The Amazon Echo will soon have competition in the form of Google Home.
You may well have heard someone talk excitedly about their new Amazon Echo (perhaps sharing tales of confusing its voice assistant, Alexa).
Google Home is also a voice-activated smart hub with a music speaker built in but, instead of Alexa, your disembodied friend is Google Assistant. It’s summoned with a call of ‘OK Google’ and able to dispense information and control your smart gadgets. So should you take Google home?
If you’re ready to make your home smart, we’ve tested a selection of smart hubs, able to control and coordinate a fleet of connected devices.
Amazon Echo review – find out how we rated this and other smart hubs we’ve tested
Google Home coming to your home
Despite being announced and launched in the US in October 2016, Google Home has not yet arrived in the UK, despite Amazon’s Echo being well established on these shores.
However, Google told the BBC at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) trade show in Barcelona that Google Home will launch here by the end of June 2017.
Pricing has not yet been confirmed, but Google Home costs $130 (£105) in North America – less than the £149.99 Amazon Echo – although the Echo Dot, which comes without a music speaker, costs just £49.99.
What does Google Home do?
Whatever you think about Google, it’s now a near-essential part of our consumer lives. Services such as Google Search, Gmail and Google Maps make it easier to access and consume information.
Succeeding Google Now, Google Assistant is the company’s latest innovation, enabling you to use your voice to get information, such as the weather forecast, news or answers to University Challenge questions.
As Google Assistant gets to know you and your routines, it can become more personalised, such as warning you of bad traffic ahead on your usual route to work. You may find this idea rather creepy but we’ll be putting the Google Home through our privacy test to find out how much control you have over what the device learns about you.
Play music and control smart gadgets
Google Home is also a music speaker, enabling you to stream music, radio or podcasts over your home wi-fi internet. Google Music, Spotify and YouTube Music are supported in the US, but it’s unclear what will be available to use with Google Home in the UK.
As with other smart hubs, you can use Google Home to control smart gadgets; so you could ask Google Assistant to turn up the heat on your thermostat or dim the lights for film night.
The list of compatible gadgets hasn’t been confirmed, although in the US this includes the Google-owned Chromecast and Nest, along with third-party gadgets, such as Philips Hue light bulbs.
We know from testing smart hubs that compatibility can be patchy, so we hope for a healthy selection of Google Home devices at launch. We’ll be testing Google Home later in the year.