An attractive speaker that promises powerful voice assistance, Google Home is poised to challenge the Amazon Echo for the king of smart speakers. In reality, though, it has a long way to go before it gets the throne. It’s not all bad, though. Google Home is still a viable smart speaker for any die-hard Googler. Let’s get to know more about Google’s first compact speaker.
First Impression of Google Home
One area where Google Home is better than the Echo is the visual appeal. Unlike the utilitarian design of the latter, Google Home has an attractive gourd shape with a removable woven base. The base comes in a variety of colors, too. Put the two together and the speaker looks like an ornamental candle and gives the home a modern decor. You certainly won’t mind displaying it in the middle of the living room.
Google Home has a sloped front, where you can see a circular array of LED lights. They light up to let you know the device is listening. Run a finger around the sloped front to adjust volume or tap it to pause the music. You can also hold your finger longer on the slope to make it listen to your inquiry. That is if you’re not too comfortable saying the wake word, “OK Google”, out loud. That leaves the device with virtually one physical button to turn off its built-in mic.
Overall, Google Home sports an unobtrusive and subtle design that’s very easy on the eyes.
Setting up Google Home is a painless process and mostly accomplished in the Google Home app for Android and iOS. It begins with the app detecting your new Home device and then connecting it to your Wi-Fi network. From there, it will ask you to sign in using your Google ID. Afterward, you can start asking the Google Assistant anything you’d typically ask on Google. You have to say either “Hey Google” or “OK Google” before you can blabber away, though.
The logical next question after setting up Google Home would probably be “what can it do?”. Well, it can answer any question you have at the moment. And frankly, what you can ask the Assistant is only limited by your imagination. Ask it about the day’s weather, the week’s forecast, the latest news, and practically any question you ask on Google. You can even ask the device something like “When was Robin Williams born?” and follow it up with “When did he die?” and still get both correct answers.
That’s one of Google Home’s biggest strengths. It understands context better than Amazon’s Alexa can. It’s far more conversational than the latter.
With Google Home, you now have access to Google’s vast knowledge tank. More than that, you may also access everything the search engine giant knows about you. When you’ve extensively used a handful of Google’s ever-growing list of tools, the things that the Assistant can tell you is mind-boggling. It can tell you how long it’ll take you to commute to the office, what’s the next schedule listed on your calendar, or even when your next booked flight will be.
You can also get a news update on Google Home. Select from dozens of news sources or trim it down to only include sports, technology, or health news. Once you’re caught up, you can ask it to tell you about your day. This handy feature will have Google Home telling you about any appointments on your calendar, commute details, the weather forecast, and any reminders you have set. There’s a catch, though: you can only link the device to one Google account at a time. In case you own two (one account for work and another for personal use, for instance), you’ll have to make a tough choice.
Looking beyond the caveats, it may be worth noting that Google Home’s voice recognition is terrific. You’ll rarely encounter misinterpretations and not even any background noise will throw it off from delivering correct answers or orders.
Being a smart speaker, Google Home surely takes the chore out of playing music and podcasts. Ask it to play specific songs, albums, podcasts, or playlists off of your own Google Play Music and Spotify libraries. When you’re up for some variety, tell Home to play some new hits and it’ll play suitable tracks!
From there, you can ask the device for more info about a song and it’ll oblige. Unfortunately, the device only works with YouTube Music, Spotify, Google Play Music, and Pandora (for now). Of course, the number of options will expectedly increase over time.
As for the speaker’s sound quality, it definitely fares better than the Echo. Don’t get your hopes too high, though. The Home doesn’t have stereo speakers and its bass lacks punch. You’re probably better off picking one among the best wireless headphones when looking for a wireless audio experience. It makes up for it, though, by having the ability to connect to any good pair of speakers. Simply add the Chromecast Audio and tell Google Home to play music through that device rather than its own built-in speaker as a workaround.
In the end, it may be best suited to solo listening or when you want to have light background music on while hanging out with friends.
Smart Home Integration
Beyond accessing trivia, Google Home controls smart home devices. As far as we know, it pairs with smart technologies from Philips Hue, Nest, and SmartThings out of the box. Even better, you can use a variety of IFTTT recipes to expand its capabilities further.
Although Google Home readily controls a smart device or two, it still has to tap into third-party services. You can’t order the Home to buy movie tickets on Fandango or book reservations on OpenTable, yet. You can, though, book a car through Uber or stream music via TuneIn. Sadly, that’s all the “skills” you can do with smart devices via the Home for now.
When it comes to pairing with smart tech, the Amazon Echo has an obvious advantage. It has been on the market longer so you can do more actions with it than with the Google Home. Google clearly wants to open up the Assistant to third-party developers, but it still has ways to go before it matches the sheer amount of “skills” that Alexa can do.
Google’s new wireless speaker, no doubt, sounds better and looks more attractive than Amazon’s Echo line. If you want a voice-controlled speaker, the Home is an absolute steal over its direct competitor. It still needs a lot of work and third-party support to become a capable voice assistant to manage your smart home, unfortunately. In that regard, the Echo is the better option for now.
It’s a viable cloud assistant for anyone whose day revolves around Google’s many products, though. But if you want to get your hands on a smart speaker that sounds great and affords you a lot of digital conveniences, you might have to wait for the next sets of upgrades when it’ll get the support it needs to be competitive in that respect.