How to use Google Assistant through your headphones

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Google Assistant can perform a wide array of tasks, including reading notifications, answering questions, and reciting recipes. If you’ve never used Google Assistant through your headphones, consider this your guide on all you need to know for getting started.

We’ll cover the differences between headphones with Google Assistant support and full integration, how to pair your headphones, popular commands, and round it off with a list of recommended Google Assistant headphones.

Google Assistant “support” vs. “integration”

Virtually any wireless headphones or earbuds include virtual assistant support for Google Assistant (or Siri, if you’re using an iPhone). In this case, the headset simply alerts Assistant on your phone.

However, headphones with full Google Assistant integration have the virtual assistant run natively on the headset. This is a big deal: it facilitates assistance without needing to tap into your smartphone. While it may seem an unnecessary addition since most wireless headphones support Assistant to some degree, its integration provides marked benefits. For one, such optimization results in faster information retrieval and greater functionality, like directly reading incoming notifications to you. Users can also respond directly to said incoming messages. What’s more, if you want to benefit from real-time translation, you’ll need a pair of headphones with complete integration, like the Pixel Buds.

Headphones with Google Assistant integration natively access the virtual assistant, rather than activating it from your smartphone.

In this post, we’ll be talking about headphones that support Google Assistant and what you can do with them.

Pairing your headphones and getting started

Bose QuietComfort 35 II image on a grey couch arm.

Editor’s Pick

Before you can use Assistant through your headphones, you need to go through the pairing process. There aren’t any tricks here, as pairing is just like any other wireless headset. That said, there are a few requirements that must be met in order to use Google Assistant with wireless headphones.

  1. A smartphone that supports Android 6.0 or higher. iPhone users must have iOS 10 or later.
  2. Version 7.0 or later of the Google app.
  3. Google Play services enabled.
  4. 1.5GB of available storage.  
  5. Internet access.
  6. Headphones with Google Assistant support or complete integration.

The specific process can be found in your headphones’ manual, but generally speaking, turn the headphones on to enter pairing mode. Then, enable Bluetooth within your phone’s settings. Select “Pair Device.” From there, the name of your headset should pop up for selection.

After you’ve done this, you can ask Google Assistant to open up its settings menu. From there you can edit things like the speaking language of Google Assistant, how its voice sounds, and voice match.

Google Assistant menu showing general options.
Google Assistant menu showing general options.
Google ASsistant voice match menu open.

In order to make hands-free inquiries, voice match needs to be set up. Teaching the virtual assistant your voice is a matter of saying “Hey, Google,” and “OK, Google,” a handful of times. You can even add others’ voices if you have a shared phone or tablet.

To activate Google Assistant from your headphones, either say, “Ok, Google,” “Hey, Google,” or tap and hold the multifunction button on your headset for a few seconds. From there, you’re prompted with a notification sound to signal that Assistant is ready to receive your inquiry or command.

What can Google Assistant do through your headphones?

Google Assistant headphones RHA TrueConnect: Angled downward image of the open charging case with the earbuds facing the lens in different directions; the closer 'bud shows the RHA logo.

The RHA TrueConnect allows for hands-free access to virtual assistants.

Arguably one of the most used features of Google’s virtual assistant is the ability to manage your day. Assistant can perform basic tasks like setting timers and reminders, and if you want to get a bit more in-depth, it can give you a brief readout of your day from Google Calendar or tell you about a specific appointment. What’s more, you can add notes to the Google Keep app or add a specific item to a shopping list.

You can use Assistant to facilitate entertainment too, by taking control of media playback. Just ask it to play music from your preferred streaming service. These requests can be as specific or vague as you’d like: both “shuffle music from Spotify” and “play Summertime by Louis Armstrong” return immediate results without hesitation. If a song plays that you don’t like, tell Assistant to skip it. Likewise, if your anthem finished and you want to hear it again, just ask. Unfortunately, certain commands aren’t enabled yet such as playing podcasts from apps even from Spotify.

Google Assistant can’t yet play podcasts from apps, but it does allow for playback controls of music.

