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Last Updated: July 7th, 2014

You probably know that you can use the "OK Google" command in Google Now (and just recently, anywhere else in Android) to do some cool things like set an alarm or check a flight number. But up to now, it hasn't been able to do much with the actual hardware on your phone. There's no easy way to expand Google Now functionality with third-party apps, but at least one developer found a work-around: meet Commandr, the new in-between service for flipping hardware switches in Google Now.

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Commandr can toggle your phone or tablet's Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or GPS, turn the LED flashlight on or off, and even pause or advance music - you know, all those things you normally use widgets for - via Google Now voice commands. It does this in a roundabout way: after you assign Commandr as the default app for the "Note to self" command, it will listen for specific commands for hardware controls. For example, "Note to self, turn on flashlight" will toggle your LED light. Any command that Commandr doesn't recognize will be sent to your usual app, which is probably either Gmail or Google Keep.

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This is a neat way of hacking Google Now's voice command function, but it's more interesting than practical. For now the default commands are pretty limited, and there are so many little steps involved that using a widget or the Quick Settings panel would be faster for most of the actions. You need to say, "OK Google," then your "Note to self" command, then the hardware command, then wait for Google's voice server to interpret your recorded voice, then wait on Google Now's 3-second failsafe delay.

That being said, the app already integrates with power user favorite Tasker, and there's no telling what the developer will throw into future updates. Commandr is one to watch. It's a free download for Android 4.1 or higher.

Thanks, Eduardo Ribeiro!

Michael Crider
Michael is a native Texan and a former graphic designer. He's been covering technology in general and Android in particular since 2011. His interests include folk music, football, science fiction, and salsa verde, in no particular order.

  • Theratchetnclank

    Not the most elegant solution. I'm sure google will allow more third party integration soon.

  • reevester

    holy crap! Exactly what I was looking for!! In fact I was bugging Art about this on G+ a day or two earlier!! :D

  • Amit

    Why can't Google do something like this? I takes them forever to release a single command like "play some music".

    • http://mastermind777sblog.blogspot.com mastermind777

      It takes some effort on their end, obviously. They have to train their algorithm to recognize new commands, program in how to handle them, etc.

      • darkdude1

        People probably don't appreciate how incredible this technology is, and it's never as easy as just "adding a command", as you said there must be an awful amount of work that goes into making everything work.

        • Amit

          If a 3rd party app developer can develop this it shouldn't be that difficult for google to do the same.

      • mateor

        QA and testing. Independent app developers can pivot on a bug report. Plus, they likely have a long internal list of features,bugs and stability fixes they have to slog through before they are free to start adding additional functionality.

    • Krzysztof Jozwik

      Apple probably patented it and will sue.

  • http://mastermind777sblog.blogspot.com mastermind777

    I wonder if there's a way to integrate this with the Google Now API Xposed module.

    • http://www.anivision.org/ Christopher Bailey (Xcom923)

      I don't know why you'd want to. The Google Now Xposed module is way more powerful than this.

  • danifeb

    does open mic+ behave in the same way?

    • Peter Blanco

      This is from the maker of Open Mic, that app essentially does the same thing as the new Okay Google from any screen feature. This allows you to control stuff like wifi, flashlight, etc.

  • Bruce
  • Andrzej Głuszak

    Why can't Google make an API for this?

  • kingdazy

    "Note to self ; wait for Google to do this themselves"

    • Krzysztof Jozwik

      "Note to self ; wait years for Apple patents to expire."

  • Clubber

    Come on, Google. Just implement proper voice commands to control various aspects of hardware (you're half way there with the existing commands).

    I'd also love to see the commands be dynamic too. For example, OK Google, reduce the brightness by half.

    • Wall Breaker

      Dude this stuff takes time to do its not easy developing these things.

      • Romdude

        That's why he said Google, not this developer. It's because the developers can only do so much but if Google doesn't allow the actual toggles to be switched, then it's a no go.

  • gonsa sba

    One step closer to all our conversations being recorded and provided to NSA

    • Guest

      I don't know what this article has to do with that but ok... BTW I don't think they have any steps left to go.

      • Gator352

        "OK, Google......turn on AK-47"....a ringtone that plays an AK-47 sound....next thing ya know, HSA and the FBI are at your door....

    • Jeez

      Wow. You think they haven't already been able to do that since the dawn of flip-phones?

      How naive.

  • Peter Blanco

    Hey editor guy (Michael), I'm currently in the process of making the promo video for the developer. Stay frosty and give you the link so you can embed it.

  • Gary Boozer

    how is this better than what the windows phones can do?

  • Felipe Pimenta

    Quick question: How is the Pause Music, and Next Music commands any useful with how currently Google Now works? I mean, it can't be activated by voice when there's media playing on the device, regardless of volume. If you have to reach with your finger, touch the button, speak the Pause Music command, wait it to register and all that stuff, to just pause the song why not, well, just press the Pause button in the player you're using? Requires one more touch, or two, and doesn't take that long lol

    • Darrien Glasser

      *cough* Moto X *cough*

    • William Blade

      Note 3 here, i can pull up"Ok Google" while music is playing, i just can't use voice to control the media. But i can just use the hot word to pause the music, and if needed, just manually say "play (song)" add a work around for lack of previous/next command

  • Romdude

    Actually, I can run any app by just saying run "insert name of app here". Since I have a flashlight app on my htc one m7, it turns it on for me. I do really like the pause music and next music commands though.

  • rasik

    tasker tasker tasker

    • http://twitter.com/jdrch jdrch

      Trigger is actually much better and completely free.

      • ChrisNacca

        I wouldn't say its much better, i use both of them , tasker as more options without a doubt, but trigger has a nicer UI

    • Nathan Talbert

      same thing i was thinking...been using all of these commands for a longggg time now with tasker and its really not that difficult to set up and learn to make your own commands. If you're really lazy just go download and import someone elses commands.

  • http://twitter.com/jdrch jdrch

    Interesting concept.

  • Geoffrey Katt

    I am using a Nexus 5 on 4.4.4 and now that I have the Google Now anywhere functionality I can already skip tracks while playing music without any third party apps. This even works while music is playing. I have not tried to pause or resume music. It does bork sometimes either not recognizing my voice or changing to the new track or artist but not playing. As was previously reported here I believe telling Google Now to turn off WiFi is recognized but all it does is take you to that settings page.

  • Maff Mace

    "pause music", "resume music", "next song" & "previous song" all work with "Google Now Anywhere"

  • S_Dot

    I can't get passed the "Let's Test" screen.

    • tlingitsoldier

      It took me a minute to figure that out too. Just type in "Note to self pause music" and the box will turn green to confirm. You can also put the cursor there, and activate voice typing to say the phrase.

  • https://www.youtube.com/user/azzreh Mohmmed Aziz

    I have done a video of this app. Really usefull.


  • https://twitter.com/sabbyjolly Sabbyj

    It broke Google Now for me. Now I can't use the command at all. Even after uninstalling this app. Do not try this POS.

  • Sam Sadak

    LOL, was watching this on my phone and when he said "OK Google" my google now popped up!!!!