If you don’t use a smart speaker, there’s a whole world of smart home technology waiting to be unlocked. Google Home is one of the best – thanks to its simple interface, it’s a doddle to use, and can be used to control all manner of smart home appliances.
Here's what you need to know about it.
What is Google Home?
Google Home is a smart speaker powered by Google Assistant, Google’s voice-activated personal assistant. Place it somewhere in your home – a living area like the kitchen or the lounge is best – and you can ask it questions. Because it’s wirelessly connected to your home broadband network, it can search the internet for information and read it back to you.
But that’s just the start of its capabilities. When connected with all manner of compatible domestic devices, it can also act as the hub of your smart home.
What can Google Home do?
Google Home is an incredibly capable device, able to help with all sorts of tasks like setting timers, answering questions and controlling your other smart devices.
It can play music from all sorts of streaming services – you can choose by artist, song title, album, genre, playlist, mood or activity. It can read you the news, play YouTube videos on your TV, read out an outline of your day’s events as scheduled in your calendar, bring you flight information, create a shopping list, send information to your phone, make calls, find your phone, give you dictionary definitions of words, carry out calculations for you, translate from another language and much more.
These skills are just the tip of the iceberg. For more info on Google Home’s capabilities, visit the Google Home website.
Google Home can also control all the main functions of smart home devices. That means with Philips Hue you can turn the lights on and off and change the colour to set the mood, while with a thermostat like Nest, you can adjust the room temperature by as many degrees as you like. It’s your ticket to an easier, connected life.
What smart home devices does it work with?
All sorts. As long as a device connects to your home wi-fi network and can be controlled using an app on your smartphone, the chances are it’s compatible with Google Home. That means you can ask it to control your lights, thermostat, security cameras and more. There’s no need to press any buttons yourself, or even to take your phone out of your pocket - you just use your voice.
Who is Google Home good for?
Busy people will love the labour-saving nature of it, while those with limited mobility will appreciate not having to move around the house as much. Music fans will enjoy the instant access to their favourite tunes while whole families can have fun with features like the trivia quiz and a seemingly endless repertoire of bad jokes.
How do you control Google Home?
Like most other smart speakers, there are three ways to control Google Home: by touch, via an app or by speaking.
Google Home's top panel is touch-sensitive: tap the top of the device once to play or pause music, or to stop an alarm or timer. Swiping clockwise on the top of the device will turn up the volume of whatever media is playing, while swiping anti-clockwise turns it down.
Pressing and holding the top of the device puts the device in listening mode, ready to answer your question or obey your command. Don’t want it listening to your conversations? Press the microphone button on the back to turn off the mic. Pressing it again will turn it back on.
You can perform all of these functions from the Google Home app, which is available for Android and iOS, or you can just tell Google Home to do these tasks, as long as you precede your request with the phrase, “OK Google” (e.g. “OK Google, turn the volume up”).
What does the Google Home app do?
You use the Google Home app to set up your Google Home and to control it from your phone. As well as controlling the Google Home speaker, the app can also control a Google Chromecast streaming device, as well as other smart speakers.
How much does Google Home cost?
Google Home will set you back around £100.
What other Google Home devices are there?
There are three others: the Google Home Mini, Google Home Max and Google Home Hub.
Google Home Mini is a smaller and less powerful version of Google Home. While it takes up less space than Google Home, the speaker won’t sound as good, which should be worth considering if you’ll use it a lot to listen to music. Google Home Mini is cheaper than Google Home, costing around £40.
As the name suggests, Google Home Max is bigger than the standard Google Home or Google Home Mini. It has all the same voice-controlled functions as the other two, but because it's bigger it's much louder. The sound quality is also better, because there's more space for more advanced innards. The downside? It takes up more space, and it is more expensive - around £399.
Lastly, there's the Google Home Hub (pictured above). It has a screen, making it more of a smart display than a smart speaker. It means you can see your calendar, weather reports, maps and more when you ask, adding a key visual element to its helper abilities. The touchscreen also makes it easier to control your other smart home devices, as you can tweak the temperature of the thermostat using an on-screen dial, for instance. It can also work as a digital photo frame, showing your holiday snaps in a slideshow when not in use. It costs £139.