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4 min read 52 Shares 18 comments

Google Home finally gets the one feature it desperately needs

Amazon's Echo devices and Alexa smart assistant may have made it to market first, but with the size of Google's Android user base, the Mountain View-based company has the opportunity to make up that lost time. Until now, however, Google Home has been missing one very important feature. 

Think for a minute about the sheer amount of personal data you have stored on your phone. Not just photos and messages, but your entire browsing history. A granular list of places you've been. Every voice search you've ever made. Virtually anything you do on your phone could one day be controlled via your Home - anything that doesn't explicitly require a screen, at least.

If you have privacy-focused tendencies, there's a good chance that you don't use Google at all. For most people, that's usually not at the top of the list and the convenience of the features it delivers will be enough to tempt them to take the plunge. 

However, as of right now, if you own a Google Home, you're essentially leaving your most personal information and data freely available to anyone in your home or office.

Today, Google Home is 5.5-inches of promise and potential.The best it can do right now is provide contextual information whenever you request; answering your endless, and frequently stupid questions, without flinching. Sometimes it comes up short, and answers you with a metaphorical shrug. 

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Google Home could one day perform any task that you don't need a screen for in your home. / © Google

What's most exciting about it, however, is the breadth of Google's reach - a company with phones, mobile OS, TV platform, Chrome OS, Chromecast devices, more apps (particularly messaging) than it could possibly need and a war chest of seemingly endless money to ensure the product can continue to be developed for as long as is Google's whimsy. Google Home could be the primary point of control for almost anything in your house one day. 

With support of third-party device makers, Google Home will reach even further, allowing you to carry out many of the tasks in your home just by issuing a command. Want to open the electric blinds and fire up your coffee machine in the morning simply by asking Home to do that for you? There's no reason why you couldn't in the future, if Google goes all-in on Home.

Google, for now, is playing catchup to Amazon's Echo in some sense, but despite the similarities of the devices, they, to some extent, will appeal to a different sub-section of users. If you're already deeply invested in Google's ecosystem of devices and services, Home probably makes a bit more sense though.  

With the trust required to hand Google the minutiae of your everyday life, there's one glaring omission (even with its limited current skill set), and that's multi-user support. If I ask Google Home what my schedule is, that's what I'll hear, but so will my girlfriend, who also has a Google account. The same is true for any other data that Home can access of yours - if it can retrieve or act upon that data, so can anyone else in your house.

It's not just a privacy issue, either. My friends or family, who tend to be the people in my house most frequently, are welcome to know what my schedule is, but it's not a lot of use to them if they wanted to hear their own. A home is frequently made up of more than one person. Without support for multiple users, it means that every query or request that comes into that unit is marked as taking place on your account. Expect a whole lot more targeted advertising based on the fact that your teenager frequently searches for One Direction from your Spotify account. 

That, however, is about to change, with Google slowly rolling out support for multiple users to some devices. Soon, it'll be available as standard on Home, and the biggest limitation will have been removed, putting it squarely in a fight with Alexa.

Now, however, it needs to get a whole lot smarter, a whole lot quicker - you can't even add calendar events by voice, let alone control your entire house, but it's coming one small step at a time.

Do you want Google Home? Let us know in the comments below! 

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Readers' favorite comments

  • Josh Rizzo 6 months ago

    You know, Google Assistant supports IFTTT integration natively. You can get Google Assistant to do almost anything you can think of. I can, for instance, say "OK Google, goodnight!" and it sets alarm, turns off my lights, locks my doors, sets the thermostat 2 degrees lower, and sets my alarm for 8 hours. You can make a command to do anything that IFTTT can do, which is darn near anything.

  • Ben Woods 6 months ago

    Thanks for the comment! I get a weird feeling that you might not like my next article either, but, to be honest, it is kinder than being told I should be driving a truck for a living, which also happens sometimes. I studied Psychology, btw.

  • Andrew Hartley 6 months ago

    Multiple accounts are so needed. I bought a Google home Thursday and left for a business trip Friday and that's when my children pounced. Google now thinks my name is Mr Poopy pants, my favourite animal is Peppa Pig and my favourite food is pizza and ice cream and those are the changes they dared to tell me about. Can't wait for the focussed advertising now 😁.

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  • reenaraj 6 months ago Link to comment

    Nice blog and thanks for sharing this information.......Smarther is a top mobile app development company in USA & India. We have expert mobile app developers for an enterprise


  • Echo you memorize comands and the GH you talk like it is a human. Not really alike. Have both.


  • What I want to know is if the vocal recognition will be cloud based or stored on the Google home itself. If it's cloud based I won't have to register everyone's voice so that they can use the home.


  • Plenty of complaints about the structure of the article. Here, read this, it will help you immensely:
    Google "Minto Pyramid"

    You write the point first, then follow with your supporting reasoning behind it.


  • Dude, I just wasted valuable life reading this article. Bunch of bullcrap filler until you reach the end, only to find out it was nothing of value. Have some respect for your readers man. I know all you guys want is the click, but come on.


  • I'm just going to throw this out there. Ok Google, who won the national championship for men's college basketball -- answered. Ok Google wh who won the national championship for women's basketball. The only thing it does is find information.....SERIOUSLY OFFENDED! also, i have 2 cats... Google can only remenber 1 cat. I have 2 dogs, Google can only rem 1. Step it up Google -- i am loyal♡♡


  • You know, Google Assistant supports IFTTT integration natively. You can get Google Assistant to do almost anything you can think of. I can, for instance, say "OK Google, goodnight!" and it sets alarm, turns off my lights, locks my doors, sets the thermostat 2 degrees lower, and sets my alarm for 8 hours. You can make a command to do anything that IFTTT can do, which is darn near anything.


  • Tom Lynch 6 months ago Link to comment

    Worst written article. Did you fail your journalism writing class? Go back to school and learn to write a news article. This article takes forever to get to the point. The same info could have been conveyed in half the paragraphs/sentences/words which would improve the clarity.


  • OK I get that this is needed and would be cool but I am sorry the single most needed and glaringly overlooked features it desperately needs is the ability to set reminders, appointments in your Google calendar, and a simple sleep timer when listening to music.

    Until this happens, for me anyway, my Home is relegated to my basement workshop and my several Echo units remain in the main house where these units can do these tasks.

    We have had this ability on the Android phone for YEARS but Google has yet to bring together the fractured pieces and features of Google Now and Assistant to be the same experience across all devices.

    Until this happens none of the other features will help and puts Google squarely behind Amazon and possibly Microsoft when their offering hits the market.


  • Mike 6 months ago Link to comment

    Mr. Poopy Pants. Now that's funny!


  • Multiple accounts are so needed. I bought a Google home Thursday and left for a business trip Friday and that's when my children pounced. Google now thinks my name is Mr Poopy pants, my favourite animal is Peppa Pig and my favourite food is pizza and ice cream and those are the changes they dared to tell me about. Can't wait for the focussed advertising now 😁.

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