If leaked photos, specifications and pricing are to be believed, expect to see Google debut the Google Home Hub on October 9 for $150. The device appears to be Google’s take on a smart display, and will compete against similar, but more expensive, models from Lenovo and JBL that are currently available. The leaks show what looks like a landscape mode 7-inch tablet attached to a half-circle speaker. I expect better sound from it compared with a Google Home — but not better sound when compared with the massive Google Home Max. I’m also surprised it doesn’t have a camera, which may be a favorable omission to those who want to ensure privacy.
Given that I really like the Lenovo Smart Display — it has quickly become my most used digital assistant product — you’d think I’d be happy to hear about the Google Home Hub. Based on what we know (or think we know), I feel like this is a missed opportunity for Google to offer a true smart home hub; something I called for back in March.
Unless there’s a surprise or the leaked specifications are inaccurate, the Google Home Hub uses Wi-Fi and Bluetooth for its connectivity.
While you could have a hub using only those two radios, which is what Apple does for HomeKit, it’s not typical for a full-featured hub. Supporting Zigbee and Z-Wave are a must for the broadest range of smart home products. This is why I haven’t bought into the Amazon Echo Plus: In addition to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, it uses Zigbee but not Z-Wave.
I realize that many people have a Google Home or Amazon Echo, but not a four-radio hub like I’m describing. And I’m sure they’re happy enough. But I don’t consider those devices to be true hubs. Yes, they do integrate with certain devices for voice control. And we’ve recently seen the addition of improved automations and scheduled routines. To me though, these are more like “light” hubs and I’m not referring to bulbs; I mean they’re not as full featured as a Samsung SmartThings or Wink hub.
In fact, while I use both Google Home and Amazon Echo devices in my house, the only reason some of my devices can be voice controlled are because I have a hub in my home. Aside from supporting many stand-alone devices that use Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, the Google Home products work with SmartThings and Wink. That’s an important integration.
Without my Wink hub, for example, my Google Home wouldn’t be able to access some of my sensors and smart lights that use either Zigbee or Z-Wave. Heck, if it wasn’t for the Nest Connect “bridge” included with my Nest x Yale lock, Google Home wouldn’t have access to my front door: The lock uses the Thread protocol which sends signals to the Nest Connect for Wi-Fi and internet remote access to the lock.
Perhaps it’s just me stuck in this world of multiple radio interconnectivity and we’re moving away from that need. I’m all for improving ways to tie our home assistants to more devices and the simpler that is, the better. But we’re not there yet and there are good reasons to keep using Zigbee or Z-Wave in devices, such as their power efficiency. Without these radios in the Google Home Hub, this is just another smart display with a screen.
That doesn’t mean Google won’t find success in selling this product: Clearly, I like Google-powered smart displays. And at a rumored $150, this one will appeal to many consumers. But based on the connectivity specs, I think the Google Home Hub could have been so much more for the smart home.