Google Home has just launched in the UK, and it’s immediately offered a glimpse into an extremely bright future.
It’s a direct rival to the much-lauded Amazon Echo, and is designed to provide users with help around the house.
Here’s what we think of Google Home on day one.
Inside the box, you’ll find a power cable, instructions and the Google Home device itself. For such an alien-looking thing, it’s actually really easy to set up.
All you need to do is plug it into your mains and hook it up to your home Wi-Fi network and Google account via the free Google Home app on your phone.
The entire process takes less than ten minutes, though it will of course require additional stages if you want to connect it with Chromecast and any Smart Home devices you own.
Google Home is powered by Google Assistant, and is activated by two magic words: “Okay Google…” A good initial follow-up to this is “What can you do?”
You can also control a number of features with your fingers too, as the entire slanted top of the device is a touch surface. Tapping it once plays and pauses audio, a long press works as an alternative to “Okay Google”, bringing Google Assistant to life, and dragging your finger around the edge of the touch surface changes the volume.
If you want Google Home to stop listening to you, just push the microphone mute button. It’s also worth remembering that you can also see every scrap of information Google has on you at My Activity.
For regular consumers, here’s where Google Home will either live or die. It’s designed to make you life easier by quickly processing everyday questions and firing the answers back at you. With Google being the master of search, it’s fantastic at handling this.
You can also use it to fire up Netflix and YouTube by hooking it up to your TV via Chromecast. It’ll deliver news and weather updates and perform translations and calculations too, as well as play your favourite songs through Google Play Music or Spotify. After all, it is a speaker, though audio isn’t always crisp.
Google Home can also connect with a range of Smart Home gadgets, including Philips Hue lights, the Nest thermostat, Samsung SmartThings, Belkin Wemo and Honeywell devices, to make some of your day’s duller tasks easier to get out of the way.
Lots of people still feel uneasy using voice commands on their phones, but it soon feels like a comfortable way to interact with Google Home.
What’s really disappointing at present, however, is its lack of support for one of Google’s most important services: Gmail. It would be incredibly useful to be able to dictate emails to Google Home, but that’s not yet an option.
Google Home can’t handle calls either, and though it can read out appointments in your calendar, it can’t actually create new ones.
Google Home is tough to judge at the moment. Right now, the Amazon Echo is ahead of it in terms of its skillset, but that’s only because it’s been around much longer.
Google will continuously develop additional functionality, which could roll out to users at pretty much any moment and potentially completely transform Home. Amazon will do the same in order to stay ahead of the game.
As it’s a work in progress, I can only truly recommend Google Home to early-adopters who actually own Smart Home devices right now, but not to the point where I’d try to talk any other potential buyers away from it.
What’s clear right away is that Google Home is useful, but more importantly, it has an incredible amount of potential and will only improve with time.
Read more at independent.co.uk