Maybe we have spent far too much time frequenting the pâtisseries of Paris; every time we see an image of the Google Home Mini voice-activated speaker in coral—a color exclusively available from the Google online store—we instantly crave a strawberry macaron. The at-a-glance resemblance to the delicious French pastry is undeniable, though when the two are juxtaposed, the larger scale of the Google Home Mini is apparent. But utter sweetness aside, there is much to like in these diminutive smart speakers, and at a special holiday cost of $29 they are decidedly low-risk gift propositions.
Google’s answer to the wildly popular Amazon Echo line of voice-activated speakers that have single-handedly elevated voice control into the consumer mainstream, the newly-released Google Home Mini and the original Google Home speaker (at a special holiday cost of $79) are well-groomed accessories for the connected home. Since the launch of the original Google Home speaker in late 2016, the chorus of supported services and accessories that can be controlled by the Google Assistant voice service have continued to grow and thrive, so this ecosystem has become a legitimate alternative to the universe of skills offered by the Amazon Echo and Alexa assistant.
Certainly, in the realm of the smart home the products from Google sister company Nest—another brand under the Alphabet corporate umbrella—have in many ways set the bar for what is possible in automation and safety for connected homes. So it comes as no surprise that products such as the Nest Learning Thermostat, Nest Thermostat E, and other Nest accessories can be easily and reliably controlled through Google speakers and spoken Google Assistant commands.
Those commands always begin with either the “Hey Google” or “OK Google” prefixes, phrases that summon the Assistant and elicit a visual response in the form animated LED lighting sequences. So, “OK, Google. Raise the temperature upstairs,” will upwardly adjust the temperature setting of the Nest thermostat named Upstairs a few degrees.
The list of supported services with these speakers is growing rapidly, and in the music realm Google Play Music, YouTube Music, Spotify, Pandora, and Apple Music can already be integrated. In the category of home control, popular accessories include Philips Hue LED lamps, Lutron Caséta wireless lighting, iDevices smart plugs and thermostats, Wink smart-home hubs, and many more can be linked in.
And of course, these speakers will process a wide range of spoken search commands such as “Hey Google. What’s the weather?” or “OK Google. Ask Wine Guide what goes with shrimp scampi.” So yes, these Google speakers can be just the ticket to a deliciously smart Christmas gift.
Tom Kolnowski is the Chief Content Officer & Founder of Digitized House Media, LLC, the publisher of Digitized House | Guide to the Connected Home. When he isn’t writing about smart home technology, sustainability, and high-performance architecture, you’ll find him exploring faraway destinations with his family.