Google Home -- Seems Underwhelming at the Moment

Since my brother-in-law and his wife are living with us for a few weeks while “the woods” is being finished, they have let me play around with their Google Home. It was a struggle from the get-go.

Off to a Poor Start

First and foremost, if you’ve set your Google Home up elsewhere and expect to plug it in at someone else’s house and run their gear, you’re looking at the wrong device. Once we finally got it connected to my WiFi, it wouldn’t talk to any of my devices.

Of course, we did things the hard way and did a factory reset by holding down the mute button for 10 seconds. Once it reset, I reconnected to the WiFi and MY Google account. Suddenly it was able to see my devices. I found this a bit strange as anyone who can access my network can see my other Chromecast devices without any sort of additional authentication. Why the Google Home can’t, I haven’t a clue.

Can You Hear Me Now?

I have a VIZIO Crave 360 speaker that I received for Christmas. It sounds great. It’s even cute because I can put the Google Home and the Crave 360 into an audio group and cast to them simultaneously. Unfortunately, the Crave 360 shows how (relatively speaking) the Home’s speaker is inferior. Don’t get me wrong, for it’s size, it does an acceptable job. However, compared to the Crave 360, the sound is muddy and muffled.

Also, even with music playing, it is hard to hear Google at times. It will lower the music on itself, but not on any other output devices. Furthermore, if you already had the Home turned down low, it doesn’t speak up so you can hear it. I guess that’s great if you don’t want to wake up the baby in the next room over, but for me, I just want to hear what she’s trying to tell me. (More on that in a moment.)

Still a Toddler in Understanding Commands

This was the most gut wrenching part… One would assume that the smart folks at Google would want to cram pack as much functionality as possible. However, I find myself woefully disappointed in what I cannot do with the device. In the couple of hours of messing around with it, I quickly found these several things horribly broken:

  • In Google Play Music, it has no idea how to play auto-playlists. For example, I really like to listen to the variety in my “Thumbs Up” list. No such luck. It has no idea about this supposed playlist.
  • I cannot tell Google Home that I like a song. I would tell Google, “I like this song,” with the expectation that it would automatically add it to my Thumbs Up list (I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised given the bullet above…). How did I work around this? I told my phone to listen to the current track, tell me what it was, and go to it in the Google Play Music app. How backwards is that?
  • As a joke, I wanted to text my wife who was off in another room. Google quickly responded, “I don’t know how to do that yet.” Seriously? My phone has done that for years…
  • We were running the fireplace last night. I like to run the furnace fan to circulate the air throughout. While Google Home can control my Nest, it had no idea what it meant when I told it, “run the fan for an hour.” There’s certainly an option to do that in the Nest App…
  • Offhandedly, I told it simply to cast Youtube to the livingroom TV. It found some random TED talk about homosexuality and started casting it. This was only slightly awkward with my 4 and 7 year olds in the room who don’t quite yet understand those aspects of life yet.
  • If you are not using the Gmail app, it does not sync your calendar. For example, I have been a long-time (well before Gmail supported Exchange Active-Sync) user of Nine, and while it integrates with the Google calendar on my phone, Google Home has no idea of anything on my agenda. Pity.

I’m not alone. Corbin Davenport over at Android Police reported similar disappointments just yesterday. He made the comparisons between the Pixel, Google Now, and the lacking Google Home. In the comments people also put together the fact that Google rather keep halfway re-inventing the wheel, rather than just presenting one strong platform. Interesting theory.

Novel, but Not Necessary…

Don’t get me wrong. The Google Home is certainly cute, but for me it is a novelty. It needs to know more about the world it came from (e.g. Google an it’s plethora of platforms…). I feel like they spent more time teaching Google Home how to tell terrible jokes, rather than how to use the network of platforms it has connected to it, that we as humans are used to using.

I really want to like it, because I tend to be a gadget guy. However, this one is not sitting well with me. I’d rather go buy another Crave 360 and have tunes simulcast throughout my house.

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