Today’s mobile devices rely on touch-screen technology for almost everything, but you can now control your Android phone entirely by voice. Just download the “new” Voice Access app from the Play Store and start talking to your phone. This could be a boon to those who have trouble using a touchscreen, but it’s also useful if you just can’t reach the phone for some reason.
Google’s accessibility team is promoting the Voice Access app like it’s new, and it will be to most people reading this. However, the Voice Access app first appeared in the spring of 2016 (two and a half years ago) as a beta. You couldn’t download it without first joining Google’s beta testing group on the Play Store. The app didn’t get much attention, but today it’s fully updated and available to everyone.
To enable Voice Access, you need to go into your system settings to give it Accessibility control. That just allows the app to tap the screen for you. After starting Voice Access, the app paints each icon, button, and system UI element with a small number. The status bar lights up white with an Assistant “listening” animation to let you know it’s ready for your command. It listens continuously, too. The status bar transcribes what you’re saying in real time, so you have to be careful to avoid idle banter while Voice Access is running.
You can call out a number, and the phone “taps” on the corresponding item. It also supports long-pressing on numbers to access different functions. Voice Access understands contextual commands that aren’t tied to a number — you can launch apps just by asking. For example, “Go to Chrome” will always open your browser no matter where you are. Once there, “scroll down” will advance down web pages.
Touching the screen or otherwise interacting with the phone will turn off Voice Access, but it remains accessible via a floating button (optional) and a notification item. You can launch it without touching anything by calling up Assistant with “OK Google” and asking it for Voice Access. It also ties into Assistant for text input — highlight a text field and start speaking for instant voice to text.
Google pitches Voice Access as a service for those with Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, spinal cord injury, and other disabilities that make it difficult to use a smartphone. However, those without a disability might still find it useful. If you’re elbow deep in a computer build or just busy in the kitchen, Voice Access could help you continue using the phone.