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Google Home: 9 simple things it still can not do, but Alexa can



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The Google Nest Mini replaced the Google Home Mini last year, muddling the waters of the Google brand even more (see # 4).

James Martin / CNET

Since the original Google Home smart speaker first debuted, many have felt that the search giant’s move to the smart home has stuck and played along with Amazon’s Alexa assistant and Echo speakers. But that view has changed considerably in recent years, as Google has added a number of long-awaited features – some of which Alexa already had, others still do not. Not to mention, Google is now selling some of the most breathtaking smart screens (Nest Hub and Nest Hub Max) and surprisingly full range mini speakers (Nest Mini) available.

In other words, Google Home ($ 99 at Crutchfield) is no longer just a smart home challenger but a leading market leader and – for the most part – we are fans. So think of this as more of a wish list of features we hope to see eventually than a laundry list of pets, grips, and complaints about Google’s home ecosystem, (although we do have some of them, too).

No platform is flawless, but Google Home (or Google Nest) can only edge a little closer to perfection if it were to address these nine little bugbears. (Plus some ways to solve around some pitfalls.)

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Google knows where you are anyway, so why not let yourself be triggered by Google Home actions based on your location?

Angela Lang / CNET

Google Home is still unable to trigger an action based on your location

If only there was a magical way to get your stuff to make your bid without having to say something. It does exist, which is why Amazon’s Alexa excels at automation in a way that Google Home is still short: Alexa supports location triggers. In other words, Amazon’s digital assistant tracks your GPS location and can fire actions (check smart home gadgets, play music, welcome you home, etc.) based on where you are.

Currently, if you want Google Home to turn on the lights when you get home (or turn off when you leave) or perform any other action based on your location, you must tell it with a voice command. What’s even more annoying is that the Google Nest Learning Thermostat has a home / away mode that uses – you guessed it – space triggers to turn or heat your heat or air conditioner.

Plus, Google already knows where you are all the time anyway, so why not add this simple feature? At the moment, the best thing you can do is to couple a location-based action with If This, Then That, aka IFTTT.

2. You should not have to shout!

If you have multiple Google Home smart speakers and you set an alarm or timer on one of them, the only way to turn it off with a voice command is to talk to the speaker you are setting it to. Sure, there are some solutions (including calling it), but Alexa knows when another speaker connected to the same account sounds, so why does Google Home not?

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Apple’s HomePod can stream music directly from Apple Music, but so far Google Home cannot.

James Martin / CNET

Take over the rivalry with Apple already

We understand that – Apple and Google are furious frenemies at best, but it’s time to open up more. You can use any number of music streaming services on Google Home devices and even set some non-Google options like Spotify by default.

But the only way to bring Apple Music to your Google Home smart speakers is by playing it on a compatible device and then connecting to Google Home with Bluetooth. It is so 2010. If you can stream Apple Music on a Samsung TV today, you should be able to do the same with Google Home. For people like me who use Apple and Google’s products and services are an unnecessary pain to hinder my tools.

4. Google Home? Stay? Fix the name, please

Let’s call: There’s Google Home Max, Nest Mini, Nest Hub and Nest Hub Max. Then there’s the finished original Google Home speaker (worrying, it looks like a replacement is on the way – under Nest banners), the original Google Home Mini ($ 30 at Best Buy) (replaced by the upgraded Nest Mini) and Google Hub (renamed Nest Hub).

Confused? That’s how we are.

It makes sense that Google wants to add its Nest line of smart thermostats, security cameras and other smart home devices to its Google Home platform (or vice versa). But by doing it one unit at a time has cracked the range’s brand and mixed the naming. For example, “Nest Home” is not one thing, but “Google Nest” is.

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If you whisper to Alexa on Amazon Echo, it whispers back to you. We just wish Google Assistant could do the same on Google Home.

Tyler Lizenby / CNET

5. Pssst! Google Home cannot whisper

Yes, Google Home has a night mode that will reduce speaker volume during scheduled times of the day, but that’s literally all it does – knock down a couple of notches. Do you know what Alexa can do? If you whisper a command to Alexa, Alexa literally whispers back. Not only does that make Alexa seem more, well, human, a whisper, leagues are less jarring when kids or a partner are sleeping or you’re just trying to enjoy some quiet time.

Hi, Google, can we call you something else?

Apple has Siri and Amazon has Alexa. Microsoft – Cortana. Even Samsung has Bixby. But Google? Google only has … Google. We get it – you can not do an old word a wake words. Digital assistants accidentally dip into conversations that are not intended for them often enough as it is, when you say something close enough, like “Hey, Boo Boo,” “OK, Frugal” and even “OK, Boomer.”

Actually, you can use Google’s home a little less than perfect ear to trick it into responding to these options and more (“cocaine poodle” anyone?), But it would be nice if Google at least offered alternative. Again, Alexa can. In addition to just the name, Alexa can respond to “Computer”, “Amazon” or “Echo.” OK, Google?

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Amazon Echos has an audio output port, but Google Home can only connect to an external speaker system with Bluetooth.

Ry Crist / CNET

7. Where is the audio socket?

Amazon Echoes ($ 65 on Google Store) have physical stereo outputs, so you can connect them to a bigger, better, higher stereo system. The only way to connect Google Home to other speakers is with Bluetooth, which is just not as high quality signal. But why would anyone want to connect another speaker Other speaker?

First out, as far as smart speaker technology has come, Google Homes (and Amazon Echoes and Apple HomePods ($ 299 at Apple)) – even ultra-premium devices like Google Home Max – can certainly not compete with high-end equipment, such as CNET’s best bookshelf speaker for 2020, Elac Debut 2.0 B6.2. Also why would not do you want to install Google Assistant on a killer Bose system?

8. Google Assistant should be there for you

With a smart speaker, someone is always at home. Sorta. So if Google Assistant will be sitting around the house all day anyway, it might as well keep an eye (wrong, ear) on things too, right? Last year, Amazon launched Alexa Guard, which listens to suspicious activity – like a window that breaks – when you’re not home. It may not be as robust as a dedicated security system, but it’s still better than just sitting there while burglars empty your jewelry box.

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The new Google Messages app lets Android devices send iMessage-like text messages to other Android users, but Google Home still can’t even send a basic SMS.

Jason Cipriani / CNET

9. You can still not send text messages using Google Home

Seriously? You can connect your phone (even if it’s an iPhone!) And make calls from Google Home, so why not text messages? Alexa can handle SMS if your phone is an iPhone or Android. And Apple’s HomePod can send your SMS or iMessages if you use an iPhone. Google has just recently introduced Google Messages (think iMessage for Android), so why they do not add the app to Google Home is a mystery. Hopefully Google will this a message (and we do not receive left on last) sooner rather than later.

Despite these shortcomings, Google Home gets more than just a few things right. Check out these five things that Google Home can do that Alexa and Siri can’t. And here are five more things that Google Home does better than the competition. To truly fine-tune your Google Home for the best experience, you must try to change these five settings – you will not regret it.


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