At the I/O 2017, Google announced a handful of new features for Google Home. One of these was Bluetooth connectivity, a smart move by the tech giant. Google Home bluetooth connectivity will make their smart speakers compatible with more apps and devices. Without this functionality, owners use casting in order to connect their apps and device to their Google Home. However, not all apps and devices have casting abilities.
Google Home bluetooth capability has slowly been rolling out. Some users have received an update for system firmware version 90387. If you have this new software, you can enable Bluetooth by going to Device settings in the Google Home app. This will reveal a new option, which is “Paired Bluetooth devices“. Then, at the bottom of the page, you will find “Enable Pairing Mode”, which will allow you to connect a device. This newly added device will then appear in the list of Paired Bluetooth devices.
Remember that you cannot force Google Home updates. So, if you are still stuck with software version 88047, then there’s nothing to do but wait until you become the lucky recipient of the system firmware update.
With Home expected to expand to Australia, Canada, France, Germany, and Japan this summer, the Bluetooth functionality can make Google’s smart speaker an even more attractive smart device for potential buyers.
Other new features of Google Home
Aside from the Bluetooth ability, Google Home will be receiving other substantial updates. There is no release date for any of these, so again, we will just have to wait until the tech giant rolls out these new features.
One of the new features (and a much welcome one) is being able to set reminders and calendar entries. Another is “proactive assistance”. With this ability, Google Home will be able to notify owners regarding traffic updates, flight delays, reminders, and other important alerts. Users will be able to know there is a pending notification when the speaker’s light ring spins without any sound. If you want to hear the alert, you just have to say “OK Google, what’s up?”
For those who love streaming, Google Home is upping its game to satisfy you even more by adding more music and video services. SoundCloud, Spotify (free tier), and Deezer are now included for music streaming. As for videos, new additions are HBO Now and Hulu. These additional streaming options, plus the new Bluetooth capability, make Home a much more useful media controller.
More Expected Features for Google Home
Google is also making a TV interface for their smart speaker, something Amazon’s Echo doesn’t have yet. This new feature lets Home send information to your TV. Pretty soon, you will be able to use Google Home to view your calendar, weather updates, YouTube videos, or results for your search for nearby restaurants on your television.
To up its competitive edge even further over the Amazon Echo, Google is enabling Home to make calls to phones. Amazon announced a calling feature from one Echo device to another. However, Google’s smart speaker will be able to make calls to actual mobile and landline phones. You can request it to ring up anyone on your contacts list. Through voice recognition, Home can figure out which individual’s phonebook to use when searching for a contact. It will then dial that person’s digits on a private number. At the moment, this feature is planned to roll out in the US and Canada only. But, hopefully, this feature will reach more users across the globe soon.
Will these new features give Google Home a bigger lead in the smart speaker race?
Catching up with the Amazon Echo seemed to be the biggest goal for Home before. Amazon also introduced connectivity with other Bluetooth speakers a few months ago. So, Bluetooth compatibility might not be what can set Google Home apart. And with the Apple Homepod and the Microsoft Invoke also joining the game, the competition is getting even tougher.
A report from eMarketer says that the Echo has 70 percent of the market while Home has just 23.8%. But it also stated that 35.6 million Americans will use voice-activated virtual assistants at least once a month this year. That is 128.9% more than last year. This means the smart speaker market continues to grow, and contenders will have to work harder to have a bigger bite of the pie.
The Smart Speaker Race Continues On
There are already some things Google Home can do that Amazon Echo can’t. For instance, Home can can sync up and communicate with other devices in other rooms to create a full surround sound experience. Plus, thanks to its much advanced AI capabilities, it is able to have more natural and contextual conversations with users.
For example, if you forgot the title of Adele’s latest chart-topping song, you can ask Google Assistant to search and play it for you. You can say something like, “OK Google, play me Adele’s latest hit.” And you can follow it up with, “How many chart-topping albums does she have?”, and it will understand that “she” pertains to Adele.
Aside from that, Home has voice recognition and can respond with personalized information based on the preferences of the person currently using the smart speaker.
All in all, Google Home isn’t backing out of the smart speaker and AI race yet. If it provides more support for a wider variety of smart home products as well as integrate more third-party apps, experts predict that these could very well help even the playing field for it.