Speaker technology has never been more exciting, particularly with the recent explosion in smart speakers. For the uninitiated, smart speaker are loudspeakers with an additional voice command feature and integrated virtual assistant.
Using your smart speaker, you can play and pause music with a voice command, but the functionality can go much further than this. Your smart speakers are linked to an online virtual assistant that can answer queries, set appointments, and order products to be delivered to your home, for example.
And if you have other smart devices in your home, you can use your smart speaker to interact with them. Just by using your voice, you can dim your lights, stream movies on your TV, set your home security alarms, or close your curtains, for instance.
Smart speakers ecosystems
Smart devices ecosystems have been developed by many companies. In English-speaking countries, the most popular smart device systems come from:
Google, which offers the Google Home series of smart home products,
Apple, with its Amazon HomePod and HomePod Mini,
Amazon, which offers the Amazon Echo series of products.
When you’re choosing a smart speaker, you will likely want to select a speaker that has support for one or more of these smart home systems, allowing for the best compatibility with other devices.
If you primarily use Google products like Chromecast and Android phones, it makes sense to choose a smart speaker and smart home hub that’s compatible with Google Home. If you mainly use Apple devices, you may prefer an Apple smart speaker.
For this guide, we’ll assume you’re looking to use Google Home as the basis of your smart home with smart speakers. Other ecosystems have similar features.
Google Home speakers
Even within the Google Home ecosystem, there are many speakers from which to choose. Here is a summary of some of our top choices:
Google Nest Audio – At around $99, the Google Nest Audio has great sound yet doesn’t break the bank. It has a 75-mm woofer,19-mm tweeter, and connects to the rest of your home via 2.5G or 5G wireless internet. It looks great and can fit into any home.
Google Nest Mini – At around $49, the Mini version of the Google Nest system is a steal. It may only have a 40-mm driver, but it’s surprisingly clear and loud for its size, and its built-in microphones work well to pick up your commands.
Sonos One – If sound quality is important, the Sonos One smart speaker beats Google’s own speakers and still supports Google Home. If you have multiple Sonos One devices, you can easily pair them together for an even more powerful sound.
Many more Google Home speakers exist, some with screens like the Google Nest Hub Max and the Lenovo Smart Clock, and some designed for portable use like the JBL Link 20 and Sonos Move. You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to smart home speakers that support Google Home.
Setting up a Google Nest or Home smart speaker
Smart home devices used to be a pain to set up, but that’s all changed thanks to the ubiquity of Wi-Fi home internet. Setting up a new Google Home speaker only requires you to download the Google Home app to your Android or iOS device and run through a few steps.
Switch on the speaker and tap on Set Up Device in the Google Home app. The speaker will be recognized and automatically added to the home network with just a few presses in the app.
How do you use a Google Home smart speaker?
Once set up, interacting with your smart speaker is as simple as saying “OK, Google…”, and adding a command. Below are some quick examples. For some to work, you’ll need the right corresponding smart device connected to the same Wi-Fi network as the smart speaker.
“Turn off my lights”
“Lock the front door”
“Turn the TV to HBO”
“Show the garden camera on the TV”
“Reboot my router”
“Do I need an umbrella today?”
“Play something from Adele on Spotify and turn off the living room lights”
“Play some rock”
“Stop playing in 20 minutes”
“What actors are in Toy Story?”
The list goes on and on. As you become more experienced using your smart speaker, these commands will become second nature. You can even string multiple commands together, set up routines, or have your smart home perform actions automatically.
Setting up Filters for Children
It’s so simple to use Google Home smart speakers. In fact, because they’re so effortless to use, you might want to rein in just what your kids can access through the system. Google Assistant has a robust system of parental controls so you can set up filters and downtime for your family.
To do so, open up the Google Home app on your Android or iOS device. Select the smart speaker you want to control and tap the settings button.
Here, you’ll find an option for Notifications & Digital Wellbeing. Under Digital Wellbeing, you’ll find the option to Set Up Filters.
Filters can be applied for everyone or just supervised accounts and guides. You can choose to disallow all video streaming, or only play videos from sources like YouTube Kids, YouTube Restricted Mode, and YouTube TV Filtered Content.
Similarly, you can block music with explicit lyrics, news, podcasts, calls, and websites.
Setting up downtime on a Google Home smart speaker
Now you’ve locked down what your kids can do and watch with your Google Home smart speakers, you can also limit when they use it. Under the Digital Wellbeing section, you’re able to specify the hours that Google Assistant can be used through the smart speaker. You could set that a speaker in your child’s room can’t be used on school nights but can be used at the weekend, for example.
Smart speakers are super convenient, fun, and easy to use. They’re inexpensive, too, and take
just moments to set up. Soon, you’ll be interacting with all the smart devices in your home, all through easy-to-remember voice commands.