Why Google Home won me over

Why Google Home won me over

I've been trying out a Google Home device for a few weeks now so it's about time I shared my opinion of it with you. Is it worth you spending your money on one? Well, I was highly skeptical at the beginning, but I have been totally converted now. Here's why.

Google Home is a connected device that features the Google Assistant, Google’s artificial intelligence. In simple terms, you talk to it and it replies. You can ask a question and it will search for the answer on Google and read/speak it out to you. You can ask it to interact with your connected devices and it will do as you command. Even though, in practice, not everything is that simple, I have to say, this device pleasantly surprised me.

Good sound quality

You can do many things with Google Home, but the feature that I use the most is without a doubt audio playback. With the help of the Home app, you can connect your device to an online music service (or even several). In my case, I use Spotify and TuneIn and it didn't take me more than 2 minutes to set up. Once that's done, all you need to say is “OK Google” and ask for a song to be played. It will then search through your songs on Spotify and through radio stations on TuneIn (or other services if you have set them up). 

The sound is then emitted in all directions thanks to the three loud-speakers and the quality is excellent. On the back, there are two omnidirectional microphones (which means that they can pick up sound from all directions). To turn music off, you can say “OK Google, be quiet” (or a less polite version of that, depending on your humor).

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Google Home offers good sound quality. © NextPit

A voice interface to make you change your ways

Before I tried out this device for the first time, I must admit I wasn’t sure about it at all: with a smartphone/tablet/computer and a Bluetooth device, it’s easy to achieve the same result. The difference is the time it takes to set the devices up to listen to the radio. With Google Home, you don’t need to consult your smartphone, turn up the sound, connect the devices, search for content and play it: instead you can simply say “OK Google, play Redemption Song by Bob Marley”. Google Home will confirm it has heard your request and will play the song.

Of course, there are several options when it comes to sound settings. If you want to turn up the volume, you can just say “OK Google, turn up the volume” or even “OK Google, set volume to 60%”. Remember that you lose a little sound quality if you put the volume up too high, but if you live in a small apartment, I would advise against it because the distortion will no longer be your biggest problem, you’ll have angry neighbors knocking at your door.

In short, all you have to do is say the word and it will play music. Of course, you could think “this is for lazy people who can’t be bothered to go and find their phone”, and perhaps that’s true but, in any case, you get used to playing music quickly through the voice interface and it’s hard to imagine going back to the manual method.

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Say “OK Google” and lights appear: the device will listen to your questions/requests. © NextPit

A very useful assistant

Having no connected objects at home, I mainly used my Google Assistant to find out information. I have to admit, its current potential is a little limited: I had to repeat my questions multiple times (though that's probably mostly because of my accent) and it often answered with “There's a problem” because it couldn’t find the information that I asked for. But Google Assistant is still developing so the situation could improve soon.

Its big advantage isn’t necessarily a feature as such but rather more just the fact that all its features are accessible from the same place. You can ask it to wake you up, ask what the weather forecast is, get it to look up stuff on Wikipedia or Google, ask it where to go shopping, all from the same place and via a voice interface. Useful, right?

To sum up, there’s a difference between the practice and the theory, there's some disconnect between the idea that people have of Google Home and what it really does. I thought I would only use it for a few days but I ended up getting used to it because it let me do things that usually took me a while in just a few seconds.

What about you, have you tried Google Home? if not, are you curious? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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  • Andy Atencio Sep 18, 2017 Link to comment

    While I have purchased and placed three Google Home devices throughout my home the devices are not without limitation. The are excellent connected speakers as the article mentions. Being able to multicast music to multiple rooms mean as I am moving around the house cleaning or what not I can continue listening to and controlling music. Additionally with a little extra work they are very beneficial as additions to smart home automation. I use mine to control lights, HV/AC, etc. It is also great at answering questions you would normally get your phone or tablet out to ask powered by the Google search engine. HOWEVER, as a "personal assistant" it falls flat with no support for Google's other technologies like Google Music family accounts or GSuite (FKA Google Apps). Meanwhile the Amazon Echo has full support for these Google native technologies. If I had these purchases to do over again, I would absolutely purchase the Amazon devices intead...

  • T_C Sep 18, 2017 Link to comment

    Lucky you! I'll have to upload the video of 3 of my friends (all reasonably well spoken, university graduates in their late 30's) laughing hysterically as we try to get a simple You Tube video (gato malo) on the living room Chromecast! I thought saying 'Ok Google, play 'Gato Malo' on YouTube on the Living Room Chromecast' would do it, and I think a majority of English speakers would understand that sentence above. Instead I had Google Home repeatedly inform us we needed to specify the Chromecast if there was more than one, or just fail to do anything beyond swirl the lights on the top of the unit.
    Eventually after trying about 50 phrases, the only one which worked was 'Ok Google, play YouTube 'Gato Malo' on Chromecast Living Room'.
    Ultimately we all agreed that the device was pointless in its current form as the 20 minutes trying to get a video played could have been solved by simply doing it from my phone in a few seconds. It's fun when it works properly, but these types of devices need to work 99.9% of the time to be dependable, and in my experience the reliability is far short of that.
    Learning the set phrases helps 'Ok Google, do I need an umbrella today?' works, yet 'do I need a jumper/sweater today?' fails as there's no AI, just brute force set phrases that Google are hoping people won't have any variety on.
    But ultimately that fact it can't do things like add a calendar entry, but instead insists on taking over from your phone to tell you it can't do it, as opposed to just cede command to the smarter device, are the reason I have a now unplugged white vase under my TV; happy to listen to offers for it if someone wants to try one out for themselves!

