Technology

Google Home Hub—Under the hood, it’s nothing like other Google smart displays

The Google Home Hub.


Ron Amadeo

A side view.


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Here is the back.


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The hub is tiny. Here it is next to the smallest Pixel 3.


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Here it is next to my Pixel 2 XL.


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I can cover the entire screen with my phone.


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Google's smart screens are receiving this new smart home control panel.

The "View parts" button will show you the devices by room.


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Thermostat controls.


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The music player.


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A door lock.


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Dish Hopper integration.


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For RGB bulbs, you can choose a color.


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A Nest Bell can now transfer a video stream to a smart display when it rings.


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This GE bulb is the first device "Actions on Google Hardware".


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In other Google Home news, there is now Mickey Mouse support for Google Home Mini.


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The Mini off the Disney stand.


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On Tuesday, Google announced the launch of Google Home Hub, the first smart display hardware manufactured by Google. While the Home Hub is Google's first hardware, it's Google's fourth smart display to be announced: Third-party OEMs have actually launched Google's smart display platform earlier this year. In appearance, the Home Hub seems identical to these third-party devices; under the hood, however, they could not be more different.

Let's talk first about the use of third party smart screens. When Google created its smart display software, it also developed a turnkey solution for OEMs. Until now, Lenovo Samsung LG and JBL all produce cameras on the same basic platform. As with smartphones, these devices are all an extension of the Android / Qualcomm partnership. They are running Android Things on Qualcomm's SD624 Home Hub platform. Android Things is the simplified version of Android designed by Google for IoT products. Third party smart screens are the first commercial devices to run the operating system.

Unlike classic Android phones, Android Things is not customizable by third parties. All Android Things devices use an operating system image directly from Google. Google centrally distributes updates to all Android Things devices for three years . Android Things does not really have an interface. It is designed to turn on a device and display a single app, which on smart screens, is the Google Smart Display app. The Qualcomm Home Hub platform was built on purpose to run Android Things and this Google Assistant software – the SD624 is for smart screens, while the less powerful SDA212 is for the built-in speakers.

When the time came to create the Google Home Hub, Google did not use that. At the show, I had a brief conversation with Diya Jolly, vice president of Google's product management, and learned that Google's Home Hub does not work with Android Things. It is built on Google's Cast platform. Chromecast that a stripped down Android phone. In addition, it does not use Qualcomm's SD624 Home Hub platform. Instead, Google opted for an Amlogic chip.

When asked why Google was using a platform totally different from the third party, Jolly replied: "There is no particular reason we simply thought. that we could use the experience with Cast, and the experiences are the same.We would have easily given to third parties if they wanted it, but I think most of the developers are at ease with Android Things. "

Still, it seems odd for Google to create a platform for smart screens and not use it in its own smart screen. If I had to guess, I think the first "experience" that Google wanted to make the Home Hub understand was the "low price". Lenovo's 8-inch model, the cheapest, is Lenovo's 8-inch model, at $ 200, but the Google Home hub is reducing that device by $ 50. You can see cost savings throughout the design of the Home Hub. The device is tiny, with only a 6-inch screen that is not much bigger than the body of a smartphone. Google says that it has ruled out a video camera because it wants users to feel "comfortable" with the Home Hub, but the lack of a camera will also help save on the list of materials.

Similarly, cutting Android Things and Qualcomm packages under the hood could be seen as a cost-saving measure. Android Things (and Brillo Front) has always been an IoT operating system that requires much more hardware than the one you would normally associate with IoT devices. Even low-cost Android Things cards come with at least 1GB of RAM. We do not yet know the specifics of the Amlogic system in the Google Home Hub (we will update this article if Google sends us a datasheet), but the company is known for its low-end chips that usually fall in smart TVs and the media. players.

None of this means that the Google Home Hub feels cheap or that I disagree with any of Google's decisions. The Home Hub is presented as a high quality device and presents a minimalist and attractive design. In person, I would say that it's "cute". One of the things I do not like about Lenovo devices is the imposing size, and a 6-inch screen is a slim size when you're within easy reach of the device. It's also beautiful. Either way, I do not think part of the smart display software is designed to be seen from the other side of the room. The small screen will not fit for YouTube videos, but the YouTube feature on Google's smart screens, which can not even display your YouTube subscription list, is awful. The Home Hub is not really "cheap"; it's more like Google is putting the list of materials where it counts.

However, there is not a single difference between the Google Home Hub interface and the third party smart screens. There are however some differences related to the material. The absence of video camera means that you can not make Duo video calls on the home hub, while you can do it on third-party devices. If smart screens had an app template for making video calls via Skype, Hangouts or other video chat services, I may be worried but I'm not sure that many people care about Duo video chats. The Home Hub is also Google's only smart screen with a temperature-change display, thanks to a high-quality display and a brightness sensor that captures the color of ambient light.

Google has also introduced new features for all smart screens. A new smart home control panel allows you to tactually access all the usual features of Google Assistant, such as lights and thermostats. Finally, screens have also learned how to use the Google Home speakers, so that they can now be added to a group of speakers in Google Home for multi-room audio. The only feature of Google Home that is not yet available on smart screens is Google's " Continuous Conversation " function, which I am told is still in the process of working.

One last comment on the Google Home home page that I managed to get out of the event: Google and GE quietly unveiled the first "Actions on Google Hardware" device, the # 39 "bulb C of GE ". This smart bulb uses Bluetooth LE to communicate directly with a Google Home Mini by using it as a smart home hub. Google and GE have a "Smart Light Starter Kit" product that combines a Google Home Mini with a single bulb in a case. Apart from the renunciation of the name "Google Hardware Actions", nobody would tell me about the functioning of this ecosystem, its extent or the participation of other manufacturers. It appears to be a second ecosystem of Google-owned smart homes after "Works with Nest".

The Home Hub will be released on October 22nd.

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