With the original Google Home now out of stock or unavailable at retailers, there’s speculation that a replacement in-home smart speaker is waiting in the wings. What features could this possible Google Home Nest speaker offer that would make it stand out from the really, really crowded field of Assistant-powered gear from Google?
Here are a few changes and new features we’d want to see.
What is Google Nest?
Let’s start with a quick run though the Google Home history. Google introduced the original Google Home in November 2016. The Google Home was a stout, humble-looking speaker meant to blend in with the decor of most homes. Google Home served as a way to get Google Assistant off of phones and more widely available to people in their homes. It was followed a year later by the much smaller Google Home Mini (above) and the much larger Google Home Max. Where the former of these two sequels offered Google Assistant in a small, puck-like form factor, the latter was an over-sized, music-focused beast. This gave Google small, medium, and large Home speaker offerings.
Then there are the Google Nest products, including the Nest Hub and Nest Hub Max (below), which added displays to the smart speaker concept. Google introduced the Nest branding after it incorporated its purchase of Nest (the company) into its own line of smart home products.
Eventually, Google refreshed and rebranded the Home Mini to the Google Nest Mini in late 2019. Google gave the Nest Mini a better-sounding speaker. It’s a safe bet that any new speakers from Google will bear the Nest (and not the Home) brand.
After three and a half years it makes sense that Google would retire the original Google Home. This leaves us asking, what’s left for the Google Home to do? Here are some things we’d like to see from a new Google Home Nest smart speaker.
New Google Home Nest smart speaker: What we want to see
1. Sound better
Google pitched the original Google Home as a solid option for those seeking a simple speaker setup for their living room or kitchen. True enough, the device, with its connection to Google Play Music, Spotify, and others, was an easy way to get voice-accessible music in certain rooms. But it didn’t sound good.
Despite having three drivers, sound from the Google Home came across as muddy and lacking depth. Even the Assistant’s voice was boomy in all the wrong ways. Treble was nowhere to be heard. It just wasn’t a good experience.
See also: The best Google Assistant devices
If Google does anything with fresh Nest hardware, it ought to step up its audio game. After all, Google is competing with the likes of Sonos and many other dedicated speaker makers for the same consumer dollars. Please, Google, make a better-sounding Nest speaker.
Also, make it easier to control the volume. The touch-sensitive controls of the Home are anything but exact. Moreover, saying, “Hey, Google, turn down the volume,” gets really old (particularly when it doesn’t turn down the volume enough the first time).
2. Be faster
I have the OG Google Home speaker in my living room and a Google Nest Mini in the adjacent dining room. Often — and despite being physically closer to the Google Home speaker — the Nest Mini will react to my voice commands before the Home does. The Nest Mini has better mics and a better processor, so it handles things quicker.
The Marvell Armada processor in the original Home is clearly outdated. A number of companies, such as Mediatek, could provide a fresh engine for the new Google Home. Mediatek powers a lot of Amazon’s Echo smart home products. I’d expect Google to update the internals of a new Nest speaker, but the company needs to focus on solving the speed of command recognition and resulting action. The mics would also play a role here.
Google used to be all about speed. Hopefully it embraces that old mantra with some speedier Nest hardware.
3. Power? Optional
All the Google Nest speakers and Hubs are great for entertainment. Whether it’s listening to your favorite playlist or podcast, the ability to access tens of millions of tracks is a strong feature. Too bad the Google Home has to stay plugged in all the time.
A battery-powered Google Home would be an excellent idea. I’m imagining a scenario in which the device is plugged in (and charging) most of the time. For those moments when you want music or assistance somewhere power isn’t readily available, such as the garage or deck, you can unplug the Home speaker and take it with you.
Naturally, there would be some reasonable limitations here, such as staying within range of the Wi-Fi, and perhaps battery life would only be a few hours rather than half a day. Still, allowing people to move their Google Nest speaker from room to room could make it a much more useful tool to have around the house.
No, not the Google developer conference: actual input/output options for the hardware.
The larger Google Home Max has a dedicated 3.5mm auxiliary jack. This would be a fine addition to the next mid-range Google Nest speaker. Imagine being able to easily connect the Google Nest to a stereo system or larger speaker, or, conversely, push audio into the Nest speaker from an outside source. Sure, we’d expect the speaker to continue to support Bluetooth and casting, but sometimes wires are just better and/or easier.
The Home Max also has a USB-C port. Again, this would be a great feature to add to the Nest speaker. With it, you could charge your phone or other USB-C devices. Having convenient access to power is never a bad thing.
If we get really greedy, we’d ask for optical audio out.
See also: Amazon Echo vs. Google Home
5. The best radios
It goes without saying that Google should update the wireless portions of the next Google Nest speaker with the best available. That means Bluetooth 5 and dual-band Wi-Fi 6. These future-proof the product to some degree.
Bluetooth 5 is the standard for flagship smartphones. It’s biggest advancements are reduced power requirements. It would behoove Google to also ensure the speaker supports a wide range of Bluetooth codecs. We’re talking AAC and aptX/aptX HD.
Wi-Fi 6 is the current generation of Wi-Fi. It’s just getting a toehold in the industry, as the gear began reaching the market in January. Wi-Fi 6 has distinct advantages over Wi-Fi 5 and earlier versions of the wireless spec. To start, it’s blazing fast. More importantly, it’s better able to tackle multiple devices on a single network. This is important when your Google Nest speaker is sharing Wi-Fi with a range of other gear.
See also: Best Bluetooth speakers
Bonus: Odds and ends
When polled, Android Authority staffers had a long list of requests. Here are some other features we’d like to see on a potential Google Home Nest speaker.
- Physical mute switch — Not just a toggle, something that definitively switches the microphone off for privacy.
- Stereo pairing — The ability to pair two or more Google Next speakers to create a stereo effect.
- Auto digital signal processing — The larger Google Home Max tunes itself to match the room. An improved version of that would be welcome.
- More/better lights — The lighting system on the Google Nest is perhaps overly simplistic. Better indicators as to its status would be helpful. Heck, throw in an LED clock while you’re at it.
- Better support for multiple Google accounts — While Google Assistant is very good at recognizing end-user voices, it could be better when multiple Google accounts are involved.
Would you buy a new Google Home Nest speaker? Cast your vote in the poll below and let us know what features you’d like to see in the comments.