Google Home isn't customized for the Indian market, but it still has a few tricks up its sleeve.
The Google Home was unveiled back at I/O 2016, and the device is now available in India, alongside the newer Google Home Mini. Google has a limited presence in India on the hardware front, and the launch of the Home and Home Mini comes at a key moment as the company tries to takes on Amazon in this category. Amazon launched the Echo family in India last November, with the retailer customizing Alexa to a great extent for the Indian market.
With the Google Home set to retail for ₹9,999 ($155) and the Home Mini available for ₹4,499 ($70), Google is targeting the exact same price point as the Echo and Echo Dot.
Google Home isn't tailored for India
Right off the front, there's a key difference between the Echo family and Google Home in India — whereas the former is heavily customized and integrates with a host of local services, the latter has little to no customization.
I've been using a Google Home for over a year and a half now, and I was excited when I heard that the company was officially launching the product in the country — looking forward to integrating Uber, Ola, Zomato and others with my Google Home.
However, that isn't the case: the Google Home doesn't hook into your Uber or Ola account, and as far as I can make out, there's no integration with local services aside from Gaana and Saavn. What's even more frustrating is that Google Home doesn't come with the ability to converse in Hindi out of the box. Google rolled out Hindi compatibility for Google Assistant earlier this year, but you won't be able to talk to the virtual assistant in Hindi on your Google Home or Home Mini.
Google Home is yet to integrate with local services like Ola, Uber, and Zomato.
Hindi Assistant compatibility would've given the Google Home an automatic advantage over the Echo family, as Alexa is yet to pick up the feature. Not doing so is a failure on Google's part, and makes the Google Home much less enticing.
Given the lack of customization, I don't understand why Google waited so long to launch the Google Home in India. Amazon invested a significant amount of resources to integrate Alexa with local services — and it works seamlessly with the likes of Zomato and Ola — so it stands to reason that Google would do the same.
But what you get with the Google Home is a product that offers little customization for the Indian market. Worse still, it doesn't come with features that Google Home has in the U.S. — there's no hands-free calling, and routines aren't live at launch. Basically, there's no difference in the user experience at all; my Google Home has the exact same functionality as before.
And for some reason, Spotify integration was disabled a few weeks ago, so there's no way to ask Assistant to play a particular playlist on Spotify anymore — now I have to cast tunes to a Google Home device to play them.
But it's great if you use Google services
Right now, the main reason to get the Google Home over Amazon's Echo devices is for its integration with Google services. On this front, it does a much better job than Alexa.
Google Assistant hooks into your calendar to give you a rundown of upcoming events, suggests the fastest route to take to work, and seamlessly pulls in weather information.
If you're tied to the Google ecosystem, you'll want to pick one up.
There's much more in the same vein — you'll be able to cast content from Netflix to your Chromecast or Android TV (but no Hotstar), play fun games, stream songs from Play Music, Gaana, and Saavn, and control smart lighting.
Talking about music, the Google Home is fantastic for playing songs — I prefer it over my Echo Plus. There are other small touches: you'll be able to ask Assistant to locate your phone, and you can set up profiles for various members in your family and it will offer customized results for each.
I was excited for the Google Home to make its debut in India, but it's clear that a lot of work is needed on the customization front. That said, the Google Home is still fantastic if you use a lot of Google services, and Google Assistant is a lot of fun to interact with.
It'll be interesting to see how the Google Home matures over time in the country, but it isn't hard to imagine that Google missed out on a huge opportunity by not offering Hindi compatibility out of the box.