I received a Google Home for Christmas last year. It sits in the living room listening to our every word, watching the TV with us, quietly and patiently waiting for us to ask it a question. Half the time we get the standard, “I don’t know how to answer that,” answer. Then my husband will say snidely that you have to learn to ask it the right way.
For the last five months, we’ve asked Google maybe fifty questions. What year was this movie released? When did so and so die? Is so and so alive? We’ve also used the timer a dozen times and played a few ballet tunes so we could watch our granddaughter dance. I knew that we weren’t getting our money’s worth, so I decided to research and find out what this hot little cone can do.
First stop was the Google Home Help features page.
I looked at all the features to see if anything would make my life simpler, or at least more fun with as little hassle as possible. Listed on the page were about 40 features broken up in various categories. A few sounded fun, searching for a You Tube video and playing it on your TV and controlling your lights and thermostat, but I knew those were way way too involved with what I wanted to do.
You could check flight schedules. Big deal. I don’t fly. You could check traffic. Big deal. I don’t commute. You could find recipes. No thanks. My husband does the cooking, so none of these features appealed to me.
This little device is capable of incredible things, but the power comes with the add-ons. In order to play the You Tube videos and sync your Netflix with Google Home, you need Chromecast, a streaming device you plug into your TV after purchasing for $35.
Although Chromecast sounded like a fun toy to use by itself, I wasn’t going to purchase it to use with my Google Home. I didn’t need to make my TV work by voice activation. Half the fun of sitting down to watch television is surfing the channels to see what’s on and what you’re missing.
On to another feature. IFTTT, which stands for “If this then that.” There are hundreds listed, but you need to look through them to find the ones that work with Google Assistant.
Google Assistant is the app you’ll need on your phone that syncs with Google Home.
You have to sign up for IFTTT account to get started. Once you’ve signed up, search under Google Assistant so you’ll be looking at applets that you can use with the Google Home. I scrolled through the possibilities and found three that I could see myself using, creating a note in Evernote (include links), texting, and find your phone.
I tried configuring all three apps and had luck with only one, find your phone. This is a handy app when you’re searching for your phone. We’ve all misplaced our phone and how often have we asked someone to call our phone so we can find it. Now you don’t have to rely on another person. Google Home will do it for you. Just ask Google to find your phone. Simple to set up and simple to use. My kind of app.
The texting feature is now available on Google Home but alas doesn’t work for me. All I get is “I can’t text at this time.” Again, the point is to not waste a lot of time trying to get these applets to work. It defeats the purpose of leading the simple life we’re striving for. The other drawback to this applet is that it is person specific because you have to configure the applet to a specific phone number. If you have one person you text a lot and feel that Google Home would come in handy, then by all means play around and see if you can get the applet to work.
Finally, I decided to try the Evernote applet one more time. While searching for answers about why this wouldn’t work, a little window popped up to chat with a Google rep. I had a few minutes, so I decided to ask if the problem was that my Evernote account used a different email. Being first in the queue it only took a few minutes for the rep to contact me.
Try using the Google chat.
She answered that the email was not the issue and that she would like to help me solve my problem. Ninety minutes later she did it. I was impressed that she stuck it out that long. I was ready to give up, but decided to see it through. At least I would have an answer and more information to report back to you.
Instead of using one of the available applets, she led me through the process of creating my own applet. Once we figured out what we were doing wrong, the process was easy. Maybe there’s a problem with using the available applet. I’m going to try creating my own applet for texting my husband to see if this works. If not, I’m done.
I’m so glad that I spent time with the Google rep because she showed me possibilities. If you find yourself repeating a task that Google Home could do, create your own applet. You are only limited by your imagination. And it’s free.
Smart Apps is another feature used with Google Home. These are what you’ll need to adjust thermostat and lights for example. You’ll also need the lights and thermostat that work with this feature, plus money and more time. This one is not for me.
The music lover should check out Google Play.
If you are a music lover, then I would recommend setting up your music in Google Play and learning how to use it on your Home. Under Google Play you can create music stations and then “cast” whatever station you want to listen to.
Home will not play any music that you transferred from CD to you Google music library. You’ll have to play those on a CD player. You can also ask Home to play the specific music station you created as long as you give it the correct name, or just ask for a specific genre and it will choose for you.
This casting feature will also work with anything you’re listening to on your phone, for example, a podcast. Go to you Google Home app and under settings, select cast. I’m listening to history lectures from a Hillsdale College course and found that I can cast these to my Google Home device.
Now that I know about all these features, I’ll be on the look out for ways that Google Home can make my life simpler. I know that I’ve only expanded my Google Home use a little, but it’s a start. I began with the basics, asking a few questions and setting a timer for my cat to enjoy the winter weather. Now I can listen to my music stations, put a note in Evernote and cast my history lectures.
I’m closer to giving Google Home a thumbs up. Now it’s your turn. Tell me what you use your Google Home for and how it makes your life simpler.