Google's Nest Hub smart displays use voice commands for most functions, which means they are usually easier to use than smartphones or PCs. However, the (general) lack of a graphical user interface means discovering features can be difficult. Google does show tips and tricks on the Hub's home screen, but they don't cover every possible option and feature.
In this guide, we'll go over some helpful features in Google's line of smart displays in particular: the Nest Hub (formerly named the Home Hub) and Nest Hub Max.
For years, you've been able to trigger extra sound effects on the Google Home when reciting a handful of Little Golden library books. This Read Along feature worked with a small library of Disney titles, which has changed over the years. Earlier this week, though, Google massively cut the number of titles available to a mere five.
Google is always working on improving its Android apps and the operating system itself, heavily relying on public a/b tests that appear on some people's phones but not on others. But every once in a while, the company takes the time to announce some features formally, and today is another one of those days. Google is making a whole slew of known tests and a few brand-new changes official.
How many times have you tried to ask Assistant to do something on your out-of-reach phone only to hear no answer in return? Grabbing your device then reveals the dreaded "Unlock to continue" message with the lockscreen on top. If you've frequently wondered what good is a voice assistant with Voice Match if it can't authenticate you and override the lockscreen in any useful way, then you're in the same boat as me. But Google is finally fixing this.
About a year ago, Google rolled out a new capability to Android devices that lets you ask for any webpage or Google News article to be read aloud. The feature, which uses Assistant, is perfect if you want to put your phone away, but still check out some interesting content, from Wikipedia to a random website or your favorite news sources. It even translates pages on the fly from 42 languages! What the feature lacked, though, was a larger choice of reading languages and accents. The former is still not available, but the latter is improving.
Wallpapers aren't the only new thing rolling out to Android Auto users this week, Google is also turning on some handy features to simplify activities while you're driving. Users can now add custom shortcuts to the launcher to quickly call pre-selected contacts or activate Google Assistant commands. Along with this, Google Assistant routines are available again after more than two years since they mysteriously stopped working through Auto.
We don't really think about it, but it's kind of odd that Google hasn't made a standalone version of the Assistant for PCs, isn't it? Or at least built one into Chrome. After all, Chrome OS has it now, and the Assistant is a big part of the Android experience, too (Bixby be damned). We even buy smart speakers and displays for around the house, headphones can talk to Google, and yet our desktop and laptops are ignored. But if you want to plug that gap on your own, it turns out, you can. There's an unofficial Google Assistant desktop client that's a pain in the ass to set up but way nicer than it has any right to be.
A big update is rolling out to Nest Hubs and third-party Google Assistant smart displays with lots of cool new features, many of which have been promised or teased/leaked for several months. The changes first started showing up several weeks ago, but are now rolling out to a wider audience. You can now (well, if the features have reached your unit) use your display as a sunrise alarm, put the Google weather frog as a background, leave sticky notes for your family to read, and more.
If your Google Home was telling you, "sorry, that device isn't set up yet," when trying to control smart home devices like your thermostat or lights today, you aren't alone. Not everyone is affected, but what appeared to be an Assistant-related outage affected Assistant-based smart home device controls for many. According to a Google spokesperson, the issue was due to a "limited experiment" and has now been fixed. Things should be back to normal soon.