What Is Google Home? We Explain Google's Smart Home Platform

For quite some time, Amazon's Echo was the only prominent smart speaker around. But soon, it will be in a battle for supremacy with Google Home.

Google says the $129 Google Home is like having your own personal Google on call, which lets you do everything from cue up music and YouTube videos to answer your questions and control smart home devices like the Nest thermostat.

So what exactly will Google Home do for you and how does it work? Here's your quick guide.

A Hardware Tour

Google Home is similar to Amazon's Echo, offering a compact design that helps the device fit into the home or office. Unlike the Echo, the cylindrical device's base will come in several colors, including white, black and blue. The bases are detachable, so users can swap colors whenever they wish. The top, white component is where the "brains" live. From there, the microphone listens to commands and you can press the mute button to silence audio.

Living under that shell is what Google calls a "Hi-Fi" speaker, featuring a 2-inch driver and dual, 2-inch, passive radiators. Google Home also comes with a far-field microphone. The device connects to wireless networks with its 802.11ac Wi-Fi chip and works with both Google's Android and Apple's iOS platforms.

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A Smart Assistant

Google Assistant stands at the center of the Google Home experience.

This virtual personal assistant uses artificial intelligence to find things on the internet, set events and reminders, play music and videos, and much more. Better yet, Google Home will be continually updated, meaning the smart virtual assistant will only get smarter as time goes on.

You activate Google Assistant by saying, "OK, Google," to Google Home. Once the program is turned on, you can ask it for answers to sophisticated mathematical formulas, find out the score on a sports game, set alarms, add events to a calendar and check the traffic around a route. Google Home can also control smart home devices like the Nest thermostat or Philips Hue, turning the device into a smart home hub.

Google was quick to note that many of the things you might typically search for on Google.com are also accessible through Assistant.

MORE: Siri vs. Alexa - Why Amazon Won Our 300-Question Showdown

An Entertainment Platform

While Google Home is designed in part to be a handy assistant, it might also find a way into your home due to its musical abilities.

Google Home ships with support for a wide range of services, including Google Play Music, Spotify, Pandora and TuneIn. To access those services, you simply need to have an account and link it to Google Home. From there, you can request that Home play your favorite playlists on Spotify or the new track from your favorite artists on YouTube Music.

If podcasts are more your speed, Google Home has you covered. It also includes support for a wide range of radio stations, including news channels and music radio.

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And just in case you're a fan of a service that isn't supported with Google Home, the device features the ability to stream audio from your phone through phone mirroring or with help from Chromecast-enabled audio apps.

Google Home was designed to communicate and work with other Google Home devices. So you can buy multiple Google Homes for your house, put them in different rooms, and sync them so you can listen to tracks all over the house.

If you don't want to shell out cash for more than one Google Home, though, it's also capable of syncing with other products, like Chromecast Audio or speakers with Chromecast built in. 

Google Home vs. Amazon Echo and Alexa

Amazon is the clear leader in the smart speaker space, as its Alexa assistant now offers more than 3,000 skills. So Google Home certainly has some catching up to do. However, the Google Home speaker is $50 cheaper than the Amazon Echo, and (for better or for worse), Google already knows a lot about you that will personalize your experience more.

On the other hand, only Amazon lets you add its assistant to any speaker via the company's cheap $49 Echo Dot. For now, Google doesn't offer a similar accessory.

So, How Can I Get It?

As of this writing, Google Home is available for pre-order at the Google Store, Best Buy, Target and Walmart. For now, Google is selling the white Home version and will offer different base colors to customers in the future. If you want to swap out your base for a new color at that point, you'll need only unscrew it from the top component and screw it into the new base.

Google Home will go on sale for $129. The smart home device will start shipping to customers on Nov. 2.

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