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The best smart home devices you can buy right now (Winter 2018)

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Beware when buying third-party Google Assistant speakers and Smart Displays, updates and features are not equal

Another year, another category of Google-compatible products has flooded the market. A few years ago, it was the Chromecast, then it was the Google Home and Home Mini, and now it's the Google Home Hub. With every first-party release comes a slew of third-party alternatives, boasting the same features, same integrations, same functions, but with different designs and prices. On paper, they should be equal to Google's, but time and time again, we've learned that they're not.

Never though have the lines blurred as much as with the Home Hub and its Lenovo and JBL brethren. They look almost the same, both on the outside and in their interface, and Google pushed them earlier than its Home Hub, advertising them and talking about them as if they were its own.

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Google Assistant adds Pretty Please, lyrics for Google Play Music on Smart Displays, and more

If you've splurged for a Google Home speaker or Smart Display over the Black Friday/Cyber Monday madness, you'll be glad to know they're getting new features soon, some of which are coming just in time for the holidays.

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Google Home supports Brazilian Portuguese, Assistant adds 4 Indian languages beside Hindi

Google Assistant's language expansion is continuing on. Google had promised that 38 countries and 17 languages would be added in 2018 and many have already launched over the past months. But the year is nearing its end and we're still a little far from those numbers. Recent additions bring us closer though, as Assistant can now speak four more Indian languages and has expanded Brazilian Portugese' support to Google Home speakers.

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Target's Black Friday sale will include $50 off Google Home and Home Hub

Believe it or not, it's just two weeks and change until Thanksgiving — and more to the point, Black Friday. Target's ad is out, and the retailer has got some solid deals on Google goods: $50 off the Home and Home Hub, plus money off the Google Home Mini and both Chromecast and Chromecast Ultra.

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[Update: More treats] Spooky Google Assistant easter eggs are going live in time for Halloween

The Google Assistant is a serious tool that helps us through each day in various ways, but it also has a whimsical side. In a similar vein to last year, with Halloween just around the corner, Google has unveiled some special Assistant easter eggs relating to the most terrifying of holidays.

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[Update: New books added] Google Home can now add sound effects and music to story time with certain Disney children's books

Some of Google Home's best features are the ones that are just for fun, like playing the "I'm feeling lucky" game show, listening to different animal sounds, and asking for interesting facts. Google is expanding on that repertoire with storytelling sound effects for certain Disney stories. Parents in the US can activate the new feature by saying "Hey Google, let's read along with Disney." Their Home device will then listen along and play appropriate sound effects and music for the chosen story, which can be selected from a library of 11, with more to come.

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YouTube Kids support comes to Google Home, Cast TVs, and Smart Displays

Let's face it: some corners of YouTube are just plain disturbing. To save our children from seeing the dankest of memes before they're ready, YouTube Kids exists — a platform where you can set limits on what sort of content your little one can see, how long they can watch videos, and even whether or not they can use the search bar. Google is now broadening YouTube Kids' reach by expanding support to Google Assistant-enabled Smart Displays, Google Home, and Cast TVs.

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You can now speak to Google Home in Hindi

Google Assistant gained support for Hindi in March, then Google Home and Home Mini launched in India in April. You would think that one is related to the other and that users in India were able to speak to Home in Hindi, but that was not true. Their phones supported Hindi as well as English (India), but their smart speakers only understood and spoke the latter. But that's changing now.

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Digital Wellbeing features starting to arrive on Google Home speakers

The beta Android app is now available on Android One devices as well as Pixels, and it seems that Digital Wellbeing features are also coming to Google's smart speakers. As you can see from the image above, the Digital Wellbeing webpage has said it was "coming soon" for a while, and now people are reporting seeing it in their app.

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