Things to Try With Google's Android 4.1 Jelly Bean Voice Search
Google's Android 4.1 Jelly Bean release is chock full of sweet features. Perhaps the most attention-grabbing addition of all, though, is a scrumptious little thing called Voice Search.
Voice Search lets you control your Android phone or tablet by speaking aloud (kind of like Siri, yes -- except this technology actually works). It's an expansion of Google's Voice Actions feature, which has existed in Android since 2010.
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What can Google's new Voice Search do? Plenty. Here are 15 categories of tasks worth trying on your Jelly Bean device. Among them, you'll find a whopping 70-plus examples of queries that'll get you great results.
So grab your phone or tablet, clear your throat, and get ready: It's time to start talking.
Android Voice Search even gets geeky searches right. (flickr/Johan Larsson)
(You can get to Voice Search on any Android 4.1 device by tapping the microphone icon either on the home screen or in the Android search tool. Alternatively, you can say "Google" from the search tool or from Google Now to instantly launch Voice Search and have it start listening.)
One of the most basic but useful features in Google's new Jelly Bean Voice Search is weather. You can ask your device for detailed forecast info in almost any way you want.
For example, say "Is it going to rain this weekend?" and Voice Search will respond by showing you the weekend forecast for your area while reading you the highlights.
Say "What's the weather in San Francisco?" and Voice Search will show you the forecast for the city while speaking the info aloud.
Some other weather-related queries to try:
"How hot is it gonna be on Sunday?"
"When is it going to rain next?"
"Do I need an umbrella today?"
The options are practically endless.
Restaurants and businesses
In an unfamiliar area? Fire up Google Voice Search and let it help you out.
Some types of queries that could come in handy:
"What's a good Thai place near me?"
"Where's a museum around here?"
"Where's the closest bowling alley?"
In most cases, Voice Search will show you a map-based list of options; you can then tap on any place to get detailed location info and directions. If the answer to your question doesn't involve a choice -- there will only be one bowling alley nearest you, for example -- the system will automatically launch into directions for you.
Google's Android 4.1 Voice Search can do a lot of stuff related to sports. If you want scores or info on recent or upcoming games, you're in luck:
Ask your device "When's the next Cubs game?" and it'll show you a graphic with the answer while audibly telling you the details.
Ask "What was the score of the Cardinals game last night?" and you'll see and hear the stats.
Ask "Did the Marlins win their last game?" and you'll get a visual answer along with a spoken one.
Voice Search will always give you an option to learn more, too: The sports graphics have links to jump straight to game recaps and highlights. With any Voice Search command, you can also scroll down past the organized answer to see a list of standard Web search results.
This one's been around in Android for a while, but it's still a winner: When you have a hankering to hear some specific tunes, just tap your device's microphone key and tell your phone or tablet what it is you desire.
You could use a band name -- "Listen to The Beatles" -- or you could request a specific song: "Listen to 'I Am the Walrus.'"
Whatever you say, Voice Search will pop up a list of places where the music could be played -- the default Play Music app along with YouTube and third-party programs like Pandora -- and let you pick the one you want to use.
Another oldie-but-goodie is Google's voice-powered message sending functionality. It can work in several different ways. You can send a text to someone by saying "Send text to" followed by the person's name and the message you want to send. Voice Search will pull up a card with the person's name and photo along with the contents of the message you composed; you can edit the message or tap once to confirm it's correct.
You can send an email to someone using a similar setup: Just say "Send email to" followed by the person's name and your message. If you want to get fancy, you can use the phrases "subject" and "body" to fill out the entire email (e.g. "Send text to Mom, subject 'Hello,' body 'How are you today?'").
Want to make a note to yourself? No problem: Say "Note to self" and then whatever it is that you want to remember. Voice Search will compose an email to you, using the default Gmail account on your device, with both transcribed text of your message and an audio attachment of your voice.
If sending notes to yourself isn't enough, Google Voice Search can also set alarms or reminders for anything you need.
"Remind me to get the mail in two hours"
"Wake me up at 7 a.m. tomorrow"
"Haircut tomorrow at 2"
Date and time
Google's Android 4.1 Voice Search can deliver a whole host of date- and time-related details. Try searches like:
"What time is it in London?"
