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How to use OK Google when the screen is off

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Google Assistant is an extremely smart and useful app that makes life easier for Android users. It is your personal assistant that uses Artificial Intelligence to optimize your user experience. It can serve multiple utility purposes like managing your schedule, setting reminders, making phone calls, sending texts, searching the web, cracking jokes, singing songs, etc. On top of that, you can even have simple yet witty conversations with it. It learns about your preferences and choices and improves itself gradually. Since it is an A.I. (Artificial Intelligence), it is constantly getting better with time and is becoming capable of doing more and more. In other words, it keeps adding to its list of features continuously and this makes it an interesting part of Android smartphones.

Now, in order to use Google Assistant, you need to unlock your phone. Google Assistant, by default, does not work when the screen is turned off. This implies that saying “Ok Google” or “Hey Google” will not unlock your phone and for good reasons too. The primary intention behind this is to protect your privacy and ensure your device’s security. Advanced as it may be, but unlocking your phone using Google Assistant is not that secure. This is because essentially, you would be using voice match technology to unlock your device and it is not very accurate. Chances are that people might imitate your voice and unlock your device. An audio recording can also be used and Google Assistant won’t be able to distinguish between the two.

How to use OK Google when the screen is off

However, if security isn’t your priority and you would like to keep your Google Assistant on at all times, i.e. even when the screen is turned off, then there are a few workarounds. In this article, we are going to discuss some techniques or methods that you can try in order to use the “Hey Google” or “Ok Google” feature when the screen is off.

How to use OK Google when the screen is off

1. Enable Unlock with Voice Match

Now, this feature is not available on most Android devices. You simply can’t unlock your phone by saying “Ok Google” or “Hey Google”. However, some devices like Google Pixel or Nexus come with the in-built feature to unlock your device with your voice. If your device is one of these phones, then you won’t have any problem at all. But Google has not released any official statement mentioning the name of the devices that support voice unlocking to know if your phone has this feature. There is just one way to find out and that is, by navigating to the Voice match settings of Google Assistant. Follow the steps given to check if you are one of the lucky users and if so, enable the setting.

1. Open Settings on your phone then tap on the Google option.

Go to settings of your phone     Tap on the Google option

2. In here, click on the Account Services.

Click on the Account Services

3. Followed by the Search, Assistant, and Voice tab.

Followed by the Search, Assistant, and Voice tab

4. Next, click on the Voice option.

Click on the Voice option

5. Under Hey Google tab you will find the Voice Match option. Click on it.

Under Hey Google tab you will find the Voice Match option. Click on it

6. Now, if you find the option to Unlock with voice match, then toggle on the switch next to it.

Toggle on the switch

Once you enable this setting, you will be able to use Google Assistant when the screen is off. You can trigger Google Assistant by saying “Ok Google” or “Hey Google” as your phone will always be listening to you, even if the phone is locked. However, if this option isn’t available on your phone you won’t be able to unlock your device by saying Ok Google. There are, however, are a couple of workarounds that you can try.

2. Using a Bluetooth Headset

The other alternative is to use a Bluetooth headset to access Google Assistant when the screen is locked. Modern Bluetooth headsets come with support for Google Assistant. Shortcuts like long-pressing the play button or tapping the earpiece three times is supposed to activate Google Assistant. However, before you start shooting commands via your Bluetooth headset, you need to enable permission to access Google Assistant from the settings. Follow the steps given below to learn how:

1. Open Settings on your phone then tap on the Google option.

Go to settings of your phone      Tap on the Google option

2. In here, click on the Account Services then click on the Search, Assistant, and Voice tab.

Followed by the Search, Assistant, and Voice tab

3. Now click on the Voice option.

Click on the Voice option

4. Under the Hands-Free section, toggle the switch on next to the “Allow Bluetooth requests with device locked.”

Toggle the switch on next to the “Allow Bluetooth requests with device locked”

Also Read: 6 Ways to Fix “OK Google” Not Working

3. Using Android Auto

A rather unusual solution to this desire to use Ok Google when the screen is off is to use Android Auto. Android Auto is essentially a driving aid app. It is meant to act as the GPS navigation and infotainment system for your car. When you connect your phone to the car’s display then you can use certain features and apps of Android like Google Maps, music player, Audible, and most importantly Google Assistant. Android Auto allows you to attend to your calls and messages with the help of Google Assistant.

While driving, you can simply activate Google Assistant by saying “Hey Google” or “Ok Google” and then ask it to make a call or text someone for you. This means that while using Google Auto, the voice activation feature works all the time, even when your screen is off. You can use this to your advantage and use Google Auto as a workaround to unlock your device using Ok Google.

However, this has certain drawbacks of its own. Firstly, you need to keep Android Auto running in the background at all times. This means that it would drain your battery and also consume RAM. Next up, Android Auto is meant for driving and thus it would limit Google Maps to provide driving route suggestions only. The notification center of your phone will also be significantly occupied by Android Auto at all times.

Now, some of the problems mentioned above can be mitigated to some degree. For example, in order to deal with the battery consumption issue, you can take help from the battery optimizer app on your phone.

Follow the steps given below to learn how:

1. Open Settings on your device. Now tap on the Apps option.

Go to settings of your phone   Click on the Apps option

2. Here tap on the menu button (three vertical dots) on the top right-hand side of the screen.

Tap on the menu button (three vertical dots) on the top right-hand

3. Click on the Special access option from the drop-down menu. After that, select the Battery optimization option.

Click on the Special access option from the drop-down menu   Select the Battery optimization option

4. Now search for Android Auto from the list of apps and tap on it.

5. Make sure that you select the Allow option for Android Auto.

Select the Allow option for Android Auto

Doing so will somewhat reduce the amount of battery consumed by the app. Once that problem is taken care of, let’s move on to deal with the problem of notifications. As mentioned earlier, Android Auto notifications cover more than half of the screen. Tap and hold these notifications until you see the option to Minimize them. Click on the Minimize button and this would significantly reduce the size of the notifications.

However, the last problem that was the limited operability of Google Maps is something that you can’t change. You will only be provided with driving routes if you search for any destination. Due to this reason, if you ever need a walking route you will have to switch off Android Auto first and then use Google Maps.

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With this, we come to the end of the list of various ways in which you can use Google Assistant even when the screen is off. Please take note that the reason why this is not allowed on most Android devices by default is the impending security threat. Allowing your device to be unlocked by saying “Ok Google” would compel your device to depend on the weak security protocol of voice match. However, if you are willing to sacrifice your security for this feature, then its completely up to you.

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Elon Decker

Elon is a tech writer at TechCult. He's been writing how-to guides for about 6 years now and has covered many topics. He loves to cover topics related to Windows, Android, and the latest tricks and tips.

4 thoughts on “How to use OK Google when the screen is off”

  1. these instructions are for using Google Assistant when the screen is at lock screen. it doesn’t work when screen is off all together

  2. thanks however I still can not get GA to work when the screen is locked

    It worked perfectly on my previous Motorola phone, the best feature of app. My GA no longer does that. I have spoken with Google and Motorola about this to no resolution. I was even told they know about this glitch. All my settings are correct. Any ideas?

  3. I have tried all the recommendations to allow Google Assistant to wake up the screen so my mother (who is blind) can use her voice to wake up the phone and make a call. If the screen is black, it doesn’t work – any suggestions?

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