No platform is flawless, but Google Home (or Google Nest) could edge just a little closer to perfection if it would address these nine little bugbears. (Plus, a few ways to work around some of the pitfalls.)
1. Google Home still can't trigger an action based on your location
If only there were some magical way to make your gadgets do your bidding without having to actually say anything. Well, there is, and it's why Amazon's Alexa excels at automation in a way Google Home still falls short: Alexa supports location triggers. In other words,
digital assistant tracks your GPS location and can fire off actions (control smart home gadgets, play music, welcome you home) based on where you are.
For now, if you want Google Home to turn on the lights when you get home (or off when you leave) or perform any other action based on your location, you have to tell it to with a voice command. What's even more vexing is that the Google Nest Learning Thermostat has a home/away mode that uses -- you guessed it -- location triggers to turn your heat or air conditioning up or down.
If you have multiple Google Home smart speakers and you set an alarm or timer on one of them, the only way to turn it off with a voice command is by talking to the speaker you set it on. Sure, there are a few workarounds (including shouting at it), but Alexa knows when another speaker connected to the same account is sounding off, so why doesn't Google Home?
3. Get over the rivalry with Apple, already
We get it -- Apple and Google are grudging frenemies at best, but it's time to open up more. You can use any number of music streaming services on Google Home devices, and even set some non-Google options like Spotify to be your default.
But the only way to pipe Apple Music to your Google Home smart speakers is by playing it on a compatible device, then connecting to Google Home with
. That's so 2010. If you can stream Apple Music on a Samsung TV these days, you should be able to do it with Google Home, too. For people like me who use Apple and Google products and services, being barred from my tools is an unnecessary pain.
4. Google Home? Nest? Fix the naming, please
Let's do a roll-call: There's the Google Home Max, the Nest Mini, Nest Hub and Nest Hub Max. Then there's the discontinued original Google Home speaker (fret not, it appears a replacement is on the way -- under the Nest banner), the original
Google Home Mini
(replaced by the upgraded Nest Mini) and Google Hub (rebranded Nest Hub).
Confused? So are we.
It makes sense that Google would want to fold its Nest line of smart thermostats,
and other smart home devices into its Google Home platform (or vice versa). But doing so one device at a time has fractured the lineup's branding and mixes up the naming. For example, "Nest Home" isn't a thing, but "Google Nest" is.
5. Pssst! Google Home can't whisper
Yes, Google Home has a night mode that will reduce the speaker's volume during scheduled times of the day, but that's literally all it does -- knocks it down a couple of notches. Do you know what Alexa can do? If you whisper a command to Alexa, Alexa literally whispers back. Not only does that make Alexa seem more, well, human, a whisper is leagues less jarring when kids or a partner are sleeping or you're just trying to enjoy some quiet time.
6. Hey, Google, can we call you something else?
Apple has Siri and Amazon has Alexa.
-- Cortana. Even
has Bixby. But Google? Google just has... Google. We get it -- you can't make just any old word a wake word. Digital assistants accidentally dip into conversations not intended for them often enough as it is, whenever you say something close enough, like "Hey, Boo Boo," "OK, Frugal" and even "OK, Boomer."
Actually, you can use Google Home's slightly less-than-perfect ear to trick it into answering those alternatives and more ("Cocaine Poodle" anyone?), but it would be nice if Google at least offered options. Once again, Alexa can. Beyond just its name, Alexa can answer to "Computer," "Amazon" or "Echo." OK, Google?
7. Where's the audio jack?
have physical stereo outputs ports, which let you wire them to a bigger, better, louder stereo system. The only way to connect Google Home to other speakers is with Bluetooth, which just isn't quite as high quality of a signal. But why would anyone want to connect a speaker to another speaker?
First off, as far as smart speaker technology has come, Google Homes (and Amazon Echoes and
) -- even ultra-premium devices like the Google Home Max -- really can't compete with high-end gear, like CNET's best bookshelf speaker for 2020, the Elac Debut 2.0 B6.2. Besides, why wouldn't you want to put Google Assistant on a killer Bose system?
8. Google Assistant should house-sit for you
With a smart speaker, someone's always home. Sorta. So, if Google Assistant is going to lounge around the house all day anyway, it might as well keep an eye (err, ear) on things, too, right? Last year Amazon launched Alexa Guard, which listens for suspicious activity -- like a window breaking -- when you're not home. It might not be as robust as a dedicated security system, but it's still better than just sitting there while burglars empty out your jewelry box.
9. You still can't send text messages with Google Home
Seriously? You can connect your phone (even if it's an iPhone!) and make calls from Google Home, so why no text messaging? Alexa can handle SMS whether your phone is an iPhone or Android. And Apple's HomePod can send your SMS or iMessages if you use an iPhone. Google just recently introduced Google Messages (think iMessage for Android), so why they didn't add the app to Google Home is a mystery. Hopefully Google gets this message, though, (and we don't get left on read) sooner rather than later.