Google Home gets an edge on Alexa with multi-user support

Google Home finally gets a much anticipated feature that lets it know who's talking.

Andrew Gebhart Former senior producer
2 min read
Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Google's personal assistant just got more personal.

Starting today, you'll be able to link multiple accounts to the Google Home -- the search giant's always-listening speaker. As before, if you ask the $130 Google Home to tell you about your day, it will give you info on your commute and tell you about events on your calendar. Now, if you significant other asks the same question, the Google Home will personalize its response for him or her.

How it works

You can link up to six accounts to the Google Assistant built into the Home via the Home app. Select "Link your account" from the devices tab, and Google will walk you through training the device to recognize your voice. Google prompts you to say "OK Google" and "Hey Google" -- the wake words for the Home -- two times each.

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Use the Home app to teach Google to recognize your voice.


Anyone else who sets up an account will go through the same process, and Google will use this training to distinguish your voice when you give a command and respond accordingly. Google can play customized playlists, in addition to telling you about your schedule and commute. Voices Google doesn't recognize can still ask the Home to look up information, play trivia, set a timer, or control smart home devices.

Changing the game

This feature has been on my wish list for the Home since it launched last November. If it works as promised, the ability to seamlessly switch accounts via voice recognition is exactly what I'd hoped for.

This ability to distinguish between individuals sounds like it might let Google add some more advanced security features to the Home. For example, if it's good enough to tell your voice from someone else's, you could use a Google Home voice command to unlock an August Smart Lock or complete a financial transaction without worrying about a stranger giving the same command. Maybe some day, but a Google rep confirmed over email that voice recognition isn't robust enough to allow this yet.

Since it launched, the Google Home has been chasing the similar Amazon Echo in terms of what it can do. Amazon's assistant Alexa still beats the Google Home and the built-in Google Assistant in terms of its breadth of features. But although Alexa has more than 10,000 skills, it can't yet distinguish between different voices.

With this multi-account update, the Home is now positioned to be a customized personal assistant for your whole family in way that Alexa can't currently match. Add that to Google's recent expansion of compatible smart-home platforms, and the young Google Home could be ready to turn the tide in its battle against the 4-year-old Echo.

If you're in the US, you can expect to see this feature in your Home app today. Those in the UK will unfortunately need to wait a couple of months for multi-user support to roll out overseas.