Google Home Hub $149 and Available in US, UK and Australia on October 22nd
- Google Home Hub is a smart display (smart speaker with a screen) priced at $149
- The device will begin shipping on October 22nd in U.S., U.K. and Australia
- There is no camera which means no video chat, but Google is pitching this as enhanced privacy
- Core device features include controlling configurations for smart home devices
Google today announced the Google Home Hub smart display at an event in New York City. It will retail for $149, is available for pre-order today and start shipping on October 22nd in the U.S., U.K. and Australia. Google executive Diya Jolly introduced the key product features with great emphasis on its ability to control other Google devices from a single control panel. Google sees Home Hub as a central console for the smart home as well as a smart display used to answer questions, provide information and access YouTube video content.
No Camera and Small Size Screen
Google is heading in the opposite direction of the current smart display trend with no onboard camera and a small screen size. The company is positioning the lack of a camera as nod to privacy so you can place Home Hub in any room in the house. By contrast, the new Facebook Portal does little beyond video chat and video calls are a core feature of Amazon Echo Show. Even the Google Assistant-powered Lenovo Smart Display promotes its video calling features using Google Duo. Whereas the other smart displays are emphasizing their ability to enable person-to-person connectivity, Google Home Hub is more of an information utility and smart home control device.
The small screen size is also a big contrast to other smart displays. Lenovo Smart Display has 10-inch and 8-inch screen options and the 2nd generation Echo Show has a 10.1-inch screen. Notably Echo Show 1st Gen only had a 7-inch screen and Amazon after a year in market decided the larger screen was a necessary upgrade. Facebook Portal is offered in 10-inch and 15-inch sizes. To put this in perspective, the new Pixel 3 XL has a 6.3-inch screen which means the Home Hub screen is only 11% larger than Google’s flagship oversized smartphone.
You can get a sense for how small this device is in a product video created by Google. The small size meant Home Hub even needed to be placed on a stack of books to make it stand out in the video demonstration. Given the use cases, the screen size may be okay but it is something you need to be nearby in order to view. You will not be able to interact with the screen from across the room or from more than a few feet away. However, the smart speaker capabilities should operate as well as a Google Home from a distance.
The Price Stands Out More Than Features
The $149 list price is aggressive compared to devices from Facebook, Amazon, Lenovo and JBL that range from $199 – $250. The only real feature differentiation is the ability to control smart home devices which will be attractive to many users, but may not be something that drives mass adoption. Amazon repeatedly discounted Echo Show 1st generation to $129-$175 so Google may wind up offering even steeper discounts to maintain the low-price leader position in the smart display category.
Google Home Hub is the company’s first smart display so there will no doubt be a learning curve. Experience with the 1st Gen Amazon Echo Show suggests that the video calling, YouTube access and recipe skills were the items that really stood out as differentiators over a standard smart speaker. Google Home Hub has two of these three elements, but the small display will likely be considered a drawback. Yes, it can fit in compact spaces, but that will come with the sacrifice of easy viewing.
The bigger question may well be whether smart displays will take off as a category. If consumers do flock to these devices during the 2018 holiday season, then Google Assistant aficionados will have other smart display options with larger screens, better sound quality and more features from Lenovo, JBL and Sony. You should expect those to also get the Home Hub smart home control features before long. Success in the space will determine whether Google invests in an upgraded Home Hub for release in 2019.