I’m the typical Indian middle-class lout, whose sole dream is to achieve enough in life to be able to afford my own home and have servants so I can yell “Ramu Kaka, chai please!”, and be thoroughly spoilt as I’m waited on, hand and foot. However, since the new world has made me feel like a white slave-owner for having such aspirations, I’m forced to give up my position of “middle-class privilege” and rely on technology to do my bidding for me. That piqued my interest in these smart home devices…
Most of you will not care about smart home devices (SHDs), and for good reason. I call them Smart Assistant Devices myself, because that way the acronym spells out SAD, which is what they are in a nutshell.
Of course, there will still be millions who will throw their money at the three major brands who are making these SAD things, Amazon, Google and soon, Apple. If rumours are to be believed, the Apple HomePod will be the SADdest device of them all – it’s limited to playing music and dictating a text using your iPhone, and if you can find them, controlling the few Apple-certified SHDs that exist.
I have faith in people’s stupidity, so I have no doubt that HomePods will fly off shelves. In fact, I’m already one of the stupid crowd because I bought a Google Home… all because I’m too lazy to lift up my phone to cue up a song.
Like a lot of other tech enthusiasts, I love spending my “hard earned” money on gadgets, and some of those were smart lights and switches. Because, you know, I just wanted to be able to turn the lights on or off, or make them dimmer using my phone. That was fun for awhile, but it got old really quick. So obviously when I had a chance to buy Google Home, I jumped at it. That’s a typical feature with me. I jump at things too often. It’s like I have pogo sticks instead of legs…
So why didn’t I opt for the Echo over the Home, or wait for the HomePod? Because the Echo is more tuned around Amazon services, the Home is made for Google services, and HomePod is locked to the Apple ecosystem. Although the Echo is supposed to be able to do some cool things like order pizzas and buy stuff off Amazon by just talking to it, and controlling smart home devices, it’s only the last one of those that interest me. I’m not going to be ordering anything from Amazon without looking at it on a screen first, and I’m super lazy, but not that lazy! Besides, most of those features probably don’t work in India. Google, on the other hand, is something I use all the time. I have an Android phone, Gmail is my primary email solution, I use Drive extensively, and especially Google Calendar. Plus, Google Home works with IFTTT, so it should be easy to get stuff to work, right?
Well, that’s what I thought but it was a hit and miss affair. I have some Belkin WeMo smart lights and sometimes Google Assistant just decides it doesn’t like my accent or just doesn’t like me, and does some stupid stuff.
But that’s the Google Assistant on my phone. Trying to get Google Home to recognise the same commands was a nightmare. And by that, I mean being moody and working as intermittently or less than the Google Assistant on my phone.
This is what the state of SADs right now. They’re quirky, buggy and barely off the drawing board. Pretty much any SAD owner will report the same experience, and yet… I wouldn’t sell my Google Home to you or return it to get my money back (if I could, I mean).
It’s still a decent speaker (for a kitchen or study), and the novelty of setting alarms, having it play me a song I like on command, or bring up a recipe for something, or even Googling a stupid fact, like “How tall was Napolean” makes it fun. The best feature of all? Since I’ve placed it in my kitchen, I can use my phone to say “Ramu Kaka, chai please” from my bedroom, without having to shout!