Updated: April 14, 2018 9:44:52 am
Voice assistants are slowly becoming the next big thing in the tech world. These speakers can answer queries, give you information as a routine and, of course, play songs from online streaming services. After Amazon’s Echo, Google Home series of smart speakers will become available in India from this month. Here is a first impression.
Google Home is cylindrical smart speaker, not larger than regular Bluetooth speakers these days. It has an angled top which has LED lights that indicate if the speaker has heard your query and shows the volume levels on touch. The only other button on the speaker is a mute key. Half the speaker’s body is the grille covered by a fabric which might be a bit of an issue in the dust bowl that is India. Thankfully, it is grey and not white. The LED lights on top recreate the animation of the Google dots and are a sight to behold when they are working on a query.
‘Hey, Google… Ok, Google’
If the Amazon Echo is powered by Amazon Alexa, the Google Home is powered by the Google Assistant. The speaker wakes up to ‘Hey, Google’ after which you can ask it to do one of the things it’s used to now. You need to download the Google Home app on the phone to set up the speaker and subsequent services. You need to train the speaker to recognise your voice, but after a day or two it started responding to ‘Hey, Google’ from my wife and seven-year-old too.
I used it for regular search queries, to play top news and music. For music you have to enable a default service like Google Play Music before it can start playing. It is another matter that a query for ‘Hindi Music’ ends up with Punjab numbers, but can really blame Google for that? I just hope it can learn my music preferences over time.
The one feature I was really impressed by was the music quality of the speaker. For a mid-range Bluetooth device, the audio quality is really good. I found that it was a bit too soft with volume under 50 per cent, but at the higher levels the audio quality was really top notch with no crackling or unnecessary vibrations. Also, you can adjust volume with just a voice command and it works all the time.
Over the few days that I used Google Home, I used it to set alarms, remind me of my daily schedule and see if it can pull latest news. As far as news goes, it get going back to NPR, but then this is before the India launch. There are already a bunch of sources for news and music on the Google Home app. There will be more coming in as Google formally launches the service in India.
For news, I was getting a lot of NPR when I decided to go to the app, remove the existing sources and add new ones. I could not find any for India, but from BBC to Wired and CNN there were a bunch of those I loved. Listening to how the companies were creating content for voice, I think Google Home could end up promoting podcasts in a big way. Also, the Google Assistant offers the stories to be sent to your phone if you need a deeper dive into the topic.
The Google Home kit that came for review had a Philips Hue smart bulb and controller. I could not review this in detail in the couple of days I had, and will write in detail on how it works later. However, the bulb and other devices can be controlled via the Hue Bridge and this is why the speaker is called Google Home at the end of the day.
Google Home price in India – Rs 9,999
At Rs 9,999, the Google Home appears to be a value for money smart device which can usher you in into the bold new world of smart homes. But is it competition for Amazon Alexa? Watch this space.
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