Setting up new smart home devices is always a hassle, which you might have noticed following the holidays and presents under the tree. You have to look through a list of Assistant actions during setup and select the appropriate one, which is just one part of the multi-step pairing process. Google is looking to make this step easier with the introduction of suggestion chips for new device's actions on your network, but smart home app developers will have to do their part to enable this.
When Google released the new affordable Nest Thermostat in October, it also made some changes to how things are set up and controlled. Instead of using the outdated Nest app, it's all done through the Google Home app now. This is a positive move in many ways, but some of the functionality hasn't yet been migrated over for older models. Finally, it looks like Google is bringing the full new experience to more people, but it sure is a slow rollout.
Google Assistant is pretty powerful, especially when you start playing around with some of its more advanced customization options. The company has been adding new routines recently, including ones that sense your presence and keep you on track during the workday. Now it looks like Google is working on two new routines called sunset and sunrise.
Google's routers are already packed with intelligent features like network stats, manual device prioritization, Wi-Fi pause options, or device grouping — not to mention the integrated smart speaker in the Nest Wifi. To further improve on these options, Google has decided to add the ability to automatically prioritize certain traffic via the Home app, such as video conferencing or gaming.
Last November, the Google Home app received a colorful card-based media control interface, which was quite an improvement over the previous one. But multi-room or multi-speaker playback is rather tricky to set up through this card-based interface, and Google seems to think the same. The company has introduced a much more intuitive UI for media controls in version 2.31 of the Home app that lets you cast to individual or multiple speakers and displays on the fly. And Assistant Routines can finally be triggered through the app again following the update.
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.
The Google Store has been running daily promos for more than a month, and while most of the deals have been rather disappointing compared to previous discounts, the videos featuring Fred Armisen have been fun to watch. Yesterday's video also contained a little Easter egg: Fred unlocks his Nest x Yale lock straight from the Home app.
When Google introduced its new Nest Wifi routers, it promised to bring over all the settings from the dedicated Wifi app to the regular old Home app. It looks like the company is working on making good on that word, as the latest Google Home app (v2.26) has added a slew of advanced Wifi controls that were previously reserved to the standalone Wifi app, including things like DNS, WAN, LAN, and DHCP configurations.
Smart plugs are a great way to make simple electronics more intelligent — be it an old lamp with a non-removable light bulb, an older TV, or a coffee maker. However, outlets can't tell what's plugged into them, so any smart plug just got a generic logo in the Home app. That changed when Google started automatically adjusting the symbol depending on what you call the device — e.g., "desk light" will give you a light bulb icon.
As part of its CES announcements, Google is taking the wraps off a bunch of new and upcoming Assistant functionality, like the ability to schedule actions, a new "Read It" command that dictates text content like news in a more natural voice, plus new Smart Display features like sticky notes and speed dial. While much of it won't land until a nebulous date "later this year," it gives us a peek at what to expect from the Assistant in 2020, and a reference for when Google re-announces half of it as new later once it's been in silent public testing for a couple months.