You can also make calls and contact-related commands like ringing or texting a specific person, checking voicemail, and asking Google Assistant to read someone’s address. If it’s your first time calling someone via Google Assistant, it prompts you to choose which number (mobile, home, etc) you’d like to select. Prior to sending a text, Google reads back your dictation and asks you to confirm the message before it’s sent.

Smart home commands

Hand holding a phone with Google Assistant routine menu pulled up.

Users can arrange for Google Assistant to recognize various routines, allowing it to complete multiple tasks from a single command.

Google Assistant headphones go beyond handset usage as you can also interact with other smart devices. You can set up routines, so Assistant can perform multiple tasks with a single command. For instance, if you say, “I’m home,” it will know to adjust the lights, thermostat, read reminders, and play music from your Google smart speaker. Now, in order to take full advantage of such features, you’ll need smart home devices like a Nest thermostat or Philips Hue lightbulbs.

It can also display notifications like unopened emails and future reminders. In order to do this, though, you must enable it on your device. It’s not too hard; Google prompts you, making it a two-tap process.

If you’re hosting a potluck and need a last minute recipe, Google Assistant can find and send it to Google Home, which will then read it aloud as you cook. Again, this action is prompted with the “OK, Google” hot word, which can be used to set timers, reminders, and calendar events. Personally, this has been incredibly useful for those moments when I haven’t had a spare hand.

Google Assistant pulling up emails with the contents of emails blacked out.
Google Assistant pulling up hard-boiled egg recipes.
Google Assistant preparing to send a recipe to Google Home to be read aloud.

Benefits of headphones with integrated Google Assistant

Above, we’ve talked about you can do with Google Assistant on any old pair of headphones. Choosing a model with Google Assistant built-in gives you some extra benefits. Again, if you want to have incoming messages read aloud and have the ability to respond to them immediately via your voice, you’ll need headphones with complete integration.

This can also be beneficial to athletes who don’t want to break their workout flow but want their notifications read back to them during a run. If you plan to travel to a foreign country and want the full benefits of real-time translation, you’ll need a pair of Google Assistant-integrated headphones, like the Sony WH-1000XM3 or Bose QuietComfort 35 II.

Great headphones to use with Google Assistant

Google Assistant: A photo of the Sony WH-1000XM3 sitting on a stone wall.

The Sony WH-1000XM3 uses LDAC as its main Bluetooth codec and is also a pair of fully integrated Google Assistant headphones.

You may be wondering what the best options are for Google Assistant headphones. Well, if you want complete integration, we have a full list for you here. Coincidentally, our first two picks below are also featured on that list. Otherwise, if you just want basic support and don’t need full integration, nearly any wireless headphones or earbuds will do.

  1. Sony WH-1000XM3 (Assistant integrated): This is the best pair of noise-cancelling headphones on the market, edging out the Bose QuietComfort 35 II in performance. Sony recently updated its M3 and M2 series headsets with complete Amazon Alexa integration, too.
  2. Bose QuietComfort 35 II (Assistant integrated): Of course, if you’re already invested in the Bose ecosystem, it makes sense to grab Bose cans. The noise cancelling is no slouch, and these reign supreme when it comes to comfort.
  3. JLab JBuds Air (Assistant supported): These are an affordable pair of true wireless earbuds that allow access to Assistant by double-tapping the right earbud. For just shy of $50, listeners are afforded IP55 earbuds with reliable connectivity.
  4. Jaybird Tarah (Assistant supported): Athletes who rely on virtual assistants mid-workout may like the Tarah, Jaybird’s more affordable workout earbuds which happen to be Made For Google certified.
  5. Grado GW100 (Assistant supported): Open-back headphones may not be the most travel-friendly, but the wireless GW100 makes high-quality wireless streaming convenient.

Although using Google Assistant through headphones isn’t for everyone, it does make small tasks much easier and is great for those who want to automate as much of their daily life as possible. Google Assistant may not be as comprehensive for smart home functionality as Amazon Alexa yet, but the race for the best virtual assistant remains neck-in-neck.

And that’s it for our quick guide to using Google Assistant on headphones. Any questions? Let us know.

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