We’ve talked before and you’ve likely heard around the internet that Google Home, for all its awesome ability, is not much more than a Chromecast in a jar’s clothing.
One of the greatest features of Home is the ability to cast content with only your voice, and while there are quite a few things you can do, there are plenty of limitations for the time being.
Let’s Start With What You Can Do
Admittedly, this list is pretty good for a first-gen product. Google Home does some impressive stuff, and here’s a quick list of things you can do with a Chromecast right now.
- Cast YouTube Videos
- Cast Google Play Music
- Cast Pandora
- Cast Spotify
- Cast YouTube Music
All you have to do is say, “Hey Google, play Uptown Funk from Play Music on (fill in your Chromecast’s name).” That’s it. Home will do the rest. Additionally, you can tell Google Home to play, pause, stop, turn up or down volume and mute playback.
While this list is decent, there are clearly some missing pieces here. Mainly, it is missing services.
A quick, technical note. Though most casted content is sent from a device that runs the corresponding app, the actual act of casting content is a totally cloud-driven process. Your app simply serves as the reference point for the Chromecast to understand what content to grab and where to start. When you hit the cast button, the Chromecast is pulling the content to itself based on your request. Feasibly, Google Home is not different. It takes your voice, processes the request, and tells the Chromecast to begin playback.
There is no real need for Google Home to have installed apps, necessarily. It doesn’t have YouTube or Google Play music installed and can begin a casting session just fine. That’s a very good thing, as we’ll see shortly.
All told, the list of things Home cannot do shouldn’t be hard to minimize over time.
So, What Can’t Home Do Right Now?
Still, as a holiday gift or new toy, there are some limitations I’m glad I was aware of before I bought mine, so I wanted to share.
There are lots of simple tasks that Home cannot do at the moment. Create/read calendar events (I mean, really? This is a big omission…), create/read reminders, read/send email, read/send Hangouts, read/send Allo messages, fetch directions…the list is pretty big, honestly. And this list extends to Google Assistant which is the backbone of the software running on Home.
But we’re here to talk about casting abilities. And the lack of them.
Don’t expect your Google Home to initially be able to:
- Play a Netflix show or movie
- Play anything from Play Movies
- Play a show on Hulu
- Play shows on network TV apps like NBC, CBS, TBS, etc.
- Play shows from dedicated services like Disney Junior or Nickelodeon
- Play specific songs from Play Music (with consistency)
Those omissions are rough, to be honest. We’ve been casting Netflix, Hulu, and Play Movies for years. Google’s omission of it’s own, soon-to-be 4K service seems a bit like a Beta move, to be honest.
If things work with Play Music, it seems a bit silly that Google’s accompanying video service didn’t make the cut.
The omissions of big players in the streaming video industry could hurt adoption a bit up front.
Should You Buy It?
Absolutely! Here’s the beautiful thing about Google Home, Assistant, and the casting protocol.
They are completely cloud-driven!
What that means is without app download and ecosystems in the way, the abilities of Google Home will only grow as days go by. Abilities and features can literally be added 24 hours a day because the hardware needs no updates to add features.
Only the software. And the software is the ever-evolving Google Assistant. I’d bet that a month or two from now, the things I’m waiting for Home to do will be features, not exclusions.
I have a really good feeling that Google Home will become a fantastic, full featured service hub for homes everywhere.
It’s not there yet, but the road to get there is straighter and simpler than almost any product that exists.