Google Home Mini – first impressions
Voice assistants and smart speakers are becoming increasingly popular in the United States and several other countries, where we communicate with them in the native language. Users use it to play music, get weather information, answer general questions or manage the smart home. Of the two major providers Google and Amazon, the retail giant's solution – Amazon Echo – is a bit more popular. What's more, last Friday the Echo devices went into official distribution in Poland, although they still do not support our language. I, however, function strongly in Google's ecosystem, which is why I chose its device – the Google Home Mini – as my first smart speaker.
The driving force behind the Google Home Mini is Google Assistant, a voice AI that can understand and answer questions. As I wrote, the solution does not work in Polish for now, so I use the English version. Google Home Mini is, as the name suggests, the smallest smart speaker available from the Mountain View company. This size suits me. Firstly, it is subjectively the prettiest, and secondly, objectively the cheapest ($49, now on promotion $29). And thirdly – smart capabilities are no different from its larger sibling.
After the first week of using Home Mini, I have a few observations. The main function for which it uses the speaker is… listening to music. The sound quality itself, for the size of the speaker, is very good, and also turning on the music by speech is faster than approaching the computer/phone, opening the player and playing the selected song of the playlist. I plugged Spotify account to the speaker, but you can also play music from many other applications – Google Play or radio (including Polish) from TuneIn Radio. In addition, recently added the ability to connect the speaker via bluetooth, so you can also use it to listen to songs straight from your phone.
It also often takes advantage of turning on YouTube or Netflix videos directly on the TV – thanks to a hooked up Chromecast. Just as turning on a Netflix video with your voice works 100% of the time, the exact YouTube video we had in mind won't always turn on. This is probably due to the number of videos and the often great similarity in titles. With the help of Google Home Mini integration with Chromecast, you can also view your photos from Google Photos on the TV or play Spotify there.
Google’s speaker also supports all kinds of notifications. And yes, you can set an alarm clock on it (and ask for 10 more minutes of nap time ?), turn on 3 min. countdown to boil an egg, ask for a reminder to fix the faucet tomorrow at 5pm or add butter to the shopping list. Speaking of the kitchen – Google Home Mini will also help in cooking – it will search and tell step by step the recipe for whatever we want.
The cool thing is that you can define shortcuts on it, so that when you want to listen to the Serenade "Eine kleine Nachtmusik" cz. And Mozart performed by the New York Symphony Orchestra, just say "Play Mozart" and the speaker will know what to do.
In addition, the speaker can learn – we can tell it how to address us, the names of family members, and the cat. The discussion itself with the speaker is interesting, because sometimes he has really cool retorts. Another very cool feature is the use of the speaker to provide information. When driving home, you can tell the assistant on your phone to let the locals know you'll be there soon. Then all the speakers in the house will transmit this information to the accompaniment of joyful music. In the same way you can wake someone up, call for dinner or give any other message.
What doesn't work?
Of course, Google Home Mini is not perfect. First of all, the Polish language – this is the basis for this type of device to have a chance to reach a wider audience at all. What's more – it seems to me that the problem is not in the language handling itself. Google Home Mini translates into Polish very well, but in integration with other services operating in our country. In the US, you can use the speakers to make free voice calls. Also not available with us is the ability to order an Uber or make purchases.
I'm not discouraged by this – I'm convinced that in 2018 we will see the official entry of both Alexa and Google Assistant into our market. Or maybe the first will be Apple with its HomePod?. I, for now, plan to continue testing Google Home Mini, buy other devices with which it works, for example. Philips Hue light bulbs and I will be ready as soon as the service appears in Polish.
Early next year I will write another text, with a summary of Google Home as a control center for home and life. If you have any questions or want me to check something, write in the comments.