Google Home & Mini 2 – Release Date, Price, Rumours & Everything Else You Need to Know
Which features will Google Home 2 have | New Design | Better Broadcasting | Will it be released in 2019 | and More...
Published: 16th Aug 2019
Google Home first went on sale in November 2016 as a major competitor to the Amazon Echo.
Since its launch, there have been lots of improvements though expansions to the product line. By late 2017, we saw a cost-effective version called Google Home Mini and for those who want a great audio experience, Google Home Max. Most recently in 2018, the tech company announced Google Home Hub. With this latest addition, it seems to be responding to Amazon’s Echo Show.
The New Kid on the Block
There has been significant speculation on the arrival of a new smart speaker on the scene, dubbed Google Home 2. According to a Nikkei report citing familiar sources, Google is intending to launch a smart speaker later this year.
The report also mentioned that a number of other devices are also on the way. These include new wearable devices and a new Pixel phone which this time will be cheaper than the existing options.
Notably, Google Home is still the company’s flagship smart speaker, even with all the new additions. It is unknown whether Google Home 2 is going to be an entirely new model or simply a replacement for Google Home, which would take up the same name.
However, it seems apparent that Google has been playing a game of catch up with Amazon. Therefore, considering that Amazon already upgraded its flagship Echo device, it might be reasonable to expect the launch of Google Home 2 to take place sometime soon in the future.
Other than the rumours of the new launch, the fact that Google has been slashing prices in recent days could also signal the launch of a new product.
For instance, the Home Hub went from $149 to $99 while it gave away Home Minis to subscribers of Spotify Premium Family. In the UK, Google has even slashed the price of the Home Max by at least half for a limited time.
But when is the new kid on the block making his debut?
Google first announced the Google Home speaker at the Google I/O software developers’ conference which took place on May 2016. This coincided with the announcement on its new AI assistant, Google Assistant.
During the first quarter of 2019, it was hoped that the new model would be announced at Google I/O in May. But May came and went with no announcement or launch.
Usually, the company keeps back its hardware announcements for its event in October. But in 2018, the only device announced at the time was Google Home Hub.
It is still unknown when the new device might come into the market. Given the recent launch of the Google Home Hub, the company might wait a while so as not to cannibalize sales.
On the other hand, Google might opt to launch sooner rather than later to tackle the ever-present Amazon threat.
Notably, Amazon announced the launch of Echo 2 at a slashed price of $99.99. Therefore, if we are looking at the competition angle, Google might not maintain its $129.99 price for the new speaker. If Google is to compete on an equal footing with Amazon, it might drop the price to match the Echo 2.
Features We Would Love to See on Google Home/Mini 2
A lot has changed since the launch of Google Home back in 2016. Google Assistant has become multilingual and a lot more powerful. And even though the smart speaker has received a number of software improvements, the hardware has remained the same.
Google Home 2 would provide the ideal opportunity to address some of the weak points on the original and add some features that would take it to the next level. Here are some of the top features we would want to see in the new model:
Soli – Touchless Interactions
Google confirmed rumours that it would be launching a new Pixel smartphone this year. And the top highlight of this launch is a new technology known as Project Soli. Soli is radar-based technology that makes it possible for devices to detect touchless gesture interactions.
Much as it would be a great addition to a smartphone, it would be even better on Google Home 2. When you don’t want to shout commands above background noise or when Google Assistant is mute and you want to access playback controls, it would really come in handy.
It would also resolve voice proximity issues that some users have reported, where they issue commands to one speaker but a different one responds. And of course, it would be a great selling point differentiating the smart speaker from all others.
|Read also: What is Google’s Project Soli and Could it Come to Google Home 2 in the Future?|
Integration with More Google Features
Google Assistant is clearly a lot smarter than most of its counterparts. The top reason for this is its integration with Google’s vast wealth of data. Thanks to its rich search engine, you can get the assistant to find information on almost anything.
So the big question is: why can’t Google Home integrate with the wider Google ecosystem, for instance Gmail and Google Docs? Wouldn’t it be nice to have the assistant read straight from your mail? How about having her reply to the messages on your inbox or being able to dictate to Google Sheets?
The launch of a new product would provide the perfect opportunity to incorporate such capabilities.
An Audio Out Port
Google Home has better sound quality than the Google Home Mini. However, it is still way below expectations, especially in comparison to good quality standalone speakers. Hearing your favourite artist struggling through the feeble audio quality is a test of patience.
At the moment, if you want good quality audio while using the smart speaker, you likely have to buy Chromecast Audio. You can also connect to external speakers and amps via Bluetooth. But having an AUX port would be a major improvement, allowing users to connect to existing household speakers with ease.
