How To: Use voice commands in Google Maps for hands-free navigation

Google Maps is without a doubt the preferred navigation service for Android users, and the recently added offline capabilities ensure things won’t be changing any time soon. Nevertheless, the app has plenty of tricks up its sleeve and it can be that much powerful if you at least know the most important ones.

Among them, is the ability to use Google Maps hands-free, which is definitely a boon while driving. After all, the less distracted you are, the safer your journey will be. Here’s how you need to setup Google Maps for hands-free navigation and the most useful voice commands for this purpose.

To control Google Maps using your voice in a reliable manner, this capability must be available from any screen. As a result you need to enable “Ok Google” detection. Open the Google app and navigate to Voice -> “Ok Google” detection and enable the “Always on” (or “From any screen”) option if it wasn’t already.

Google app - Ok Google detection

Note: You can say “Ok Google” even if your phone’s screen is locked but voice commands cannot initiate unless your lock screen security is set to “Swipe instead” (you can find this option in your phone’s Settings -> Security section).

Google Maps voice commands

Now you can finally open Google Maps from any screen using your voice, no hands required. Some devices will even let you launch the app while the screen is off. All you have to do is say the magic words “Ok Google” and then speak your command, which can be something like “Navigate me to 10 Lincoln Center Plaza” or “Take me to the closest gas station”.

Navigation instructions should quickly pop up on your screen. While in the app, you can get even more out of Google Maps using your voice. Here’s a list with some of the most useful commands needed for hands-free navigation you can speak after saying “Ok Google”:

  • “Next step”/”What’s my next turn” – Google will let you know the next turn and the distance remaining to it.
  • “Mute” – Disables voice navigation instructions and other sounds.
  • “Unmute” – Turns navigation sounds and voices back on.
  • “When will I get there?” – Gives you the ETA to your destination.
  • “Find gas stations” – Searches for gas stations along your itinerary.
  • “Exit navigation” – Pauses the directions.
  • “Resume navigation” – Resumes navigation directions.
  • “Show route overview” – Shows the overview of your route on the screen in a list.
  • “Show alternate routes” – Displays other possible routes to reach the set destination.
  • “Take me home/to work” – Well this one is self-explanatory.

Keep in mind these commands only work while you’re in navigation mode and outside Google Maps, saying “Ok Google” will simply open a Google search. To use any of the above mentioned commands you need to enter navigation by asking google to give you instructions on how to get to a place. For example, you can say “Ok Google, take me to the nearest restaurant” or something similar.

Have you ever used Google Maps for hands-free navigation and what are the voice commands you rely on most often? Share your experience in the comments section or by leaving us a message on  Facebook, Twitter or Google+.