More and more companies are creating ecosystems for smart home devices. Most devices right now are connected by a variety of confusing protocols. Companies have started to realise, we don’t just need smart devices, we also need voice controls and seamless interoperability between devices. Amazon was one of the early ones to recognise this and integrated it’s Alexa virtual assistant with its Amazon Echo devices.
Google debuted its smart home speaker paired with its Google Assistant two years ago. Though Google was reacting to Amazon setting early direction, it made sense as it’s Google Assistant capability was already mature and used in a huge range of Android devices. Google Assistant is at the core ofAndroid, its not just trapped in an app (unless you are on iOS). Additionally, Google is world renowed for it’s AI and data expertise. The move made sense. If anyone was going to give Amazon’s ecosystem a run for its money, it was Google.
What’s striking about all of Google’s launches is how they are all meant to centralise Google into your life. The HomeHub brings the Google Assistant into your kitchen for just £139/$149. The price point is compelling, especially for existing Android users. Additionally, it doesn’t have a camera which could appeal to privacy conscious buyers. The Home Hub can in summary do the following:
- Control your connected home in one view
- Jump start your day with routines
- Connect to the Nest device range
- Additionally compatible with hundreds of smart devices
- Get answers for every moment
- Play music
- Use voice to show your Google photos
With the new PixelStand Google is also solving one of the biggest issues with wireless charging: making your phone useful while it’s getting juiced up. (Normally your phone is left lying flat and useless on charging pads.) The Stand basically turns the Pixel 3 and 3 XL into mini smart displays, giving you easy access to the Google Assistant, your calendar and emails. With the new Home app, the phones can also serve as control pads for all of your smart gadgets, allowing you to quickly turn off the lights or change your home’s temperature. And, like the Home Hub, it can also serve up your Google Photo albums, as well as show you who’s at the front door when they ring your Nest doorbell.
The company is also bundling free premium subscriptions with some new products: You get six months of YouTube Premium with the Home Hub (a £70value) and three months of YouTube TV with the Pixel Slate. While not directly smart-home-related, it’s easy to see how these bundles help Google. They make the products seem like a better deal, and they get consumers hooked on new services. Once you’re used to streaming recipe videos on YouTube without ads, it might be tough to drop the £11.99 monthly premium subscription when the trial ends.
Finally, it feels like Google’s smart home ecosystem is evolving into something serious. It’s still playing catch-up to Amazon — the Home Hub feels like an obvious Echo Show competitor — but at least it’s a solid competitor. The £220 ($230) Echo Show is significantly more expensive than the £130 ($149) Home Hub, so you can bet Amazon will retaliate with a price drop of its own eventually. And Google is also rounding out its ecosystem in more mundane but practical ways, like with the new “Made for Google” GE smart bulbs that work without any additional hubs. Products like those don’t end up headlining any massive launch events, but they’re still essential for keeping customers within Google’s domain.
Perhaps most important, Google is getting into the smart home market at the ground level. Purchasing decisions consumers make today will lock them into entire ecosystems for years, something Amazon learned very quickly. While Apple seems to be resting on its laurels when it comes to the smart home, Google is showing no signs of slowing down.