Can You Change the Activation Phrase for Many Smart Devices?

activation phrase for many smart devices

In the age of smart homes and digital assistants, the ability to control various devices using voice commands has become a cornerstone of modern convenience. The activation phrase, often known as the wake word or trigger phrase, is the key to unlocking this hands-free control. However, many users wonder if they can customize these activation phrases to suit their preferences. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the possibilities and limitations of changing the activation phrase for many smart devices, including popular brands like Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple Siri, and more.

Understanding Activation Phrases

Activation phrases are the initial words or phrases used to wake up a smart device and prompt it to listen for commands. Common examples include “Hey Siri” for Apple devices, “OK Google” or “Hey Google” for Google Assistant, and “Alexa” for Amazon Echo devices. These phrases are designed to be easily recognizable by the device’s voice recognition system, ensuring that it responds accurately and promptly.

Why Customization Matters

Customizing activation phrases can enhance the user experience in several ways:

  • Personalization: Users can choose phrases that are more natural or meaningful to them.
  • Security: Unique phrases can reduce the risk of accidental activations or unauthorized access.
  • Differentiation: In households with multiple smart devices from different brands, unique phrases help distinguish which device is being addressed.

Can You Change the Activation Phrase?

The ability to change the activation phrase for many smart devices depends largely on the brand and model of the smart device. Here’s a detailed look at the customization options available for various popular smart assistants and devices.

Amazon Alexa

Amazon Alexa is one of the most popular smart assistants, integrated into a wide range of devices including the Echo series, Fire TV, and third-party smart speakers.

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Customization Options

While you cannot completely customize Alexa’s activation phrase, Amazon offers a few alternative wake words:

  • “Alexa” (default)
  • “Echo”
  • “Amazon”
  • “Computer”

To change the wake word on an Alexa device:

  1. Open the Alexa app on your smartphone.
  2. Go to Devices.
  3. Select your device.
  4. Tap on Wake Word.
  5. Choose from the available options.

Google Assistant

Google Assistant powers a variety of devices, from Google Home speakers to Android smartphones and smart displays.

Customization Options

Google does not currently allow users to change the activation phrases “OK Google” or “Hey Google.” These phrases are deeply integrated into the Google Assistant’s voice recognition system, which ensures a high level of accuracy and reliability.

Apple Siri

Siri is Apple’s voice assistant, integrated into iPhones, iPads, Macs, Apple Watches, and HomePods.

Customization Options

As of now, Apple does not offer an option to change the activation phrase “Hey Siri.” Apple emphasizes consistency and reliability, and “Hey Siri” is optimized for voice recognition across all Apple devices.

Microsoft Cortana

Microsoft’s Cortana, while not as widely used in smart speakers, is available on Windows PCs and other devices.

Customization Options

Cortana’s activation phrase can be changed to some extent. Initially, “Hey Cortana” was the default, but users can customize the wake word in certain contexts, particularly on Windows PCs.

To change Cortana’s wake word on Windows:

  1. Open Cortana.
  2. Go to Settings.
  3. Navigate to Talk to Cortana.
  4. Toggle Hey Cortana settings and set a custom phrase if available.

Other Smart Devices

Many other smart devices, such as smart TVs, smart home hubs, and third-party smart speakers, use their own voice assistants or integrate with Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri.

Customization Options
  • Samsung Bixby: Samsung allows some customization for Bixby, though it’s not as flexible as some users might hope.
  • Smart TVs and Hubs: The customization options depend on the brand and integration. For example, some smart TVs using Google Assistant or Alexa will have the same limitations as the primary devices.
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Workarounds and Advanced Options

For users determined to create a truly custom experience, there are some advanced options and workarounds available:

Third-Party Apps and Services

Certain third-party apps and services can intercept voice commands and allow for more customization:

  • Tasker (Android): Tasker is an automation app that can create custom voice commands and integrate with Google Assistant.
  • IFTTT (If This Then That): This service can bridge various smart devices and create custom commands, although it might not change the wake word itself.

Custom Smart Home Systems

Tech-savvy users can build custom smart home systems using open-source software and hardware:

  • Home Assistant: An open-source home automation platform that supports a wide range of devices and can be customized extensively, including custom voice commands.
  • Raspberry Pi Projects: Using a Raspberry Pi, users can create bespoke smart home solutions with custom activation phrases using software like Snips or Mycroft.

Best Practices for Using Activation Phrases

Whether you stick with the default phrases or explore customization options, here are some best practices to ensure a smooth and secure experience:

Clarity and Uniqueness

Choose activation phrases that are clear and distinct to avoid accidental activations. Avoid phrases that are commonly spoken in daily conversation.

Security Considerations

Using unique activation phrases can enhance security by making it harder for unauthorized users to trigger your smart devices.

Regular Updates

Keep your devices and associated apps updated to the latest versions to ensure optimal performance and security. Updates may also bring new customization options.

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Testing and Training

Spend time training your smart devices to recognize your voice and preferred activation phrases accurately. This can be done through the settings and training options available in the device’s app.

Future Trends in Activation Phrases

The smart home industry is continuously evolving, and the future holds promising developments in voice recognition and customization:

Enhanced AI and Machine Learning

Advancements in AI and machine learning could lead to more flexible and personalized voice command systems, allowing users to set any phrase they prefer without compromising accuracy.

Multi-User Customization

Future devices might offer more robust support for multiple users, each with their own custom activation phrases, improving the personalization and functionality of shared devices.

Cross-Platform Integration

As smart home ecosystems become more integrated, we may see better cross-platform customization, allowing a more seamless experience regardless of the device brand or type.


While the ability to change the activation phrase for many smart devices is currently limited, there are still ways to personalize and enhance your smart home experience. By understanding the options available and exploring advanced solutions, users can create a more customized and secure environment. As technology continues to advance, we can expect even more flexibility and personalization in how we interact with our smart devices.

Whether you’re sticking with “Hey Siri,” “OK Google,” or “Alexa,” or venturing into custom solutions, the key is to find what works best for you and your home. Embrace the possibilities, stay informed about updates and advancements, and enjoy the convenience and innovation that smart devices bring to your daily life.

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