Smart Home: Google Home

Google Home has now invaded my home, and I’m very interested in seeing where this takes us. Right now, I think the biggest selling point for Home is potential. It has some neat tricks as-is, but it promises so much more.
The first thing I noticed is that the packaging is first-rate. There are even corner tabs on the tape to allow easy removal without having to damage the box. There is a pull tab in the box itself to open up for the grand reveal. The Home sits in a formed plastic tray that holds it snugly. Everything about the packaging says Google wanted to convey they put a lot of thought into making opening the Home a good experience. I was very impressed.
The Home is a relatively attractive device. It is unoffensive and can fit pretty much any decor without drawing unwanted attention to itself. You can jazz it up with a colored base, if you want. Some folks have said it looks a bit like a large air freshener. I guess that’s about right in some respects, but that makes it sound unattractive to me. In reality, it is a good-looking device.
I have a Pixel and a Chromecast, so I already had Google’s new Home app on my phone. You will need to download the Home app if you don’t already have it. For any WP users lurking out there, check first, b/c I think the Home app is available only on Android and iOS.
Anyway, I plugged in the Home unit, opened the app, the app located the Home unit, I entered my wifi info, answered a few questions about use, and it was ready. The entire process took just a couple of minutes. It was painless and worked flawlessly the first time.
Using the Home is easy. It has understood me virtually every time I’ve said anything to it. I connected it to my Nest thermostats (although that took a moment to sort out how to do it; you open the menu in the Home app rather than click on the big box that says “Add Devices”), and the Home was able to set the temperature based on my voice commands. It performed searches flawlessly, reading back answers to me. I did try a few queries that it was unable to resolve, so it gave me the canned apology.
It also works with several music services. I chose Spotify as my primary music source, but it can use any of the supported services. It steams music well enough, although you won’t mistake it for audiophile level sound. I do like that you can use multiple Home units throughout the house, and they will sync to provide music throughout the house, if you want. I only have one unit at this time, though.
I’m also very interested in using a Chomecast Audio unit to pair my regular speakers with the Home. That’s a relatively inexpensive way to get a much higher sound quality.
You can, however, tell it to play music or video through the Chromecast TV dongle, and it will happily oblige. I have to admit, though, I really prefer my Roku to the Chromecast. I know it is a “competitor,” but I hope Google doesn’t try to make the Home a walled garden when it comes to service they also provide. Fortunately, they already allow a wide spectrum when it comes to music, so I hope they will do similar with video.
Side note, Home comes with six months of YouTube Red for free.
Unfortunately, there are limitations to the usefulness of Home right now. First and foremost is that it works with only a few smart devices.  
Almost as bad, it only syncs to one Google account, so it only knows one user. There is a guest mode, but it’d be great if my wife and kids could tell it stuff that would sync to their search history rather than mine. I’m afraid I might suddenly get inundated by ads for things in which my daughter is interested.
Third is that, even with only one user, it doesn’t really harmonize all that well with some external accounts. For instance, I don’t use a Google calendar for work. My office uses Exchange. My Google phone gets this. My Google Home does not. When I ask about my appointments or schedule, the Home is at a loss. I wish it’d work hand-in-hand with my phone so I could tell it to check my Outlook calendar. We also have a shared family calendar. All Home sees is my personal Google calendar, which is a desolate wasteland, given that most of my real appointments are in Outlook or the family shared Gmail calendar. Home can’t see those right now, but maybe it will be able to eventually.
One other thing my wife really wants is for it to pair with BT headphones, but I couldn’t find a way to do that. There are times when you want to be able to stream music or news without everyone else having to listen, so that’d also be a nice addition, if it can be done.
Also, I’d really like to be able to use my own awake word or phrase. As it is, every time I say “Ok, Google,” my phone wakes up and gives me a note that “another device” is answering my question. Why does that need to happen? It wouldn’t have to happen if I could say “Ok, Home” or “Ok, Pixel.”
But, on the whole, this is a fun and cool device. I’m still getting use to it and am excited to see what the future holds for my little friend. It’s good device, but I expect it have a period of growing pains as it gets more useful and adds more services. Still, though, I’d say try it. I do think it will be more useful in a year than it is now.
Final: Like
Note, Google Home was provided to me free of charge for review by Best Buy and Google.
UPDATE 12/25/17 – For some time now, the Google Home has worked with multiple accounts. This is a tremendous improvement.  I’ve also added several more Google Homes and some other smart devices in the house, and they work wonderfully.  One nice advantage of having mutiple Homes is that you can sync music on mutiple devices. That simple function comes in extremely handy. I’d say I’ve moved from a “like” to a “love” as the Home has grown in ability.  It is rock-steady and make our house a better place to live.

One thought on “Smart Home: Google Home

  1. Pingback: Receiver: Sony STR-DN1080 | Love/Like/Hate

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s