When Google announced the Home Hub earlier this week its software looked virtually identical to what ships on other smart displays that support the Google Assistant, namely the Lenovo Smart Display and the JBL Link View. Curiously, that doesn’t appear to be the case, as those smart displays run the Android Things OS, whereas the Google Home Hub is running on the Google Cast platform.
We already know that the Google Home Hub has a few features not yet found on the other smart displays – such as the ability to control all smart home devices at a glance with the Home View feature. One of the biggest features that Google didn’t talk about during its presentation, however, was the ability to cast content to the device. That means users could play music or videos from their smartphone and have it show up on the Google Home Hub. Other smart displays are not capable of that, and it’s all to do with the software platform.
Google’s VP of product management, Diya Jolly, spoke to Ars Technica about the reasons behind the software change for the Google Home Hub. She noted that there wasn’t any particular reason behind the switch, and that the Cast platform was available to third-party manufacturers, they just opted for Android Things. This means that going forward there could be features available on one platform that aren’t available on another, although only time will tell whether that will be the case.
So where does that leave the Google Home Hub? Well, rather than being a part of Google’s smart display platform, it’s essentially a beefed-up Chromecast. That could be beneficial for some users, as it could mean the device is capable of streaming videos from the likes of Netflix and BBC iPlayer, something the third-party smart displays are incapable of.
Despite the platform divergence, most users will be unlikely to notice many differences between the third-party smart displays and the Google Home Hub. Google has designed the UI to look identical to that currently found on the Lenovo and JBL devices, and the Cast platform may have been used to keep costs down. After all, Google also decided against using the Qualcomm 624, which is a processor designed for use with home hubs, and instead opted for an Amlogic CPU.
The Google Home Hub officially goes on sale October 22. It’s available for pre-order now.