At last – you can now buy the Google Home in the UK! But get in quick, because we don’t know how long stocks will last.
The Amazon Echo rival was announced on 18 May 2016, but us Brits have had to wait nearly a year for it to make its way to the UK, with the official UK release date 6 April 2017. Today it launches alongside Google Wifi.
But what exactly is Google Home? It’s is a voice-activated speaker which lets you have a conversation with the Google Assistant.
It can answer questions, control your smart home kit, play music and take notes and reminders.
So, on the surface, pretty much exactly the same at the Amazon Echo. But if you’re a Google user, there’s a lot more you can do with the Home.
Also read our Google Home preview
When is the Google Home UK release date?
Google Home is now available in the UK and the US.
How much does Google Home cost in the UK?
Google Home costs £129 in the UK, which is the same price as Google Wifi. Coloured bases cost £18 for fabric and £36 for metal.
It is available direct from the Google Store right now, and will be available from Argos, Currys, John Lewis and Maplin later today, and will be coming soon to EE.
How to get Google Home today
If you buy through the Google Play store, free delivery is offered for between April 10 and 12. However, if you buy through Argos you can select same-day delivery. Currently the Argos website is still listing the Google Home on pre-order, but if you download the mobile app you can buy it right now.
Download the Argos mobile app for Android or iOS.
What is the Google Assistant?
Google Assistant is the new conversational ‘bot’ that was announced at Google I/O 2016. It’s an extension of Google Now but, a bit like Siri, allows better two-way conversations.
Google says this is due to advances in AI and machine learning, giving the all-important context to conversations.
One example given was booking cinema tickets. You could say to the assistant, “What’s playing tonight?” and it would understand you want to know which films are showing at your local cinema.
After displaying a few titles, you could say “We’re planning on bringing the kids” at which point the assistant shows family-friendly films.
You could then say “Ok, let’s see Jungle Book”, and the assistant could purchase four tickets and display a QR code you can show at the door. But the conversation could have “gone many different ways”, said Pichai.
We discussed the Google event right after it happened on our podcast. Listen here:
Instead of choosing a film from the selection, you could say “Is Jungle Book any good” and the assistant would check reviews, display ratings from IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes, and offer up the trailer to watch.
The Google Assistant isn’t limited to Google Home of course. It first appeared on Google’s Pixel phones, but is now beginning to roll out on other Android phones.
Google’s Rick Osterloh reckons that Home will best Amazon’s Alexa assistant because Google has a richer history of people making voice queries through its browser and Android phones.
This means that the Google Assistant is better placed to “really understand what people are asking for” than Alexa, which relies on Microsoft’s Bing search engine and Wikipedia to answer a lot of questions.
Also, a report by Android Police says that Google is probably working on making Home able to recognise users’ voices. This will overcome the current limitation of being signed into only one Google account, which is fine if you live alone, but not so useful in a family home or shared household where the assistant’s answers are based on someone else’s Google profile.
If Home can indeed recognise a voice and switch to that person’s account on the fly, they will be able to find out what meetings they have that day and whether there are delays on their commute.
Currently, both Home and Amazon’s Alexa can do those things, but only for one account. (You can manually change accounts using the apps, but this is a hassle no-one wants.)
Amazon may have a much bigger library of ‘skills’, which will help the Echo and other Alexa-enabled devices to remain popular, but unless it can improve Alexa’s ability to answer questions rather than simply respond to commands, sales may suffer against Google Home.
Google Home features
The small device has interchangeable bases, in various colours, metal and fabric finishes, allowing you to tailor it to your décor, making it ideal for different environments around the house.
Under the interchangeable grill there is a speaker. There are three speakers to be precise, one low-end driver and two ‘dual-passive’ drivers aimed to deliver a complete frequency range.
We have yet to hear it in a home (having only seen it at demos) so can’t comment on these claims, but the speakers will play your favourite songs and allow the assistant to talk to you. Also see: Best Bluetooth speakers.
The device itself is smaller than you might think: you can see the scale in the photo below. This means Google Home should be discrete in pretty much any room.
At the top of the device, there’s a ‘display’ which has four small LEDs which allow you to interact with the device. It doesn’t have any buttons on top but uses dual microphones to listen for your voice.
The device has a single button located on its shell, allowing you to mute the microphone – useful for times when you don’t want it responding. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have an SD card/microSD card slot or a USB port – so you won’t be able to plug and play your own music through a physical device.
You can set alarms, set timers, alarms, create shopping lists, and Home will also support other smart home devices such as the Nest thermostat (owned by Google), lights and other connected devices.
We’re excited to see the possibilities in the future, with Google wanting to open the device to other manufacturers and allow you to even order flowers or hire a car straight from your Google Home.
Mutliple Google Homes can be placed around the house so you can use it wherever you are. As well as working when you’re close to the device and there’s little ambient noise, Google has also worked hard to ensure excellent far-field voice recognition, which means it will work just as well if you say “Ok Google, reserve a table at Pizza Express for four at 8pm tonight” from across the room while the TV’s on.
You don’t always have to start the conversation. Home can playing an alert tone, and you can respond with “Ok Google, I’m listening”. Home will then read out the alert such as, “Your flight is delayed by 30 minutes” and also give a short traffic report. On the back of that, you could ask the assistant to change your dinner reservation.
In February, Google Home owners in the US got the ability to order products in much the same way you can on an Amazon Echo. It uses the Google Express service and allows you to get products delivered to your home the same day – as long as you live in one of the 12 supported states.
There’s a minimum order value, and delivery fees apply in addition to the annual membership fee for Google Express, but if you’re willing to stump up you can now say to the Google Assistant, “OK Google, order Duracell AA batteries”.
As it’s a new service, there’s a free three-month trial with free delivery in order to entice people to try it out.
Google Home UK poll