At Google’s media event on October 4, we got a lot more details about Google Home, the Amazon Echo-like speaker that promises to keep your life organized, play music from almost any streaming service, search for answers to your questions, work in tandem with Chromecast to display photos and videos on your TV, and control your smart home.
While Home’s assistant might have some advantages over Amazon’s Alexa — for example, it will give you a detailed answer on how to clean up a wine stain, as opposed to Alexa saying I don’t know– but Google’s new device doesn’t control nearly the amount of smart-home products that Amazon’s can. Well, at least not yet.
Of course, Alexa has been integrating with partners for more than a year, and Google Home won’t arrive in stores until November 4 (you can pre-order one now for $129). Four debut partners have been announced thus far.
“We’ve partnered with Nest, SmartThings, Philips Hue, and IFTTT to voice-enable your lights, switches, and thermostats. You can control individual devices, rooms, or your whole house,” said Rishi Chandra, Google’s project lead for Chromecast, at the recent media event. “We’ll be constantly adding more partners over time.”
Although Nest has more than just a thermostat — the Protect is a smart smoke and carbon monoxide detector and Drop is a security camera — and Samsung’s SmartThings Kit comes with sensors in addition to a connected outlet, it sounds like Google Home won’t quite be able to interact with these devices yet. But you can say, “OK Google, set my thermostat to 70 degrees,” and the assistant will take care of it on your behalf.
If you’re hoping Google Home will be an alternative smart home controller capable of competing with Alexa or HomeKit, you may have to wait a while until more partners come on board. We’ll also have to see what role Thread, the Google-backed mesh network protocol, will play.
Right now, the Home’s most intriguing feature is the baked-in assistant, which can answer pretty complicated questions and use context clues to respond to follow-ups. It can also interact with Google’s Chromecast, meaning you can ask Home to play YouTube videos or put up your photos on your TV if you’ve already opted for the $35 device. The audio version can play music on speakers throughout your house.
Considering it’s $40 less than the Amazon Echo, the Home may be an attractive option for a voice-controlled assistant, especially for Android users who get added benefits, like shopping lists they can vocally add items to that then show up on their phones.