The slow but steady global availability of Google Home continues with the Google Assistant powered smart speaker coming to Australia and Germany. For Aussies, Home as well as Google WiFi will be available on July 20th while Germans will have to wait until next month before Home comes to your country. The expansion follows it coming to France and Canada earlier this year.
In Australia, Home will be available from the Google Store, JB Hi-Fi, Harvey Norman, Officeworks, The Good Guys, Telstra, Optus and Qantas Store. It will be $199 AUD, about $157US. Google WiFi will be $199 for a single unit while the 3-pack will be $499. For those in Germany, Home will be €149.
Google is pushing hard to get Actions on Google built for Google Assistant and one of the best ways to do that is to throw some prize money at it. Google has announced a new contest where the top prize is $10,000 and a trip to Google I/O 2018 for a developer who creates an app leveraging Actions on Google.
For those who are not developers, Actions is the set of APIs that are leveraged to bring Google Assistant compatibility and/or integration into apps. Google opened up the platform earlier this year and while adoption has been good, Google of course wants to make it more widely used. Amazon right now has over 10,000 apps that tie into Alexa and Echo and Google is significantly less than that number. This contest should help change that a bit.
One of the best apps of late last year was Gboard from Google. It replaced Google Keyboard and it is a much smarter, faster keyboard for your Android devices and for iPhone, where it debuted originally. Now Google has quietly added a nice new feature to Gboard when you use it within Google Assistant. It provides you with common search phrases just above the keyboard to make interacting a bit faster.
Assuming that you have Google Assistant on your phone (if you have Android Marshmallow or Nougat, you likely do), just long press the Home button on your phone to bring up Assistant. Normally at this point I find it faster just to speak to Assistant to get the information I need but there are times that I can’t do that (I’m in a quiet place for example). After you open up Assistant, note the keyboard icon in the lower left corner. Tap it and that opens up your keyboard so you can type a query.
Google Assistant continues to gain power and knowledge, especially when it comes to integrating with other Google services. The latest example has rolled out today and was announced on the Made by Google Twitter feed. Now you can track flight costs from one point to another by simply giving a command.
How it works is straightforward. Simply ask Google Assistant, “What is the cost from (A) to (B)” with A & B replaced with locations. Assistant will then process the information and present you with all of your flight options. By default it will give you flight information two weeks out but you can change this by including a specific date. It will also give you the shortest flight time for the trip you have asked information on from Assistant.
While the feature isn’t enabled yet, it appears that Google Home will soon be getting the ability to support multiple accounts. As a Google Home Pioneer, if there are two feature requests that have been at the top of the list, it has been multiple account support and support for Exchange calendars. The former, at least, appears to be nearly ready. This is something that I also pointed out in my review of Google Home back in October as being something which Google needed to address.
If you aren’t familiar with Google Home, right now you can only associate one Google account with the device. If, for example, you and your partner want to use Home, it will only give you the calendar and other personalized information for the first account setup on the device. The issues with this are pretty self evident: I can get my calendar’s next appointment but when my wife asks for her, she gets mine. Even if you add a second account to the Home app, it will only give you the personalized information for the first account.
OnePlus took to Twitter today with some good news for OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T owners. Google Assistant is coming your way. The built in assistant, which Google announced was coming to all devices running Marshmallow and Nougat, has been slowly making the rounds as manufactures work with Google to get it on their devices. OnePlus is just one of the latest but it is good to see that manufactures aren’t standing in the way of getting it out to customers.
If you own a 3 or a 3T, like other devices who have already received Google Assistant, there isn’t anything you need to do other than make sure you have the latest build of the Google Search app on your phone. That more-or-less tells Google your phone is ready to be updated on the backend.
With Google Assistant rolling out widely to Android Marshmallow and Nougat running phones, the question of if the new feature would be hitting Android tablets too. The answer is no. The team over at Android Police got confirmation from Google directly that the feature will only be rolling out to phones and not to tablets. As an Android tablet user (albeit limited these days), its a bit disappointing that the feature won’t be rolling out. That said, it’s understandable. Given that tablet sales are stagnate at best and most people are driving activity and searches from their phones, it just makes sense for Google not to invest the time and effort into getting it onto tablets.
If you are desperate to get Google Assistant on your tablet, there are hacks that will get it there for you. If you hit the link to the Android Police article, they have a link to show you how to do it. But,
as always, proceed with caution.
Keep in mind that you can still use OK Google on your tablet, you just won’t have all the new benefits of Google Assistant on it.
Is this disappointing news for you? Are you surprised? Leave a comment and let me know your thoughts.