home key.

Set the Google Assistant as the default

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If you’re ready to commit to the Google Assistant as your full-time digital assistant (on your wrist), head back into the watch settings. Under Apps, select Choose default apps, then tap on the Digital assistant app option.

As an aside, if you happen to like Samsung’s Bixby, which lives concurrently with Google Assistant on the Galaxy Watch 4, you shouldn’t feel like you have to make the jump to Google’s digital assistant for things like smart home controls and basic queries. If you’re an Alexa user, you might actually prefer Bixby, for its easier integration with Amazon’s digital assistant.

Make a note

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You’ve got the Assistant set up on your Galaxy Watch 4. The next order of business is to start commanding it to do things! You can start with something simple, like “Take a note.” Google will then file that away to Google Keep, if it’s your default.

Use smart home controls

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Although I would have preferred the neat-looking smart home menu screen I saw in some of the previews of an upcoming update to Wear OS, at least I can use the watch to shut off the lights when my kid’s Nest Mini won’t take my command because it’s on Down Time.

The smart home controls best used on the Galaxy Watch 4 are simple ones. Things like turning the lights on and off or by a certain percentage. You can also use it to adjust the volume or start playback on a specific Assistant-enabled device within your home.

But smart home controls are still pretty limited. For instance, you cannot use the Galaxy Watch 4 to check on camera feeds or manually adjust smart bulb colours the way you would on the Google Home app.

Call or text someone

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This feature makes the most sense for use with Google Assistant on your smartwatch. If you have LTE on your watch or an earbud in your ear and you’re due for a chat, use Google Assistant to call someone. Ask it to reach a person in your contacts list. The watch will confirm whether you want to continue the call on your wrist or through your phone.

You can use this same command to send a message. The Assistant is compatible with most major messaging apps, including the default Google Messages, WhatsApp, Telegram, Viber, and Google Messenger.

Ask Google about the meaning of life

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Don’t do this. This was just my cheeky way of saying that you can ask the Google Assistant on the Galaxy Watch 4 most of the questions you’d ask it on the web. For instance, if you need to do a quick calculation or look up the weather, you can do that through the watch app, provided you don’t mind waiting while the app parses what you’re saying.

In its current iteration, the Google Assistant is slow on the Galaxy Watch 4. I tested it mainly on the LTE-connected version and sometimes ran into an issue where the watch would lose connection as the Assistant was looking for a result.

Also, take heed if you have multiple Google Assistant smart speakers and displays around your home. If you’ve got the hot word setup on your watch and you’re at home, you will trigger everything. With the watch directly on your wrist, it could add a little confusion to your household’s ecosystem.