Google has made a quick and significant decision to disable to touch activation of the new Google Home Mini. The decision comes after reports of phantom touches activating the device with it listening or recording ambient noise or conversations without the users knowledge. The reports of this happening are few and far between but Google is taking no chances. An OTA update will be sent to all Home Mini devices to disable the touch activation feature permanently.
We’ve decided to permanently remove all top touch functionality on Google Home Mini. We made this decision to avoid any confusion and give you complete peace of mind while using your Mini. The update will be completely rolled out by end of day October 15, 2017.
This means that in order for you to access Google Assistant on the Home Mini, you will need to use the “OK Google” or “Hey Google” just as you do on Google Home today.
The decision to remove the touch functionality may seem extreme at first blush but Google has always taken privacy seriously. Clearly they don’t think they can address this with the current hardware configuration of the new Home Mini so instead of risking privacy issues (translations: lawsuits), they are simply going to kill the feature.
Will it come back? It is unlikely that it will come back on the current generation. If this is indeed a hardware issue – which it appears to be given the issue is with the “touch control mechanism” – then the only way they it could be fixed would be to change the hardware design. I’ll bet you a wooden nickle that happens on the second generation of the Mini. For those of us with first generation devices, we likely will never see it.
You can read about the issue and Google’s full statement on it on the Support site.