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The next Google Home needs more than just better audio quality to be successful

The original Google Home smart speaker was released in 2016. Other models have come along in that time, like the Home Mini and the Home Hub, and the hardware saw a rebranding over the last two years with the Nest name, but the Google home hasn’t seen an upgrade. Given all that, the Google Home seems a bit outdated, which is why several questions arose when the device became unavailable from the Google Store a few weeks ago. More than anything else, people asked: Is an upgrade on the way?

A successor on the horizon

According to reports, Google plans to launch a new Nest-branded smart speaker with the code name “Prince.” Just like the Google Home Mini became the Nest Mini, it is highly likely that the Google Home will become the Nest Home. And honestly, it’s about time. As noted, the original Google Home is long overdue for an updated model, but what those upgrades might entail is not yet clear.

Rumors from 9to5Google’s source say the new Nest device is slated to be a rival to the Sonos One, a smart speaker with an emphasis on audio quality, although Google already has a smart speaker that focuses on audio quality with the Home Max.

Better audio quality is always welcome, but Prince needs more than sound. The original Google Home was the company’s first entrant into the world of smart speakers. It is what launched Google’s dominance of the smart speaker market (alongside Amazon, of course.) If the only improvement is audio quality, Prince will encroach on the territory of the Google Max and become a bit redundant.

Learning from the Nest Mini

It wouldn’t be the first time Google has introduced a new device that doesn’t make a big difference. The Google Home Mini and Nest Mini have the same functionality, but the home Mini is often $20 cheaper. Without any substantial differences to set the two devices apart, most users opt to save money with the Google Home Mini rather than purchase the newer model — unless they’re priced relatively close to each other, which does happen on occasion.

Sure, the audio quality is improved with the Nest Mini and users have the ability to fasten it to a wall or surface, but those aren’t enough when it comes to giving consumers reason to make the upgrade. Understanding the shortcomings that accompanied the Nest Mini should make Google more keenly aware about its Google Home successor. Unless the company makes a significant upgrade to Prince, the same situation might arise.

Convergence is key

There are several paths that Google might take with the upgrade that could help the device succeed. Take the Nest Hub Max, for instance. It’s a perfect example of a smart home gadget that embraces convergence. Beyond just acting as a smart display, it has a built-in Nest Cam, allowing it to double as a security camera. Even though its picture quality doesn’t rival that found in Google’s stand-alone security cameras, like the Nest Cam IQ Indoor, the added functionality of tracking what’s going on in the home is appreciated. While Prince isn’t likely to have a camera built into its form, there are other options.It could, for example, tap into some video streaming functionality, where Price can be tethered to a television or other projecting device to act like a Chromecast to stream video content.

Nest Hub Max Home App
The Nest Cam functionality demoed on the Google Nest Hub Max John Velasco/Digital Trends

With its recent restructure of Nest Aware, Google’s smart speakers have gained the ability to listen for smoke alarm sirens and glass shattering — so you can certainly expect Prince to offer this function. If Google wants to continue the trend of adding security devices for its smart assistants, Prince could also harbor a motion sensor to detect movement and integrate with the company’s Nest Secure Alarm System. Or perhaps a temperature sensor could be built into the device to work with the Nest Smart Thermostat. Either way, the components for these sensors wouldn’t require significant reengineering of the design to accommodate them.

Until an official announcement is made, there is no way to know what the updated device will bring, but one thing is clear: Although the Google Home is in desperate need of an upgrade, it has to receive more than just improved audio performance.

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Patrick Hearn
Former Digital Trends Contributor
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