In the race to keep us constantly connected to our online lives, Google has become the first to make it across the finish line for Singapore, with the Google Home and Home Mini being the first smart speakers of the tech giants to be made available on our shores. Equal parts speaker, entertainment controller and virtual assistant, the affordable lifestyle products are set to lead the way in streamlining our offline and online worlds.
While some may’ve rushed to get their hands on the Amazon Echo or Apple HomePod, despite not yet being supported locally, the Home and Home Mini will be both sold and supported in Singapore, easing any fears of getting US-specific recommendations or nonsensical travel routes from Google Assistant. As we’ve previously observed with Google’s flagship smartphone, the Pixel 2 XL, the internet giant has been careful not to treat the Southeast Asian market as an afterthought, with contextualised information and resources available at just one “Hey Google,” away, and endearing responses in Singlish if you so choose (it’s still a little unusual hearing “OK, can!” in Queen’s English, but it’s a start).
Designed with a textile finish to seamlessly fit in with your home décor, the sophisticated yet simple designs of both the Home and Home Mini offer a warmer aesthetic than the cold glass and metal construction of our smartphones, and are likely to go unnoticed by guests or even yourself – which, we believe, is kind of the point. As opposed to the flashing lights and sounds we’re used to with many of our high-tech gadgets, Google’s lifestyle devices are designed to make daily life more convenient and organised, not distract us more than we already are with our feature-swamped smartphones.
Fuelled by Google Assistant to take questions, requests and commands by voice, without having to touch screens, panels or avert your gaze from whatever it is that you’re doing, the initial gimmicky perception of the gadgets actually develop to make a whole lot of sense when considering their intended purpose. Both compact but with a considerable price difference (SGD 189 for the Home and SGD 79 for the Home Mini), the remaining question is which one belongs in your abode. Let’s do a quick comparison.
Notably larger and with an intuitive touch panel on its crown, much of the Google Home’s size is owed to its audio input and output hardware. Naturally, with a bigger speaker, you’re going to get much bigger sound from the Home as opposed to the Home Mini, which may be an important factor if you’re planning to use it on the regular with streaming apps like Spotify and YouTube.
Additionally, the Home packs two far-field microphones that are more receptive to picking up voice commands in the presence of ambient noise, which means there’ll be less chance of you shouting at the thing during gatherings or parties than if you were to opt for the Home Mini. The bigger sister also features a touch panel and four coloured LED lights on top, which indicates when it’s listening out for your commands and can be used as a volume control, while the Home Mini features two touch-sensitive areas on the front to control volume. Lastly, the Home is powered by a DC power plug, while the Home Mini is charged via Micro-USB, which may make it a more suitable choice if considering taking it out of the home and on the road.
Regarding the primary functionality of the two, they both do virtually the same thing. While the Home might be a little easier to speak to and hear than the Home Mini, Google Assistant does the leg work for both, supplying you with factoids from Wikipedia, translating words from one language to another, setting alarms and organising your calendar, and powering up your Spotify and Netflix requests. If you go one step further and connect your standard household appliances to TP-Link adapters, or even have a Philips Hue smart lighting system, you’ll have the power to switch on devices like floor fans, lights, coffee machines, and anything else you might want to automate with a simple voice command, even if they’re not a ‘smart device’ (you can ask Google Assistant to turn on the toaster, but you’ll still need to go fetch the bread – though we’re sure somebody, somewhere, is working on this dilemma as we speak).
Impressively, as highlighted at a demo held here in Singapore this morning, we witnessed Google Assistant differentiating between different voices and knowing whose schedule to update accordingly. The Home and Home Mini are able to add up to six Google accounts and recognise each owner’s voice through machine learning and natural language processing, and then take requests pertaining to each individual’s schedules, playlists and more. It’s a perfect solution for families with little tikes who like take advantage of their parents’ credit cards to purchase gems in whatever hellish app they’re playing, and it’ll know not to listen to your mates when they tell it to post something naughty to your Facebook wall.
Already having partnered with brands and organisations like Bus Uncle, National Library Board, OCBC and Starhub through the recently launched developer platform, Actions on Google, the devices are ready to roll on home soil and feel like they were made for Singaporeans, with presumably many more functions to come. If you have the moolah to fly SIA, or have friends and family who frequently do, you’ll be happy to know that the Home and Home Mini can now retrieve flight information on Singapore Airlines and Silk Air flights through this very platform.
Now, we don’t know about you, but we’re already excited about the prospect of firing up some Netflix sessions and waking up to a daily My Day weather and news brief through the power of voice. However, are Google’s Home devices smarter than its competitors, namely Alexa and the HomePod? Until they’re available in Singapore and have been tailored for local consumers, we’ll have to wait and see. Chop chop, Amazon and Apple!
The Google Home and Home Mini are available in Singapore from April 20, retailing at SGD 189 and SGD 79 respectively. Available at the Google Store, StarHub, Challenger and COURTS.