Google Home will soon be what it always should have been
Boy, Google brought it home today with the Google Home, and they brought it with some sauce. It has been a while since I’ve said “Wow” out loud while watching a keynote address, but Google Home just kept me wowing. Google brought a ton of new capability to its Google Home device today so let’s run down the list, shall we?
One of the core features that Google Home has been missing from day one is the ability to set reminders with the device. I use Google Assistant to remind me of things almost more often than I use it to check the weather – which is a lot by the way. Finally, I don’t have to pick up my phone to set reminders which is personally a big deal for me. Maybe it shouldn’t be, but darn it, it is. This comes along with proactive alerts which can let you know when there is something Google thinks you need to know. One example is when there is heavier than normal traffic in your area, so you need to know to leave sooner for a calendar event.
Google Home will also now work with a few new services including SoundCloud and Spotify, which is pretty cool by itself. Add to that though that Google Home will be able to connect to a device via Bluetooth, so it can become the Bluetooth speaker it was always meant to be. I found a lot of articles online asking about how to connect to Google Home via Bluetooth – so did Google apparently because it’s here now.
Google Home look
Google Home will also work with your Chromecast, turning your TV into a screen for the Home. With it you can display your calendar, directions, weather, and the like on your TV. Suck it, Echo Show. Of course, this fits seamlessly into my lifestyle with my kitchen TV being a dedicated Chromecast box, but the possibilities here are pretty awesome.
Finally, you may remember last week Amazon announced that you could now call other echo owners with Alexa. Well Google just took that concept to 11 by announcing that you’ll soon be able to call any phone number in the United States and Canada with Google Home. No setting up contacts, or making sure the other party also has a Google Home. This is probably the game changer with some far-reaching effects.
Bon voyage landline
First, every excuse for having a land line is pretty much dead now. Without going too much into my home life, my wife always struggled with getting rid of the land line because not everyone in our house has a phone. But now, the kids can call me or grandma or Domino’s Pizza if they want to from Google Home. Whether or not that’s a good or bad thing remains to be seen. Also, if random people at a party can start making calls from my Home, I’m not so sure I like that idea either. But all the same, Google has the right idea here.
One important note is that Google Home cannot call 911, which is a shame. 911 requires that devices calling it have a way to call back in case of disconnection, so this limitation makes sense. I’d love to be able to use Google to call for help on the day that axe murder finally chops his way into my kitchen, but I guess I’ll just have to keep my phone on me – and a solid set of steak knives, but that’s a different conversation.
Wait just one minute
So, all this is pretty awesome. But before we mistake this article for being all sunshine and rainbows, there are still a couple of things to consider. First and foremost is, when will all this be available. For most of these features, I intentionally misspoke. I said “now” as in “Google Home will now make phone calls.” Well, unfortunately, you need to mentally substitute the word “now” with “soon”, “some day” or just drop the “now” and stick with “will”. During the presentations, there were vague talks about “the coming months” and “after an update” but when those updates are actually delivered remains to be seen. Remember last year, when Google Home played Stranger Things on stage at I/O? The actual functionality didn’t come until the fall if memory serves. On a side note, holy crap Strange Things has been around for almost a year already.
Finally, the jerkface in me has to ask, “What the heck took so long?” Arguably most of what I’m talking about should have been a part of Google Home from day 1. I’ll forgive Google for not including voice calling, sure. There’s infrastructure to set up. But reminders? Using different accounts (which was here weeks ago, I know)? This is all “duh” stuff that should’ve been part of the initial release. I mean, it’s great that we have it/are getting it. But it should not have taken this long. And bragging that you left out 6 microphones to take voice commands – that was awful, because that remains my biggest criticism of the device itself.
Anyway, today was a win for Google Home owners, and it’s really exciting to see what else will be coming to my Home and Google Assistant. I know some of our readers outside the US won’t see these benefits yet, but some will. Google is doubling down on the Google Home, and I suspect it’ll only be a matter of time before we get to worldwide release. In the meantime, we’ll just have to settle for watching American landline carriers quake in their boots.