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Smart Home

Google Home Mini resurrects touch play controls

After disabling touch input due to privacy concerns, Google's bringing extra controls to its side buttons on the Home Mini speaker.

google-home-mini-14
Chris Monroe/CNET

The top touch functionality of the Google Home Mini looks to be permanently gone. Google disabled the feature this October after a privacy issue was reported in which the Mini was registering "phantom" touches and recording more often than intended. Starting Friday, Google's rolling out an update to the Mini that shifts a lot of the old top touch functionality to the side.

Previously, you could tap the side of the Mini to control the volume of the speaker. Once your device gets the update, you can long press those same side areas to play and pause music. You can even silence an alarm and end a call. All of this mirrors what you could do previously by touching the top of the Mini.

Now playing: Watch this: Watch Google Home Mini's new side touch function in action
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With the top touch function, you could also wake up the digital assistant built into the Mini (just called Google Assistant) and issue a voice command. That function won't be shifting to the side. To activate Google Assistant, you'll need to use the wake words "Hey, Google" or "OK, Google."

I'm not sure that a long press on the side will be as intuitive for people as a tap on the middle, and this new feature seems to confirm that the company won't be trying to fix that top button issue -- Google is moving on with this alternate plan. Still, the Mini is a device designed for voice controls. The touch option is a nice extra to have, so I'm happy that at least some of it is coming back.