Google is bringing its improved Voice Access app for voice controls to older Android phones
Google has announced an improved version of its Voice Access accessibility app, which allows you to control your Android phone’s functions with just your voice. Well. OK, technically, that’s not quite true. This is the improved version we saw launching as part of Android 11. The good news is that it has now been made available to all users running Android 6.0 and above. The updated version, rolling out in beta starting today, has had a visual facelift. Instead of confusing the view by printing numbers against items on the page, the updated version uses optional label overlays which can be summoned by saying “Show Labels” and “Hide Labels” as you need them.
Functionality improvements come from Google’s AI, which has contextual awareness, which now lets you say “search for XDA TV” in YouTube, or “get me home” in Google Maps, rather than having to use your voice to navigate to the search bar, say your search string, then say “enter”, which was a bit clunky. When you install the beta, you can set it to run whenever you start your phone, or alternatively say “Hey Google, Voice Access” on an ad-hoc basis.
As Google rightly points out, the use cases for Voice Access aren’t limited to people with physical disabilities, such as spinal cord injuries. It can also be a huge help if you’ve hurt your hand, or your phone is on the other side of the room, or you’re carrying the shopping, or you’re cooking, or wearing gloves…. the possibilities are almost endless.
Because the app is still in beta, you won’t automatically be upgraded to the new version. Instead, you’ll have to join the beta program at this link. After that, install the standard Play Store version (if you haven’t already) and wait for Google to update you over-the-air.