Earlier today, Google held its much-anticipated Made By Google 2017 event in the city of San Francisco, CA. During the private event, the tech giant unveiled a bevy of new products including Pixel 2 smartphones and a range of neat accessory upgrades. It has been a whole two years since Google first launched Google Home, and today the company took wraps off not one but two new smart speakers. Google Home Mini is the one we were all expecting, and Google Home Max was the late surprise. Both will co-exist alongside the original Google Home, and upon first glance, we are impressed. Here’s everything we know.
There have been some rumors about a new Google Home, and today, the lineup has expanded to include three models, one for every occasion. In some respects, this year’s models are similar to last year’s, but in other areas, these are brand new products. Amazon has done it, so why not Google, the search engine and arguable AI world leader. Demand for virtual assistant tech including smart speakers has grown quite a bit year-over-year, and Google deserves credit for being one of the first to enter the growing segment last year. This year, Google has upped its game with two speakers, one for the affordable territory, and the other to rival the best of the best in Amazon’s Echo Show device.
We caught an early glimpse of Google Home Mini a few weeks ago, and now it’s official alongside an older and more expensive sibling, Google Home Max. Initial reports suggested Google would reveal a Google Home Wi-Fi merger, though the report didn’t turn out true. Instead, we have more of the same, with revamped hardware, improved software, new features, and a modern build for 2017. Of course, both models are loaded with the famous always-listening and now more conversational, Google Assistant, which has expanded since last year now being on millions of smartphones including select iPhones, as well as third-party appliances, speakers, headphones, and TVs. This is the technology that allows Google Home to do its thing, and it’s only getting better with time and use now that the Google Assistant SDK and Actions on Google programs are active. Plus, Google says more actions and routines are coming,
In regards to design, the Google Home Max is the larger of the two smart speakers as its name suggests. The Max variant has dual 4.5-inch woofers and dual mics that can hear you even if music is playing through the speakers. It also gets really loud, twenty times as loud as the Google Home we’ve had for twelve months now. As for Mini, it has a single speaker with 360-degree sound. It has two mics and weighs less than one pound. Both speakers feature a touchpad for control with LED lights. The larger model has ‘G’ branding on it, while the Mini unit doesn’t. Neither allows for the interchanging of bases, so you’ll have to pick from two colors up front: Charcoal or Chalk. However, Max has a flexible design that adjusts to either a vertical or horizontal orientation automatically. Max is composed of more premium, hard to the touch materials, while Mini appears to be softer in texture with no corners or rough edges.
Google Home Max and Google Home Mini have a streamlined set up process, and are easy to activate and get going out of the box. Google has also promised frequent updates, so you’re always going to have the latest capabilities. This will entail hands-free calling (now available in the UK) and multi-user support aka Voice Match (rolling out in 7 countries today).
Dealing first with the Google Home Max, this has been designed to provide a premium experience all around to showcase the latest of which Google has to offer. It’s like a regular Google Home, plus a whole lot more. It will compete with products such as the expensive Sonos Play 3, Apple HomePod, and new Amazon Echos. In other respects, the Google Home Max includes the same functionality as the other Google Home models. Just say “Okay, Google” or “Hey, Google” followed by your question and it can provide information, play music and podcasts, order products, set reminders, and control smart home technologies including, Android TV. Speaking of which, Google partnered with Nest to allow for the pairing of security cameras with Android TV using Google Home as the controller. There’s also a feature where Nest can recognize family faces, and Google Home when paired, will let you know when, and who, is at your front door. Users can also now verify their own phone number, instead of having a randomly generated one show on the caller ID. There’s also a new ‘Find my Phone’ feature that will ring your Android device if you lose it, or call your iPhone if it gets lost. Additionally, Google Home now supports family link, has an improved conversation for kids, and has a fresh set of games for children thanks to a partnership between Google and Disney. Max only, will have a ‘Smart Sound’ feature for auto tuning using machine learning that will adjust to meet what’s around you and the context such as time of day. Pricing for Max has been set at $399. It’ll be available starting in December, at which point it will be sold by popular retailers in the US including Wal-Mart. As a bonus, those who buy it will get twelve months of YouTube Music, free of charge.
The Google Home Mini is at the opposite end of the spectrum, offering a much less expensive product that echoes, if you will pardon the pun, the Amazon Echo Dot. The Google Home Mini has some trade offs. It’s likely it won’t sound as high-end as the Google Home Max, nor would we expect it to sound as rich as the Google Home. You can tell right up front that this product is aimed at a different and more affordable crowd being designed more as a means of inexpensively incorporating Google Home technology into a smaller and less-premium body. Like the other Google Homes though, Google Home Mini can via Chromecast or Bluetooth and will need a power source in order to operate, which doesn’t give us the benefit of portability that some others on the market sport. Mini will retail for just $49 a piece, far less than even the $129 it costs to buy a regular Google Home, making this a very solid price for an offering of this kind. Google has also made it easy to string a few together, and a new feature will let you broadcast audio out to your whole home. Google and retailers are taking pre-orders today in some countries, with a release slated for October 19.
Google’s expansion of the original Google Home speaker should broaden the appeal of the technology, which is now more complete. We’ll see if our expectations hold true once we get our hands on the new models.
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