"What time zone is Milwaukee in?"
"When is the sunset tonight?"
"When's the sunrise in Australia?"
"When is Father's Day?"
If you or someone you know is traveling, the Jelly Bean Voice Search tool has you covered.
You can simply say an airline and flight number -- "United 465," for example -- and Voice Search will show and tell you the flight's current status.
You can ask a more detailed question, like "When does American Airlines flight 1 arrive?" and Google will pop up a graphic with all the flight's info while speaking the most relevant bits aloud.
You can even just ask if a particular flight is on time, if that's all you want to know.
Watching the stock market? Try asking your Android 4.1 device for updates on your investments.
The easiest way to get stock updates is to hit your device's microphone button and say the letters of the stock code you're curious about. Say "G-O-O-G," for example, and Voice Search will show you a graphic of the current state of Google's stock while reading the trading level aloud.
You can also say "Google stock" or ask a question like "What's Google stock trading at today?" to get the same type of information.
It's easy to forget that these cool little computers we all carry around are actually phones. When you need to make a call, though, fear not: Voice Search has your back.
You can say "call" followed by the name of anyone in your contact list to have the system place a call for you; if you have more than one number stored for a person, you can say the type of number you want -- "mobile," "home," or "work" -- after the person's name to specify which entry should be used.
You can also have Voice Search look up and then dial any number you need. You might say "Call McDonald's on Third Street," for example, or "Call the Hilton in Downtown Chicago."
Conversions and calculations
Put away your formulas and calculators: Google's Jelly Bean Voice Search is ready and willing to do all the dirty work for you. The system can handle most any math-related question you throw its way -- queries like:
"What's 5812 times 247?"
"What's 19.4 percent of 240.37?"
"What's 14 inches in millimeters?"
"What's 12 in hexadecimal?"
"What's 78 U.S. dollars in Euros?"
Just don't forget to say thank you.
Android's native navigation system is fully integrated with Jelly Bean Voice Search. Just tell your tablet or phone where you need to go, and get as specific as you want:
"Navigate to 123 South Main Street"
"Take me to Bank of America by foot"
"Where is the nearest Burger King?"
"Go to Wal-Mart with public transportation" [Not recommended]
Voice Search can snag you all sorts of info about famous people. Try queries like these to get quick and easy answers:
"Who founded PayPal?"
"Who directed The Dark Knight Rises?"
"Who's in the cast of 'Scrubs'?"
"Where did Jerry Seinfeld go to college?"
"Where was Jimmy Fallon born?"
"How much is Mark Zuckerberg worth?"
"When did John Lennon die?"
"How did John Lennon die?"
"What was Marilyn Monroe's real name?"
"What movies has Scarlett Johansson been in?"
"How tall is Scarlett Johansson?"
"How old is Scarlett Johansson?"
"Why is JR Raphael so obsessed with Scarlett Johansson?"
(Note: That last one may or may not work.)
When you want to see photos of something fast, Voice Search is a fine place to turn. Just tell it what you want to see -- photos of the Statue of Liberty, or, I don't know, Scarlett Johansson -- and it'll get you a collection of images faster than you can say "sad, sad Siri."
Still itching for more Voice Search action? Try variations on some of these questions:
"What's the definition of 'taco'?"
"What are some synonyms for 'smelly'?"
"Who's the CEO of General Electric?"
"Who is Marissa Mayer married to?"
"Who wrote The Fires of Heaven?"
"What are the dimensions of 'Starry Night'?"
"When was the first episode of 'Cheers'?"
"What's the theme song to 'Friends'?"
"How long is The Dark Knight Rises?"
"What is area code 323?"
"How long is the Golden Gate Bridge?"
"What's the height requirement for the 'Incredible Hulk' roller coaster?"
"What's the slogan of HP?"
"How far away is the moon?"
"What's the temperature of the sun?"
"What's the loneliest number?"
"What's the answer to life, the universe, and everything?"
If that last one doesn't cover all the bases, I don't know what does.