The Google Home app is core to how you control and interact with dozens of different devices, so it's understandably one of Google's most feature-packed applications. It only got more interesting with version 2.28, as the new update hinted at the rebranding of Android TV, as well as adding some new features surrounding routines and home presence-sensing that were teased earlier this year. Now it seems like the new Home/Away routines powered by presence sensing are available to most users.
Google's latest smart displays come with ultrasound sensing, a neat tech that uses ultrasonic waves to measure distance to nearby objects and adapt the UI depending on how near of far you are. Timers, weather reports, media controls, and other elements grow larger when you step away, to make it easier for you to spot them at a distance, then return to their regular size when you come close. This same technology appears to be at the heart of a new feature Google is working on, which proactively triggers Assistant the moment you come near without you having to say "Hey Google" first.
Explaining which services Google Assistant supports and in which form isn't an easy feat. While it might be compatible with many music and podcast players on your phone, it only supports a limited list of approved services on speakers and other smart devices. That list was limited to music streamers only (YouTube Music, Spotify, Pandora, Deezer, iHeartRadio,...). Now, podcast services seem to be getting the same treatment.
As part of its annual GPC event, Acer has announced a whole slew of new products, including laptops, desktops, beamers, displays, concept devices, and much more. The Chrome OS expert has also presented a new Chromebook and Chromebox, the Spin 513 and the CXI4. They're joined by a Google Assistant-equipped smart speaker with a low-res LED display and RGB lighting, making for some crazy Nest-Audio-meets-gamer-hardware aesthetics.
Assistant is one of Google's most important products, found on everything from TVs to watches. Over the years it's gotten a bit fragmented, though, with different UIs and capabilities depending on which device you're using. Thankfully, it looks like Google is currently rolling out an update which unifies the interface across phones running both the old and new versions of Assistant.
Google has been making smart displays with Assistant for over two years now, but they've functioned more or less the same that entire time. Some models have upgraded features, like the wide-angle lens on the Nest Hub Max, but the core software experience hasn't changed. That's no longer the case, as Google is finally rolling out the upgraded UI that was first spotted in September.
You've always been able to run the Android Auto app on your phone to get a better/safer interface while driving, but Google doesn't widely advertise that functionality (the Auto app is mainly used for connecting to car entertainment systems), and it doesn't always work correctly. Google announced a replacement over a year ago at Google I/O, and it's finally showing up on phones.
Once upon a time, in a galaxy far away, Google announced a groundbreaking service called "Google Now." For the few lucky people who got to experience it, Now was everything you wanted at the swipe of your finger. Future appointments, trips, scheduled deliveries, upcoming reservations, all useful information without any fluff. Then random articles and news started flooding it. At first, they were dismissable with a swipe, until they were not. Slowly, Now became Discover, and your cards went away, leaving in their wake any information Google wanted to shove in your face.
In the meantime, Google started developing Assistant's upcoming (aka updates, aka inbox) screen as a replacement where all your personal cards would live, and eventually launched it under the name "Snapshot."
Adding new items to your shopping list or creating small notes are two of my most-used Google Assistant features. It's so convenient to say "Hey Google, add onions to my shopping list," and not have to worry about it until I open my list before heading to the supermarket. Now, Assistant is adding a shortcut to make this action easier if you prefer to type instead of talking.
Lenovo first got into the smart clock biz last year, with the creatively named Lenovo Smart Clock. That device was essentially a tiny Google Assistant-powered smart display positioned as a clock replacement. It was a neat idea, but an introductory MSRP of $80 made it a tough sell. Lenovo is trying again this year with the Smart Clock Essential, a smaller, simpler, less expensive take on the same idea.