  • Mark G. Sep 18, 2017 Link to comment

    I can understand the idea around these devices, and that they are the beginning of a proper fully connected home system (which is still a long way off). But at this moment the features highlighted in the article are easily accessed via my phone or tablet, I regularly use Google Assistant & yes voice is a feature used a lot but I still like to write certain questions as it's more likely to get a better response.
    What is needed is a truly universal system for iot so any peripheral devices will be fully functional via Home, Amazon or Apple, something that is not tied to each developers suite of products. I want to be able to access my own catalogue of media, rather than using Google Music or Apple Music or Spotify etc.

    It's ok having access to a AI but it's useless if it can't recognise my own music..

    Peace 🖖

  • Aaron Merritt Sep 18, 2017 Link to comment

    Well I have had no problems with video playback with chromecast and have had no problems with phrasing. It controls my lights, stereo and tv and I love it. To those who get bent out of shape about what it doesn't have....try using it for what it does have.

  • Terri Sorel Sep 18, 2017 Link to comment

    Since you've only had the Google home for about a month, I will forgive the fact that you mostly use it for random questions and for music. I strongly suggest you do a little research into the many other extremely useful functions it has. Unlike a previous commenter, I have had no trouble getting my home unit to play videos on YouTube via my chromecast. Yes, you do need to use a specific phrase to get it going, but within 2 days, I had it memorized and have been loving using it ever since. It can pause, play from the beginning again or just stop when you tell it to. No fumbling with remotes. Also, I constantly use the alarm and multiple timer features when cooking or to remind me it time to take medicine or leave for work. Which, by the way, I drive to and my home unit knows where I work, so I ask it what my travel time is to work while I'm getting ready, and it has saved me from being late on many occasions when an accident or a construction issue delays the trip. You can also ask it to tell you about your day. It will give you the weather, your appointments, and any news features you're interested in hearing, including sports results. And now it can also make calls, so you simply ask it to call someone from your contacts or a restaurant nearby. Simple, clear and hands free. I can go on about its other features, but you get the idea. There's many features already, and more on the horizon. Check out some articles about its potential and you'll love it even more. And no, I don't work for Google, I've just had it since it came out and really love it.

    • Andy Atencio Sep 18, 2017 Link to comment

      There is a SIGNIFICANT caution for some of what is mentioned in the comment by Terri... None of the features mentioned as far as appointments, making calls or any other feature that involves interacting with your Gmail account work unless you are using a free GMail account. If, like myself and several thousand others, moved to a Google Apps (which has since been renamed GSuite) account NONE of that works on Google Home. Perplexingly these features function flawlessly on an Amazon Echo device running Alexa. Google ha provided no time frame for addressing this issue. So if you use Google email with a personalized domain name or email address that doesn't end in gmail.com the Google Home pretty much does nothing more than what is listed in this article.

  • T_C Sep 18, 2017 Link to comment

    Respectfully disagree with this article; I've had Google Home for a few months now, and while it is probably the best of the two assistants I've used, it still isn't ready for release in my opinion.
    Basic issues like not being able to answer questions the Google Assistant on your phone CAN answer, and even worse, hogging control instead of passing it to the device that can answer. This means having a Google Home can lessen the quality of your current assistant experience.
    Then there's the lack of intelligence; it becomes clear the the 'contextual understanding' is just a simple 'check the last request' bit of code, and it's lack of basic understanding makes trying to get a You Tube video to play on a Chromecast if you have more than one Chromecast in your house a total chore. It is possible, but only when you've mentioned the exact sequence of words in the exact order it's looking for. Often it doesn't pick up sentences if you are too quick, and you need to learn the 'everyday phrases' to make the most of it. Ultimately it's usually much quicker just to search on your phone.
    I do think devices like this will be of use in the future, but I would advise people thinking of buying one to wait until Google Home 3 or 4 at the very least.

    • Steve Whitman Sep 18, 2017 Link to comment

      I must respectfully disagree. For example, I have 4 Chromecasts in my home, and either of my 2 Home units will easily and quickly play anything on any one of them. It is as simple as stating which Chromecast to cast to. (i.e. bedroom, living room, etc.). Additionally, I have found it's search capabilities, and ability to understand colloquial speech to be amazing. While there are times that using your phone for a search makes more sense, such as when you need to view a picture, or compare extensive lists, for a quick search and answer, the Home is fast and easy! While I do agree that it has a way to go, I see this as potential, and can't help but get excited about what the Home may be, especially considering how great it already is! One more note on use and simplicity, I have to say that my 3 year old can already perform a search, as well as easily cast his shows onto whichever TV in the house he is watching on. With seeing that, it is hard for me to believe that any adult wouldn't be able to use the Home with amazing results!

  • Mike Process Sep 18, 2017 Link to comment

    If you have a French accent you could have spoken to Google Home in French. (and set the language for French Canadian on your phone)

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