Google Home seemed to have got it right with the design, though it attracted quite a bit of criticism for looking like an air freshener. However, it’s elegant that it leans toward you and you do not have to crane over it to access the touch display.
It would be better to be able to customize the entire speaker rather than just the bottom half of it so you could match the entire device to your overall household colour scheme.
A Better Wake Word
Although ‘Hey Google’ and ‘OK Google’ aren't really a mouthful, perhaps it’s time users had an opportunity to change the wake word to something simpler. Better still, why not give the users a chance to set it to whatever they like?
Though the current model supports broadcasts, it has yet to integrate communication between two specific speakers. It would be a great piece of functionality to turn the speaker into a private intercom, making it possible to reach specific members of the household without waking everyone else up.
At present, Google does not release all new features to all users at the same time. This is one of the top complaints Google’s smart speaker users make, particularly on the Facebook group.
It might not always be possible to release new features to all supported countries. But in such cases, a release schedule would be great.
Even though Google Home is generally adept at hearing commands accurately, the experience is much less satisfactory when there is background noise. In such situations, it tends to misunderstand commands, which can be frustrating.
Amazon has tried to address that problem by incorporating a total of 7 multi-directional microphones. Adding a few more mics on the new model could well make a world of difference.
Some users have complained that adjusting the volume or playback settings using the touch interface is a bit finicky. It would be a lot easier for new users to get acquainted with the controls if there were actual buttons rather than a touch interface.
Optional Battery Base
It's unfortunate that the current design of smart speakers doesn’t let you move it much. Wouldn’t it be great being able to move it around with you, possibly tethering it to your phone’s data?
Better still, how great would it be to be able to take your speaker with you from the kitchen to another room as you go about your activities? Or take it out with you into the garden or poolside on a bright sunny day?
Yes, you can have a Google Home device in every room if finances allow. But you can achieve much more with just a portable smart speaker.
What makes Google Home a great choice of device to initiate the change is the fact that it already has a detachable base for changing colours. It would be great to have the option of buying a detachable battery base for times when you need the smart speaker on the go.
The feature would also come in handy for times when there are power cuts or failures. At least with its own power reserve, you would not have to waste an entire minute rebooting the device every time power fluctuates.
Among the top noteworthy features on the Apple HomePod that Google would do well to integrate is spatial awareness. The speakers usually detect where you are in a room and adjust audio so as to optimize the experience.
Though the Google Home Max has a feature known as Smart Sound which is somewhat similar, it is not as effective. Smart Sound optimizes sound output by taking into account a room’s acoustic properties.
However, it only points in a single direction, unlike Apple’s HomePod which offers 360-degree sound. Having the feature on the new speaker would be fantastic.
Basic Features without Internet
Internet outages at times get in the way of making the most of the Google Home experience. Having some basic features function without the internet would be very useful. For instance, incorporating an alarm clock into the hardware might make this possible.
It would also be great to have other features like timers and broadcast continuing to function without internet.
A majority of smart speakers support stereo pairing but Google Home has lagged behind in this respect. Stereo pairing basically enables you to set one speaker as the right channel and the other as the left channel.
With that setup, you can enjoy stereo audio quality whenever you want to. It is unfortunate that Google has yet to incorporate this into its flagship speaker. But it still has a chance to make things right with the Google Home 2.
Having a Google Home 2 with all or some of the above features would be a big step in the right direction. There, however, seems to be a missing piece on the lineup. While Google Home goes for $129.99, the current premium alternative to it costs a huge $399.99.
If Google wanted to learn from Amazon, the Amazon Echo Plus provides a great learning point. It costs about $80 more than the regular Echo and has a few extra features to justify the difference.
Having a Google Home 2 Plus with premium features at a slightly higher price than the new model would be quite innovative.
Google Home and Google Wi-Fi
Smart speakers like Google Home have acquired so much popularity that it’s all too easy to forget about other products like Google Wi-Fi. It’s basically a mesh Wi-Fi system that acts as a router.
Interestingly, we also need Wi-Fi to operate smart speakers. Well, what if Google Home had router functionality right within it? In order to make this possible, Google would possibly need to incorporate some Google Wi-Fi components into the speaker.
That would make every speaker function as a mesh device and turn Google Home into the ultimate package, providing internet as well as voice control.
Will a new Google Home/Mini 2 take the top spot from Echo
These are some of the top improvements we hope to see when the highly anticipated Google Home 2 launches. At the moment, Amazon holds the top spot when it comes to smart speaker market dominance. Will it be the speaker to turn the tide? We can only wait and see.
|Read also: Apple HomePod 2 - Release Date, Price, Rumours and Everything Else You Need to Know|