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Always on Speakers: The good, The bad, the useful, the annoying.

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Sprint Social Care S.M.A.R.T. Agent

 

 

Alexa, Siri, Google- It seems like these smart speakers are everywhere now.  Your iPhone has had Siri for almost 10 years!  Your Android phone has had Google Assistant for a while as well.  Alexa has been ordering from Amazon for us going on 5 years now.  I recently bought a new LG Smart TV with Google Assistant built in, adding it to a seemingly never-ending menagerie of digital assistants in my apartment. (Google Home Mini, Galaxy Tab A, Galaxy S10, Anker ROAV in-car assistant, and Amazon Echo Dot are all in my collection)

Dim, the lights, read the news, play music, tell me a joke, watch Netflix, etc.  It’s made my life a little easier for sure.

The point is, they’re everywhere.  It’s not quite reached “2001: A Space Odyssey” levels,

I'm glad my name isn't Dave.

 

 There’s a lot these speakers and assistants can do for us, but they need their microphones to be “Always On” to do their magic.   

This raises some privacy concerns, and in my experience can be inconvenient at the worst times. (Story on that coming).

While they’re on by default, here’s how to disable them.

 

Amazon Alexa

Personal opinion/quick story time- I do not like Alexa/Amazon Assistant.  Despite disabling the microphone on the device, it picked up on a radio advertisement that had one of those annoying “Alexa, play …” parts that triggers the wake word at 5am a few months back. It misinterpreted the ad, and started playing “Psycho Killer” by the Talking Heads at maximum volume.  This is usually not a problem, as I love The Talking Heads, but I was sound asleep.  The Echo Dot’s resemblance to a hockey puck almost got it brought to the rink with me for warm-ups before my next game.

alexa puck.jpgAlexa: Who has the hardest shot in the NHL?

 

Like all of the digital assistants, Alexa requires a “wake word” to wake up and do your bidding.  You can change this from the default of “Alexa”, set a “Do Not Disturb” time, or press the “speaker off” button on the device.   Here’s how to get to those settings:

Speaker Off- Press the Speaker Button on the Echo device until it turns red.  Simple enough.

 

Change the Wake Word- Go into the Alexa App on your phone. Then into the Devices tab on the lower right.

alexa 1.jpg

 

Then, select the Echo device from the list of available devices connected to your Amazon Account.

alexa 4.jpg

In there, scroll down to Wake Word and select one of the four available.  I recommend anything besides Alexa, but you do you.

wake word.jpg

You can also set your Echo to NOT wake you with music in the wee hours of the morning by going into Do Not Disturb. Turn it on, and set the schedule for the days and hours you want Alexa to leave you alone.

alexa 9.jpg

You can also delete the recording history of all of the commands Alexa has picked up by following these steps:

  1. Open the Alexa app on a phone that's connected to the same Amazon account as Alexa
  2. Open the settings and scroll down to History
  3. Look at what's saved and delete as needed

 

Google Assistant
Chances are, you’re using an Android phone with 5.0 or newer, and therefore have access to Say “Hey Google” to take advantage of Google Assistant.  I use it with my TV, Home Mini, Anker Roav and Samsung devices.  It’s easy to do a search, fire up Netflix or the ballgame, or play music on my Google Home speaker.

 

Maybe you don’t want to, though.  No sweat! Here’s how to disable it on your Google Home devices and turn off the app on your phone or tablet. (Samsung Galaxy S10 running Android 9.0 used for example).

 

Turn it off- There’s a switch on the Home Mini and a Mic Off button on the standard Google Home speakers.  About as easy as it gets. 

 

Do Not Disturb- In your Google Home App from your device,

Tap on the Google Home device you want to control. 

home app 1.jpg

Then tap on the Settings cog in the upper right. Scroll down to Do Not Disturb. Enable it. 

device settings e.jpg

Then scroll back to Digital Wellbeing, tap Downtime, and set the time and days you with your Google Assistant to have some well-deserved time off!

digital wellbeing.jpg

 

Delete Recording History- You’ll need to do this from your web browser on a PC, Chromebook, Phone or Tablet.

  1. Open a browser and go to your My Activity page at Google
  2. Choose Delete activity by in the left menu and a new page will open
  3. In the drop down selector choose Assistant and set a date range of what to delete
  4. Tap or click the Delete link and read the pop up

To completely prevent the Google Assistant from listening to you or using its features on the phone, follow these steps:

Open the Google app and select Menu (the three bars)

assistant settings phone e.jpg

Go to Settings

assistant settings.jpg

Google Assistant section click Settings > Phone and disable the Assistant option

disable.jpg

So that’s it!  That’s how you keep those smart speakers and digital assistant apps from snooping in on your every word, and make sure they’re asleep when you are.   What are your “Hey Google/Alexa” horror stories? We’d love to hear them!

About the Author
  • In addition to being a Sprint Employee and Product Ambassador, GeekGeoff is an unabashed Star Wars fan, Tech Junkie and Father to a precocious 9 year old. When he’s not writing blogs, he can be found playing video games, searching for the best donut shop or debating which Doctor is the best (for the record, it’s number 10).
  • SeaWolf makes port here on Sprint's Community after running a somewhat popular blog, a mildly successful Twitter account and serving as the most-hated fandom Message Board Manager EVAR. Current Phone: Samsung S8 Areas of Expertise: Care topics and corny jokes