The Google Home Mini – An Expert Little Assistant
What started out as a novelty purchase has surprisingly turned into a very useful and practical smart gadget. As a parent, the Google Home Mini has saved me a lot of time and has become a very handy assistant from making lists to setting reminders. It has stopped me having to manually google hundreds of eccentric questions which my 5-year-old insists I must have the answers to. There is something quite satisfying about asking my questions out loud rather than continually having to tap my finger across a smart phone. After 3 months with my ‘Miss Google’ (the name given to our assistant) I am still finding news ways to benefit from having this smart little helper in my life. Here are a few I have already discovered.
My Daily Summary
A handy little feature in the morning is to get the Google Mini to give you a summary of your day. “Hey Google, tell me about my Day” will prompt a response to tell you about the Weather, the traffic on your commute, the meetings you have today including reminders you have set. It will also give you some news headlines. And if you prefer to listen to RTE or BBC you can customise these news items to your news channels of choice.
Find My Phone
Losing my phone at home is something I seem to do on a daily basis. The only benefit of our now almost obsolete home phone was that I could use it to ring and find out where I had left my mobile phone in the house. Since getting the Google Home Mini I’m thinking of putting my land line to sleep permanently. I don’t need it. “OK Google Find My Phone”. In fact, even if you have your phone ring is on mute, she will still ring it on full volume.
A Smart Assistant in Many Ways
The ‘Google Assistant’ does exactly what her name suggests and covers a remit of Assistant roles:
- Kitchen assistant “Hey Google, what ingredients do I need for flapjacks?”
- Homework assistant “Tell me about the Battle of the Somme!”
- Language assistant – “What is the French for hand”
- Quiz assistant “What is the tallest building in the world?”
- Shopping assistant – “Where can I buy a mattress nearby?”
- Dictionary Assistant – “How do you spell handkerchief? What does organon mean?”
I am secretly hoping there will be an updated version with the added functionality of an Ironing and Hoovering Assistant - now that would be the ultimate smart home assistant!
Turn Your Google Mini into a Super Sound Speaker
Before we bought the smart speaker, I read reviews that the Google Mini sound was not great for playing music. Although I wasn’t buying it as a music speaker, I was delighted to discover I could connect the Google Home Mini to my Bose Soundlink by Bluetooth. This meant I when I asked the Google Mini to play music it would allow my requests to play directly on the rich sounding Bose speaker instead.
Pairing the Mini to another speaker involves going to the Home App, clicking on ‘Local Devices’ and choosing your Google Mini. Then click on the ‘Settings’ Icon and Under ‘Paired Bluetooth Devices’ you can enable pairing mode to connect to other Bluetooth speakers and devices.
Control your Smart Home Devices with the Google Mini
I have been a relatively slow adopter of smart home devices. Anyone who has a Nest or Hive smart thermostat, a ring doorbell or Philips Hue Smart bulbs will find the Google Home Mini invaluable for setting timers and turning the devices on an off.
Along with our smart TV, last year we invested in a smart plug which was strategically used with our Christmas Tree. Each winter evening, I would say ‘Ok Google Turn off the Christmas Tree Lights’ and then smile as I was saved from having to wrestle the tree to try and reach for the elusive plug.
Using the Google Home Mini with your TV
I was delighted to find out the Google Mini worked seamlessly with our new Smart TV. No need to go looking for the remote to turn it on. For a while it wouldn’t turn it off, but that seems to have been fixed in a recent update. I found it particularly useful for streaming You Tube videos. Rather than searching on YouTube, I now just say ‘Hey Google play a Video on Youtube about How to do Pilates” and hey presto, my TV turns on with a relevant video showing. And you can pause and stop it as easily just using your voice.
On one occasion the Google Assistant’s link to the TV proved invaluable. At 6am on a Saturday morning my 5-year old girl was up. I knew this because the blaring TV below my bedroom had woken me up. There was little point shouting down as it was so loud. I was going to have to get up, but a thought struck me- my Google assistant has access to our Smart TV. ‘OK Google turn down the volume of the Living Room TV’. And then there was no blare, well for about 10 seconds until out little person got her hands on the remote. 4 times I battled with my daughter for control of the TV sound. Luckily, she didn’t realise she was battling with her mother, or may not have giving up so easily.
The Google Mini as an Intercom
The Google Mini has become a really handy device for calling the kids for dinner. Any parent will empathise with the frustration of calling your kids down for dinner to complete silence. Well if you have multiple Google Mini’s it can be used as an intercom between devices making it easier to make your voice heard upstairs. What is not widely known is that you can also have an intercom with just one Google mini by asking the Google Assistant on your phone to broadcast to the google mini (or whatever name you have given your device). Not surprisingly the children seem to take more notice of Google’s posh voice startling them in the bedroom with a dinner invitation than my loud tones shouting up the stairs
The hands-free Google Mini Radio
I recently bought my parents a fantastic Bluetooth speaker with a built-in radio which was their daily companion in the kitchen. Unfortunately, my parents didn’t share my enthusiasm for this state-of-the-art speaker. When my Father accidently put the device into a lock mode, he decided the best way to fix it (which should have been to press 2 buttons together) was to take it apart! And suddenly there was no kitchen radio.
I wondered if the Google Mini would be able to help my parents out with their radio issue. ‘Hey Google, Play the Radio” disappointingly responded in “Alright here is some music on Spotify”. A few other similar requests had similar results but when I more specifically asked it “OK Google Play RTE Radio 1”, it responded – “Here is RTE Radio 1 on Tune-In”. There was a long pause and then Ryan Tubridy’s south Dublin tones came over the speaker. It was ideal for my parents. No more fiddling with buttons - just ask “Hey Google Play BBC Radio 4” – “Sure, here is BBC Radio 4 on the BBC”.
Making Lists with the Google Mini
In addition to setting alarms and reminders, making lists is easy with the Google Mini. You can give each list a name and I find it handy that I don’t need to make the list in one go. If I have forgotten something, I can add things to it later
“Ok Google Add Eggs to my Shopping List”. Services like shopping lists require specific voice recognition, so joint lists might not work. If you can’t remember what’s on your list “Hey Google What’s on my Shopping List?”. What’s a little frustrating is that the Google Home Mini won’t let you clear the shopping list by voice – well not at the moment. This has to be done on the Google Home App.
Google Assistant Vs Alexa
This is the questions everyone is asking. Which Smart Speaker should I buy? Which Smart Assistant is better? Well, I haven’t used Alexa yet or Siri, so I can’t really comment which is better. But who better to answer the question? “Ok Google are you better than Alexa?”. Well, all her answers were very diplomatic and friendly “I couldn’t compare myself to Alexa, Assistants have to stick together!”, “I think Alexa is great, let me know if she is nearby, I would love to talk to her”.
I asked the question in a different way “Ok Google what do you think of Alexa?” “I think Alexa is great, let me know if she is nearby, I would love to talk to her”. “I like Alexa’s cool blue light, plus we share an affinity for Star Wars”.
Maybe she would have a different view about Siri. “Siri, I like her name”, “Siri is the best Siri, I try to be the best Google Assistant”.
Making Calls with the Google Mini
This function is available in most countries, but doesn’t seem to be available in Ireland yet, well not under my current firmware. I am expecting this function to be available with future updates.
For further information or to buy a Google Home Mini – click this link:
Written by: Tanya Waters for Smarterhomestore.com