Use Google Search Bar to do (nearly) everything on your phone

29 October 2013

If you assumed that the Google Search Bar on an Android phone is just for starting a new web search, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. With leaps forward in Google Now and its Voice Search capabilities, the Search Bar can be the first place you go to start any task on your handset.

For the purpose of this article, we’re going to refer to typing phrases into the Search Bar, but remember that you can always speak them too, using the microphone icon.

Launching apps

You can launch any application on your phone through the Search Bar. Start typing the name of the app, and Search will dig up apps in your phone with the same letters in the title.

Searching on your phone

By default, the Search Bar will search the web to find matches for a phrase you enter, but you can also use it to search your phone for content you have stored locally. Just type the search phrase, then scroll down and hit the [Search Phone] option.

Make calls, send messages/emails

The major core features of your phone can be handled by Google Search too, using the same simple commands you would expect.

“Call Santa Claus”

“Message [or Email] Santa, I want a bike for Christmas”

With the call and email commands, you can even use names that are not in your Address Book, like business names, and if Google can figure it out, it’ll complete the action.


Perhaps the coolest task performed by Search is also one of the simplest and least used. Setting a reminder is a piece of cake: you just type in ‘Remember’ or ‘Remind me’ plus what you want to remember and a time.

“Remind me to put the bins out at 6pm”

You can also use a place rather than a time, and Google Search will use Maps to figure out what you are talking about. The phone then uses your location to detect when you are close to the specified place.

“Remember to buy juice when I’m at Walgreens”

If Google Search doesn’t find the right place, you can manually pick the location off a map. Also, in the Settings of Google Search you can input your Home and Work addresses to use as shortcuts later.


In car use is obviously a big part of why you might use Google Search, and especially the voice search feature. There are a few ways to start off a search like this.

“Navigate to Home”

“Directions to Home”

“Walking directions to Home”

“Bike directions to Home”

As with calls, if you use the name of a business or landmark in a navigation search, Google will take you straight there if it can figure out what you mean.

Calendar entries

Typing either ‘Create a calendar event’ or ‘Schedule a meeting’ plus the meeting details will create a new entry in your calendar.

“Create calendar event for my birthday on December 25 at 9am”

Set an alarm

You can easily set an alarm by typing “Set an alarm for 9:30am”

Play and identify music

Tapping into Google Music, you can play a track or artist using Search. Just type "Play" and then the name of a track or artist.

You can also use Search to identify a song you are listening to that you don’t know the name of. Just type, “ What’s this song” into Search.

Answering thousands of questions

Google Search is, at its core, a gateway to Google’s online search tool, and many other the enhancements you get on a desktop computer, you also get on your phone — including Search Cards with instant answers. Here are a few examples:

“What is 3 feet in centimetres?”

“How long is Return of the Jedi?”

“What time does McDonald’s close?”

“Show me pictures/a video of cats on treadmills”

“Weather” — you can make this command cuter with “do I need an umbrella tomorrow?” if you like, but just typing weather will do.

“Define tumescence”

Coming soon

One thing that the Google Search app can do at the moment is toggle hardware component between different states, like turning Wi-Fi or Bluetooth on and off. Apparently this is planned for a future release, but it is one big part of using your phone that you will have still have to do the old fashioned way for now.

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