A new version of the Google Home app is rolling out, but there aren't any visible changes making their way out with this one. Instead, this update seems to be focused mostly on adding initial support for some new hardware, including something that sounds like a smart home hub called Zion, and a security device called Castell that may be a door lock. There's also a little motion on a previously teased device that will likely be the Nest Hub Max, and some details on a new "Reactive UI" feature that lights up as you approach.

Teardown

Disclaimer: Teardowns are based on evidence found inside of apks (Android's application package) and are necessarily speculative and usually based on incomplete information. It's possible that the guesses made here are wrong or inaccurate. Even when predictions are correct, there is always a chance that products could change or may be canceled. Much like rumors, nothing is certain until it's officially announced and released.

The features discussed below are probably not live yet, or may only be live for a small percentage of users. Unless stated otherwise, don't expect to see these features if you install the apk. All screenshots and images are real unless otherwise stated, and images are only altered to remove personal information.

Zion and Castell

Two new and unusual names are appearing in this update: Zion and Castell. Both of these are almost certainly placeholders, so I would expect to see them launch under different names, and I am inclined to assume with Nest branding. Some of the text tells us exactly what Zion is, albeit in ways that are still somewhat vague, but we have to make some assumptions about Castell based on contextual clues.

<string name="zion_intro_title">Welcome to Zion</string>
<string name="zion_intro_body">Zion is a border router with a built-in smart plug, enabling the Google ecosystem in a home. Zion can keep a battery powered device up to date with the latest software or it can help bridge your devices.</string>

Zion is described as a "border router with a built-in smart plug." While we all know what a smart plug is, the term "border router" is probably a bit foreign to most readers. It is traditionally used to describe a piece of networking equipment that links two networks together.

The term is vague, owing to the fact that it can sometimes refer to hardware that simply connects a smaller network to a backbone, but it's also often used to describe equipment that translates communication between incompatible networks. The technical details tend to get muddy, so it's probably best not to dive much deeper than that, especially since there's only a single line of text to guide the guesswork.

With all of that said, it seems like this matches the topology of Nest's Weave network running on Thread. Taking the rest of the description that mentions battery-powered devices, and sounds almost exactly like almost every other hub for connecting smart home gear with low-power needs (e.g. SmartThings). The similarities continue in the next lines, which describes Zion as having a wireless range of about 40 feet (about 12.2 meters).

<string name="zion_plug_in_title">Plug in your Zion</string>
<string name="zion_plug_in_body">Plug in your Zion in an outlet near the door where you are planning on installing your Castell. Zion has a range of about 40 ft in all directions.</string>

This also introduces the Castell name, which is a product you would install on (or in?) a door. There simply aren't any other details, but my instinct is that this is either a sensor for detecting an open door similar to the Nest Detect, or it's an electronic door lock. Seeing as one of these things is simple and already exists entirely within the Nest family, I doubt it's just a sensor. Google's go-to recommendation for door locks has been the Nest x Yale Lock, and while that has served them well, there is room for something different.

There is one last bit of text, but it doesn't tell us anything besides the steps to wake up the Zion.

<string name="zion_wake_up_title">Wake up your Zion</string>
<string name="zion_wake_up_body">After you have plugged in your Zion, press the button on the top. Its light should be blue. If it doesn\'t light up, tap the link below for more information.</string>

We'll keep watching for more details, but I think it's safe to assume we'll be seeing a couple new pieces of hardware joining the Nest family sometime this year.

Reactive UI

A new feature called Reactive UI is in the works. The description is very clear, explaining that ultrasound is used to detect proximity and will light up touch controls when you get close to a device. When the feature launches, users will have the option to enable or disable it as they like.

<string name="reactive_ui_setting_title">Reactive Ui</string>
<string name="reactive_ui_setting_description">Hub uses ultrasound proximity detection to show you touch controls when you\'re nearby the device and hide them when you\'re not.</string>
<string name="reactive_ui_button_label_off">Off</string>
<string name="reactive_ui_button_label_on">On</string>

This wording merely references "Hub" as the device, but there's no known support for this in the current Google Home Hub, unless that was kept a secret. The rumored Nest Hub Max is also a possible option, but we'll have to wait to find out. Other possibilities are that this is just a placeholder until another device launches, perhaps the door lock I theorized about in the previous section.

Speaker V

Not much is expressly known about Speaker V, but this is one of the two devices that cropped up with placeholder text in last month's update. Previously called "ybc," which still appears in the name of the string, the device has been given a more formal name of "Speaker V." It's possible this is the name that the product launches with, but it too feels like just another placeholder.

<string name="device_ybc_name">Speaker V</string>

There are also a couple references to the device in decompiled code, but they don't confirm much more than the fact that the device will support the Cast protocol, which you would obviously expect from a speaker made by Google.

There's not much else to go on with just a name, especially if it turns out to not be final, but the obvious assumption at this point would be to link this with the recently leaked Nest Hub Max. That will be the fifth (V is the roman numeral for 5) smart speaker device from Google, following the original Home, Mini, Max, and then the Home Hub.

I just have to say, they missed an opportunity for a great Short Circuit reference.

Download

The APK is signed by Google and upgrades your existing app. The cryptographic signature guarantees that the file is safe to install and was not tampered with in any way. Rather than wait for Google to push this download to your devices, which can take days, download and install it just like any other APK.

Google Home
Google Home
Developer: Google LLC
Price: Free