Last week, we gave you the 10 tips you need to know for the Amazon Echo. But Amazon isn’t the only company with a connected speaker on the market. Late in 2016, Google threw its hat in the ring with the Google Home, the company’s most accessible Google Assistant device and a direct competitor to the Echo.
Each speaker offers similar functionality, with their own set of quirks and benefits. For the list, we tried to steer clear of the basics, like the fact that you can play music through Spotify. Of course you can, it’s a connected speaker. Instead, we chose to focus on some of the Home’s benefits you may not be aware of yet, or haven’t fully explored.
If you chose Google’s speaker over Amazon’s this holiday season, or perhaps as a Happy 2017 gift to yourself, here at 10 things you need to know:
One of the best ways to enhance the utility of your Google Home is to pair it with a Chromecast, or any Cast-enabled device (like various Vizio TVs). This lets you do a host of cool things, like tell your Home to play Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt through Netflix on your TV. You can also control the volume, pause, play, skip around and more with just your voice. The feature works with YouTube and Google Photos, too, and will hopefully be expanded in the coming months.
An easy way to stay on top of your agenda is to ask Home “tell me about my day” every morning. The Assistant will then tell you about the weather, your commute to work, whether you have a meeting scheduled and any reminders you may have set, rounding it out with the day’s news report. To get the most out of the feature, though, you should customize it in the Google Home app, so it knows where your work is and what kind of news you want to hear. The more Home knows about you, the more useful it is.
Like with the Echo, Home is more useful thanks to IFTTT integration. Using the third party service opens a wealth of possibilities for your Google Assistant speaker, like the ability to find your phone, or turn on your TV with Logitech’s Harmony Hub (if you don’t have a Chromecast), add a task to Todoist and much more. If you’re a Google Home owner, IFTTT is a must have.
A frustration I had early on with my Google Home was that I was never completely sure if it heard me, unless I was looking at it. Because it only has two far-field microphones, as opposed to the Echo’s seven, you can’t assume it’s always going to hear you. Luckily, you can remedy the uncertainty by turning on the wake sound. To do this, simply open the Home app, click devices, tap the three dot menu button on your Home, hit Settings and then scroll down to Accessibility (found under Device Info) and turn on sounds.
If there are times when you’d rather Google Home not listen, like when you’re entertaining the Queen of England for dinner, you can mute the device with the press of a button. On the rear of Home, you’ll find the mute button which, when pressed, announces that the microphones are off and illuminates the four LED lights in red.
Perhaps the best early feature of Home is the ability to curate your shopping list on Google Keep with the Assistant. While I would like for Google to open up the compatibility, allowing users to choose which note or list app they use or even just letting you to curate several notes on Keep, I have to admit the current implementation has made my life easier. Just tell Home to add an item to your shopping list and it will. Plus, you can share the list with family or roommates so everyone can stay on top of what to get.
Google Assistant is currently way behind Alexa in terms of supported services, but the list is growing for Mountain View’s digital assistant. You can order an Uber through your Home, plus a Domino’s pizza, take a daily quiz from Buzzfeed and much more. Most of the integrated services are thin on utility, but it’s promising to see the list grow from solely Uber at launch.
The most whimsical feature of the Google Home is by far the various games you can play. Mad Libs and Lucky Trivia are the stars here, showing off the Google Assistant’s smarts and personality, but there are numerous other modes to choose thanks to a bevy of integrated games added post-launch, like 21 Blackjack and Akinator the Genie. If you’re having a game night with friends, throw in the Home for a round or two.
A nifty, if hidden, feature of Google Home is its ability to remember things for you. At first, I thought this was useful in a benign way, like telling the Assistant what my cat’s name is, but the feature goes beyond that. If there’s something you’re constantly losing track of (for me, it’s my checkbook), simply tell Google where you put it and it will remember. For instance, I told my Home that my checkbook was in the office (the phrasing here can be simply “Hey Google, my checkbook is in the office” or “Hey Google, remember my checkbook is in the office”) and when I later asked it where my checkbook was, it told me what I’d said and the date I said it.
Unhappy with the Google Assistant? Simply say “OK Google, fuck you” to get out your anger. The Assistant will then tell you that you can send feedback if you have a problem. To do that, say “OK Google, send feedback” and the Assistant will ask you want you want to fix.