Xiaomi Launches First Smart Speaker With Google Assistant in India
Xiaomi debuted its first smart speaker with Google Assistant on Tuesday. The new Mi Smart Speaker debuted exclusively in India and includes Chromecast along with the voice assistant. The new smart speaker arrived as part of a set of new smart devices by Xiaomi for the Indian market, including a smartwatch and a fitness band.
Xiaomi has done well domestically with its line of smart speakers and smart home devices but has been limited in its international presence with those devices in part because its XiaoAI voice assistant only speaks Chinese. The new smart speaker bypasses that issue by incorporating Google Assistant, which speaks English and Hindi on the device. The Mi Smart Speaker is about the same size as a Google Home but includes elements that mimic an Amazon Echo such as touch controls on the top of the device and a colored ring light like to indicate the voice assistant is listening. The two far-field microphones and overall shape make it look like a Bose speaker, and the directional sound system encourages pairing two of the devices to make a stereo audio system.
The mimicry of other devices isn’t a surprise. Xiaomi has been called out for doing so before, as with the XiaoAI Art Speaker from earlier this year. The metal-bodied smart speaker looked a lot like an Apple HomePod sibling, much as the company’s smart display took its cues from the Echo Show, and its smartwatch could be confused for an Apple Watch in look and style. Google Assistant acts in the speaker much as it would with any third-party device. It operates through the Google Home mobile app and can run any Google Action that isn’t exclusive to Google-built speakers. The biggest difference is probably the price. The speaker costs 4,000 rupees, about $55, and is available for only about $47 as an introductory device, including a year’s subscription to the Gaana music streaming app.
What makes the smart speaker so notable for having Google Assistant is the complicated international picture for Chinese voice assistant developers. An executive order by the United States putting new restrictions on tech imports from China caused a big mess for Xiaomi rival Huawei, who had been planning to partner with Google to bring Google Assistant-powered Huawei smartphone and other devices to the U.S. Huawei built an entirely new voice assistant named Celia for the international market, albeit only after the Sound X smart speaker arrived in Europe without any voice assistant at all. Huawei did bring Celia to India in June, but only by integrating it into its mobile app and website with the same wake word system. Rather than just performing like Siri or Google Assistant, Celia in India acts as a Huawei informational guide. Celia answers questions about smartphones to help people choose one to buy, and can troubleshoot technical problems by text and voice. Xiaomi isn’t under the same penalties, but the regulatory hurdles seemed like it made the difference irrelevant. By adding Google Assistant to its devices, even if only in India, Xiaomi could get a leg up on its local rival even as Google Assistant offers a very cheap interface to its growing Indian market