Google Home is finally catching up to Alexa and HomeKit — here's how

Google Nest Hub Max
(Image credit: Google)

Google just announced two new smart home devices — a new $179 wired doorbell and a new $199 Wi-Fi 6e router, the latter of which will cover up to 2,200 square feet with just a single node. Both look like great devices — and good candidates for any best video doorbells and the best mesh routers lists. But the most interesting news from Google relates to the changes coming to the Google Home app.

For two years, I've bemoaned the fact that you can't do nearly as much with Google Home as you can with HomeKit and Alexa. Those respective smart home platforms from Apple and Amazon allow you to create routines based on the status of your smart home devices. 

For example, if your smart thermostat hits a certain temperature, you can have your window shades come down and a fan turn on. Or, if it's the morning and you turn the lights on, you can have a morning news briefing start and get the coffee maker going.

Google Home app

(Image credit: Google)

Until now, Google Home routines were limited to either triggers based on time or by saying a phrase — "Hey Google, I'm leaving home," for instance. That's a lot more limiting, and a lot farther from the fully automated house that we were promised in The Jetsons.

There's a bit of magic when all your smart home devices work in concert. As someone with a house full of lights, cameras, locks, and other sensors, it's a pain to have to jump to different apps, or even just open your phone every time you want to dim the lights and make sure the door is locked at night.

Thankfully, that's all changing for Google Home. Not only is Google redesigning the Home app so that it's a lot easier to control all your smart home devices, but it's adding the ability for smart home devices to turn on or off based on the state of another device. One example offered by Google: your living room lights dim when you turn on your TV.

And Google will be adding a feature for power users not found with Alexa or HomeKit — a script editor, which will allow you to tweak the code for your automations, which is something you only see on more advanced smart home hubs, like the Hubitat.

The revamped Google Home app is expected to launch at this week's Google October event, where we'll also see the new Pixel 7, Pixel 7 Pro, and Pixel Watch. Speaking of that last product, an update to Wear OS 3 will also let you control smart home devices from your wrist. That's an essential feature if Google wants to keep up with Apple, and even surpass Amazon in the smart home space. (Until Amazon comes out with its own smartwatch, that is.)

Those Google Home changes, combined with Google's implementation of Matter (the new smart home standard that will make it a lot easier to control devices), should also help, uh, matters.

Not all of the features Google revealed — such as the advanced automations — will be available at the start, but in the coming weeks, you'll be able to sign up for a Public Preview and try out the new Google Home features before they're official. It's something that can't come soon enough.

Mike Prospero
U.S. Editor-in-Chief, Tom's Guide

Michael A. Prospero is the U.S. Editor-in-Chief for Tom’s Guide. He oversees all evergreen content and oversees the Homes, Smart Home, and Fitness/Wearables categories for the site. In his spare time, he also tests out the latest drones, electric scooters, and smart home gadgets, such as video doorbells. Before his tenure at Tom's Guide, he was the Reviews Editor for Laptop Magazine, a reporter at Fast Company, the Times of Trenton, and, many eons back, an intern at George magazine. He received his undergraduate degree from Boston College, where he worked on the campus newspaper The Heights, and then attended the Columbia University school of Journalism. When he’s not testing out the latest running watch, electric scooter, or skiing or training for a marathon, he’s probably using the latest sous vide machine, smoker, or pizza oven, to the delight — or chagrin — of his family.