Google Home is officially coming to the UK and it will be more affordable than the Amazon Echo, costing just £129.99.
The Amazon Echo launched in the UK just six months ago, although the device has consistently been a best seller for the retail giant. Now Google is hoping to captialise on the smart home appetite that is present in the UK, with its smart speaker set to launch in the UK on April 6.
Amazon has a significant head start, with the company recently celebrating 10,000 Alexa skills, although CE Pro Europe noted that many of those skills were unavailable to Echo owners in the UK. Despite that, the Amazon Echo still boasts significantly more skills than its Google Home counterpart – with Google having yet to open up its platform to a wealth of third party developers.
What services work with Google Home?
While Google has yet to open up its platform to many third-party developers, the Google Assistant still supports a whole host of different services directly out of the box. That includes standard music streaming services such as Spotify and TuneIn Radio, as well as services not currently supported by the Amazon Echo – including Google’s own Play Music and BBC Radio.
In terms of smart home control, there’s nothing that the Google Home can do that the Amazon Echo can’t. In fact, Amazon probably trumps Google here – with Google Home only supporting IFTTT, Nest, Philips Hue, Samsung SmartThings and Belkin Wemo at launch.
Google does have Amazon beat with multi-room audio support and the ability to support video services, however. In fact, Google Home supports controlling Netflix and YouTube through voice commands. The Google Assistant is capable of queuing up videos to be played on a compatible Google Chromecast device, whether that’s Google’s own hardware, or something like the Nvidia Shield TV. The Amazon Echo has yet to support any video service natively, although Plex support can be activated through an Alexa skill.
As with Amazon, Google has tried to make its smart speaker relevant to the UK market. That means news sources such as BBC News, Sky News, The Telegraph, The Guardian and The Sun are all supported out of the box. Google Home lacks some key services that are available to US users, however. Such as the ability to shop for products through voice commands – a key feature of Amazon’s Echo device.
For the time being, Google Home is likely to lag in support for third-party devices when compared to Amazon’s Echo. Thankfully, Google isn’t pitching its entire hopes on third-party device support, with the company’s speaker having one major unique selling point – the power of the Google search engine.
Those who have used the Amazon Echo will likely have heard the ‘sorry, I don’t understand’ response more than once. Amazon’s offering also struggles with contextual awareness, so if a user doesn’t ask a full question each time, then it’s likely Alexa will get confused. With Google Home, users should get a response for just about any valid question they ask – and there will even be a few easter eggs for UK users.
What can I ask Google Home?
Google Home is powered by the Google Assistant, which those who have used a Pixel smartphone will likely be familiar with. The Google Assistant uses information from the company’s search engine, which allows it to answer a whole host of different questions.
Users can interact with Google Home by simply saying “OK Google,” and then asking any question. For example: “Ok Google, how old is Emma Watson?” will receive this result: “Emma Watson is 26 years old.” If the user then simply says, “What movies has she been in?” Google Assistant will automatically recognise that the user is still talking about Emma Watson and respond with results such as: “Beauty and the Beast, Colonia, and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”
It’s not just questions about people that the Google Assistant can respond to. In fact the Google Assistant can find answers to a whole range of questions, whether it’s “Who invented the stethoscope?”, “What’s on at the cinema?” or even “Why is the sky blue?”
Using the Google Assistant, Google Home can answer questions about a user’s interests, traffic, finance, local businesses and more. Users could ask “Where is the nearest petrol station?” and then follow up with, “When does it close?” and still receive an answer. The Assistant can also have fun – it can tell jokes, play trivia or make animal sounds.
In addition to answering simple questions, Google Assistant is also able to set reminders, timers and alarms – a useful feature when working in the kitchen with mucky hands.
Google Assistant is capable of fetching the latest weather update, and can be spoken to using natural expressions. That means asking questions such as “Will I need an umbrella today?” will come back with the response about the weather today, rather than simply a fallback response.
Those looking for dining recommendations or the latest sporting results will also find the Google Assistant helpful. Thanks to its integration with Google’s services, Google Assistant should be able to automatically fetch flight and hotel reservation info, meaning users can simply ask “What time is my flight?” rather than memorising the flight number.
How does Google Home differ from Amazon Echo?
Google Home may be a direct competitor to the Amazon Echo but there are a number of key differences users will want to bear in mind before purchasing.
Both the Google Home and Amazon Echo sport speakers for directly playing music found by the assistant, although the Echo is a noticeably bigger device. That’s because it measures 235mm by 83.5mm; significantly larger than Google Home’s 142.8mm by 96.4mm dimensions.
The major criticism that Google Home has received thus far has been its awkward wake word. With Amazon Echo, users simply need to say ‘Alexa,’ which is a natural sounding name. With Google Home, users will need to talk to their corporate overlords by saying ‘Hey Google,’ or ‘OK Google’ first.
The Amazon Echo also supports a whole host of home automation services that Google Home can only dream of. That includes custom install favourites, such as Control4 and Crestron, not to mention the likes of Big Ass Fans and LIFX. In the UK, the Amazon Echo also supports voice shopping – something Google Home can only do in the US.
There are a few aces up Google’s sleeve, however. That includes the ability to customise the look of the Google Home using swappable bases. That means those who don’t like the fabric base that ships with the device can quite easily change it for either a different coloured fabric, or a metallic base. Google will debut a whole range of options at launch, which includes copper and carbon metallic bases, and marine and mango fabric colours.
The Google Home is also capable of being part of a complete multi-room audio system. That means users can link together multiple speakers and stream music throughout their home using their voice. It doesn’t even have to be multiple Google Home devices, with it supporting multi-room streaming to devices from the likes of Bang & Olufsen, LG and Sony through Google Chromecast. This is something the Amazon Echo is yet to support.
How much will Google Home cost in the UK?
Google Home’s pricing has been announced for the UK, and it undercuts the Amazon Echo by £20, coming in at £129.99. Despite the cheaper price, Amazon has an ace up its sleeve with the Echo Dot, which is a puck-sized device housing the Alexa voice assistant and costs just £49.99.
The Echo Dot may not integrate a speaker like the Google Home, but it can connect to speakers that are already in place. That means those with high-end audio systems that would rather not be listening through the average-sounding speakers that ship with the Google Home and full-sized Amazon Echo, may be better off with the Echo Dot.
When will the Google Home be available in the UK?
The Google Home is set to be released in the UK on April 6. It will be available in a number of consumer electronics stores, including Currys PC World, Argos, Maplin and John Lewis. It will also be available online directly through the Google Store.