Right, so we’ve known about Google Home since May, but today we learnt a bit more and now we want it. In fact, we might want it even more than the Alexa-powered Amazon Echo smart speaker… but more on that later. First, a quick recap.
Like Amazon’s Echo, Google Home constantly listens out for you to call on it (which is pretty creepy, but we’re willing to ignore like an “I’ve read and agree to the terms and conditions” checkbox for the useful hands-free functionality it’ll bring to our homes) and can do all sorts of things, like search the web for info, play music, schedule appointments or control connected (and supported) smarthome gear.
Unlike Amazon’s offering — which uses the Alexa smart assistant — Google Home harnesses Google Assistant (the same tech in messaging app Allo and Google’s new Pixel phones) and the Google services it plugs into — like Google Search — to leap to your aid. Say “Ok Google” and its digital ears will prick up, even if you’ve got music playing.
So far, so very Echo-like. But Google Home can do things Alexa and the Echo can’t. Like send/cast video to a Chromecast connected device from your phone, or control audio playing on Chromecast Audio-connected speakers. On the smarthome front, Google Home will play nice with Philips Hue (which we’re hoping to see in SA soon), IFTTT and even rival Samsung’s SmartThings suite of products.
The big question is whether Google and Amazon are going to push third-parties for exclusive deals that will preclude them from allowing their devices to work with rival systems. That would suck.
Of course, Google’s hoping you’ll like Google Home so much you’ll want to dot the devices around your house. If you do, you’ll be able to use them (or any Chromecast connected goodies) as a multi-speaker setup, and when you call for assistance, only the nearest unit will respond, rather than every Home device in the house.
In a final dig at Amazon, Google Home goes on sale in the US in November for $129… less than the $180 the online retail giant asks for the Echo.