For the last couple of months I was thinking of buying an internet radio for my kitchen. Then, I noticed these smart speakers getting more and more popular. In the end I bought one of them, Google Home, instead of the internet radio. Well, I am glad I did.
Google Home costs pretty much the same as decent internet radio but is so much more. It is essentially a virtual assistant that will not only play music but also provide information, entertainment and help you out with many daily tasks.
It is not going to be an in-depth review of Google Home, but I will quickly write why I like it, give you list of voice commands I find most useful and also give you some tips how to set things up. Hopefully this information will be useful for you and help you to answer the question if this is something for you.
Why I have chosen Google Home?
I do not know well other similar devices but the reason I have chosen Google Home is that I liked cool, a bit futuristic design of the device (some people say it looks like air freshener). I also like company behind it. Google provides quite a few great services and this device works well with them really well. Not like Apple, Google doesn’t force you to use only their software – Google Home integrates well with other applications like Spotify or BBC applications (I live in the UK). I might be wrong but I suppose that Amazon Echo prime focus is to enhance buying experience for Amazon customers.
Google Home will certainly help you to buy things as well and is linked to Google services but I would say its focus is on search and providing information rather than on sales.
In short, Google Home looks and sounds great, is reasonably priced, is search oriented and integrates well with other software. What not to like?
What services I use on Google Home?
Initially I just wanted to listen to radio. Google Home will certainly do this task well. First of all, its speaker provides nice sound that easily fills my small kitchen. Google Home works together with Google Home mobile app and to play radio stations you need to install some radio application on your Android phone or tablet. I have installed two applications for this purpose: BBC IPlayer Radio and TuneIn Radio. I can access almost any radio station that is available in these apps, I can say for instance ‘OK Google, play BBC radio 4’ and the speaker immediately starts playing this radio station. I can also listen to some Polish radio stations (I am Polish) via TuneIn Radio but Google Home sometimes get confused and play some Polish playlists from Spotify instead.
Obviously, you can also play music from a few different applications. I linked Google Home with my Spotify app (I have free version) and can play some of my and other playlists. If I want to listen to particular song or artist, Google Home will start playing a playlist that this song or artist is listed in but not necessarily the ones I wanted. I am pretty sure though that Spotify subscribers can play almost any tune they like.
Radio and music are not all. With Google Play you can also listen to audio books from Google Play and listen to podcasts. Now, the device plays majority of podcasts in English language (you can just say ‘OK Google, play the latest episode + the name of the podcast’. However, I am also learning French and understandably the device sometimes gets confused when I say the name of the podcast in French. As long as the name of the podcast is in English.
These are small minor points. All in all listening to audio is a really good experience. If you encounter any problems, you can always use Google Home as external Bluetooth speaker and stream the desired audio from your device. All in all things work quite well and only sometimes Google Play doesn’t know what to do. I think it may actually also be due to the user giving confusing commands.
Music and podcasts is not the only way I use the device. Every morning I greet Google Home ‘OK Google, Good morning’ to get some basic information (time, temperature outside, weather forecast for today) and the latest news. You can customise what information you want to get and what news sources you want in your Google Home app (Routines and News sections in More settings).
That is pretty much all I have used the device for in a few days I have it. It is mainly listening to music, podcasts and radio. My family also played some games that are available, and they were quite fun, but we are still learning and experimenting with Google Home.
If you decide to buy it, is a good idea to go to adjust the settings in Google Home app. There are actually two different areas where you can tweak things: general settings and setting of particular device you have (you can have several Google Home or Google Home Minis, each with different settings). The main settings are available in the main menu of Google Home app. To get to device settings, you need to tap ‘Devices’ from the first menu and then tap menu with three dots.
Of course, you can use the device in many ways but here are the voice commands that I found the most useful (or funny):
My favourite voice commands
- Hey Google (it responds to both commands ‘OK Google’ and ‘Hey Google’ but the second with pronounced is shorter.
- It is not the command but the way you can execute it. After initial ‘Hey Google’ you do not have to wait for Google Home to start listening. It still registers and processes the information. So, after the initial command, do not pause and carry on speaking.
- Play BBC radio 4?
- Play DH Unplugged podcast?
- Play previous episode?
- Volume 12% (you can precisely set the volume of the device)
- What are Tesco opening hours? (you can find opening hours of your local shop or supermarket)
- What is their phone number? (it remembers the previous command, you can quickly get some additional information)
- How much time I need to get to Birmingham airport?
- Sing me happy birthday?
- Can you change your voice to male?
- What is the traffic in…
- What’s the weather like this weekend?
- What’s the temperature?
- What’s in my calendar?
- Wake me up at 7:30
- Set an alarm for…
- Set the timer for…
- Remind me to [activity and time]
- Tell me a joke
- Tell me a bedtime story
- Flip a coin
- Roll a die
- ‘Bedtime’ or ‘Good night’ (triggers the defined routine)
- Play nature sounds for 15 minutes
To sum up this Google Home review, I would say that I am pretty impressed with the device and very happy that I had bought it. As I do not have any accompanying hardware I do not use it to the full potential but even on its own, Google Home does everything I want from it and much more!
I have bought it on one of the frequent sales for £89 (around $125) and I think that Google Home offers a good value for the money. It is usually slightly more expensive but if you shop around or are penitent, you can buy it at this price or even lower.
All in all, I would recommend it, if you buy it you will probably like it as well. Yes, it is a gimmick but I think one of the coolest ones and the one that is actually going to be used 🙂