Like notable rival the Amazon Echo, Google Home originally launched in the US back in late 2016 but the company has finally decided to bring its connected speaker across the pond to the UK, along with its WiFi mesh network, Google WiFi.
What is Google Home?
The term ‘connected speaker’ gets bandied about for wireless audio solutions all the time, but much like Amazon’s Echo, Google Home offers far more functionality than simply being able to stream music.
Using two far-field microphones users can say “OK, Google” or “Hey, Google” to wake up the Google Assistant running on Google Home. It’s a voice-only copy of the one that launched as part of the Google Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones last year and as such, offers much of the same functionality, albeit with some new British colloquialisms and ‘easter eggs’ involving British humour.
What can Google Home do?
You can ask the Google Home speaker to play music and radio shows from a range of sources including Google Play Music, Spotify, TuneIn and BBC Radio, but it can also dole out the latest weather, news headlines or give you an approximate commute time.
The My Day feature offers up a rundown of your day, covering news, weather and relevant traffic information as well as highlighting upcoming appointments in your calendar as it’s tied to your Google account.
As Home is powered by Google services, you can also ask general queries and questions as you would your phone and thanks to Google Assistant you can also use a more conversational style of speech, with the software able to understand context so that you can follow up one question with another and so on, on the same subject, with Home able to answer in between each.
You can set timers or alarms and as it’s a connected IoT-type device, it can also interface and talk to other IoT-based products like smart thermostats, plugs and lighting. It supports Nest, Wemo, Philips Hue, SmartThings and Chromecast, so you can dim your lights or tell it to play Stranger Things on your TV all with your voice.
Google Home hardware and privacy
The speaker itself is about 14 centimetres tall with a rounded base and a sheer angled top where the microphones and a touch surface reside. When Home is listening or processing a command an LED arrangement on the top face lights up and animates based on the task at hand.
Google Home’s audio chops also offer pretty decent 360-degree sound considering its size, powered by a 2-inch ‘high-excursion’ driver arrangement, backed up by two passive radiators, all covered by a metal shell. The shell can be swapped out for a different colour and finish to suit your taste, with seven colourways available at launch.
As for those concerned about having a pair of always-on microphones connected to Google inside their home, Google Home also features a single mute button on the back, which disables them completely.
Google Home future functionality
Since Google Home originally launched in the US there have been a couple of features that have been slated to arrive and are yet to materialise. At the UK launch Google representatives confirmed that such features are still in the works, but with no clear release date, we’re left wondering whether we’ll ever see them.
Right now Google Home has to be tied to a single Google account from which it draws information like calendar and location data. Multiple account support would allow for user-specific preferences making Home a better fit for families or groups all sharing a single device.
As Home is powered by Google services, being able to better tie it into your smartphone would allow for additional functionality, such as sending messages to contacts by voice, having Home read out incoming messages and emails or alert you when your phone is ringing.
Google Home price and availability
Google Home is set to arrive in the UK on April 6th, priced at £129, £20 less than the Amazon Echo, but £79 more than the Amazon Echo Dot.
What is Google WiFi?
Google WiFi aims to eliminate black spots where WiFi signal can’t reach by using multiple connection points throughout your home to create what is known as a ‘mesh network’, with network optimisation technology powered by machine learning. Using the companion Google WiFi app users can also prioritise bandwidth for a specific device (such as a games console) or pause WiFi on a specific device (such as a child’s tablet).
Google WiFi price and availability
Like Google Home, Google WiFi is set to launch in the UK on April 6th priced at £129 for a single unit or £229 for two.
Google Home and Google WiFi unboxing videos
Update 6/4/17: We’ve since unboxed the UK version of both Google Home and Google WiFi, so you know what to expect if you plan on picking either one up.