20 smart display voice commands that’ll make you feel like a boss

"Hey Google, Alexa, let's get stuff done."

Smart speakers have become commonplace, but there’s now an upgrade available: the smart display. It’s essentially a smart speaker with a screen attached, like the Google Home Hub or the Amazon Echo Show, but the screen gives you a few more options for voice commands, as well as visual readouts for certain answers.

Whether you’ve got a smart display powered by Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, here are some of the cleverest commands you can use to make the most of that screen.

Google Assistant

1. “Hey Google, play cycling videos on YouTube.”

You have a display, so use it. This command will queue up a series of YouTube videos on a topic of your choice—just replace “cycling” with a subject, musician, YouTube channel, or whatever else you desire. Depending on how specific your request is, a list of video choices might appear, or the screen will start playback straight away.

2. “Hey Google, how far is it to New York?”

This is a command that also works with smart speakers, but only smart displays can actually show you the route to wherever you’re going. The option to Save this place will also appear on screen; tapping this button will send the location to Google Maps on your phone.

3. “Hey Google, show me my photos from Sydney.”

Photos work well on a smart display, too. If your images are saved in Google Photos, your Google Assistant-powered device can bring them up on-screen. Just ask to see pictures from a specific place, person, or time. You can also take out “my” to pull up images from a general web search.

4. “Hey Google, show me some recipes for carrot soup.”

Another area every Google Assistant-powered smart display excels in is cooking—a lot of people must be setting these devices up in their kitchens. Ask about recipes for any dish to bring up a list of options, then pick one to see step-by-step instructions, the necessary ingredients, how long it takes to make, and more.

5. “Hey Google, play songs by R.E.M.”

With the added bonus of a screen, your smart display can show you what you’re listening to while it plays audio, and you can even tap the screen to pause playback or skip tracks. By default, smart displays running Google Assistant source tunes from YouTube Music, but you can set up other music apps via Google Home on your phone.

6. “Hey Google, good morning.”

Your smart display can combine several responses to match one command, like this “good morning” one. By default, the device will return the time, the weather forecast in your region, upcoming appointments on your Google Calendar, and news headlines, but you can customize these responses via the Google Home app on your phone.

7. “Hey Google, what was the Yankees score?”

Your smart display knows its sports, and you can ask it for the latest score or details on upcoming matches for whatever team you’re interested in. When viewing recent scores, you may get the option to watch a video clip of highlights from the game, as well as see the score displayed on screen—something a smart speaker can’t do.

8. “Hey Google, call Dad.”

Another area where smart displays obviously come in handy: video calls. You’ll need to set this up first in the Google Home app on your phone, but after that it’s just a question of asking Google to call someone on your contacts list. For this to work, the person on the other end needs Google Duo installed on a device, and if you want two-way video, they must also have a camera.

9. “Hey Google, turn the bedroom lights off.”

Through the Google Home app on your phone, your Google Assistant smart display can control compatible smart home devices. So, if you’ve added smart lights in the Google Home app, you can use a voice command with your smart display to turn them on or off. You can also swipe down from the top of the screen to access touch controls.

10. “Hey Google, show my Nest camera.”

This being a smart display, you can pipe in video footage from any compatible security camera. You’ll just need to set up this capability in the Google Home app on your phone first. With that done, simply insert the name of the device in question into your command. Cameras from Arlo, Logi, Nest, Netatmo, TP-Link, Zmodo, and others can all be added.

Amazon Alexa

Amazon Echo Show
The Amazon Echo Show with Amazon Alexa on board. Amazon

1. “Alexa, take my picture.”

Using an Amazon Echo that has a camera attached, you can ask Alexa to take your picture—handy for those times you need a new shot for social media, maybe. The smart display offers three camera modes, so you can choose between normal, four shots in quick succession, or one shot with a sticker overlaid on top.

2. “Alexa, show me my photo albums.”

As you might expect, the Amazon Echo Show is closely tied to several products in the Amazon ecosystem, including Amazon Photos. Ask to see your photo albums, and Alexa will load up your pictures. You can’t search the web for photos like you can with Google Assistant, but you will occasionally see images accompanying answers to questions you’ve asked your Echo.

3. “Alexa, what’s my flash briefing?”

The flash briefing—a rundown of daily news and events you need to know about—is one of the best features available on Echo devices. When you’ve got one with a screen, it’ll provide video with the audio, pulling from sources including Reuters and the BBC. You can customize your news sources in the Alexa app on your phone.

4. “Alexa, watch ‘The Man In The High Castle.'”

You can use that Echo Show screen for watching movies and TV shows, but YouTube integration is out, so you’ll have to stick to Amazon Prime Video. That, of course, means you need to be a Prime subscriber to use this feature. Just name the show or film you want to watch to start playback, then use extra voice commands like “pause” and “resume” to control it.

5. “Alexa, show me my Ring camera.”

As with Google Assistant-powered smart displays, Echo devices with screens attached can show video feeds from compatible cameras—just say the name of the camera you’ve set up through the Alexa app on your phone. August, Arlo, Logitech, and Ring are some of the major supported brands, but you can find a comprehensive list here.

6. “Alexa, what’s on my calendar today?”

This command works on both smart speakers and smart displays, but the latter offers an at-a-glance visual with its audio response, making it easier to get a handle on multiple upcoming events. You can also ask to see what you have planned for the next day or week. Set up calendars via the Alexa app on your phone.

7. “Alexa, set a timer for five minutes.”

This is another command that gives you a little bit extra on a smart display. Use it, and you won’t constantly wonder how much time you have left because you’ll be able to see the seconds counting down on the screen. Simply change the “five minutes” variable to however long you want the Alexa timer to last for.

8. “Alexa, play Jeopardy.”

A growing number of Alexa skills make use of the screen attached to your Echo device, if there is one. That means you can play games, order pizzas, hail cabs, and more, all with visuals on the display and audio from the speaker. One such skill involves the Jeopardy game, which will start the familiar blue panels flashing on your smart display as you prepare to test your knowledge.

9. “Alexa, show me some recipes for carrot soup.”

Like Google Assistant-powered smart displays, those running Alexa are also good at showing step-by-step cooking instructions—perfect for when you’ve got your Echo Show set up in the kitchen. Specify the dish you want to make and Alexa will give you cooking times, a list of ingredients, and detailed instructions.

10. “Alexa, show me the Avengers trailer.”

This is another command you can use with a display-enabled Echo device that’s not possible with a standard smart speaker. Just ask for the trailer you’re after, and your Alexa-powered smart display will oblige. It’s difficult to come up with a modern movie that the device can’t find a trailer for, but try to get the name of the movie right to avoid confusion.