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The Google Home Hub drops next week: Here’s what we think we know

It’s been a year and a couple of days since hyper-secretive Google revealed that it was working on a smart display designed to work with its Google Assistant. Over time, there have been leaks, rumors, and informed speculation as engineers, market analysts, and other interested parties pored over Federal Communications Commission filings and fuzzy JPEGs to try to piece together some kind of picture of the latest bombshell in the smart home market. It is very likely that the device will be unveiled at next week’s Google Hardware event in New York City but in the meantime, let’s play smart house and check out just what we think this gizmo will do.

what to expect from google october event 2018 home hub leak backCredit: MySmartPrice

What it does

Like most smart speakers, it handles a lot of everyday entertainment and productivity functions like issuing commands, making shopping lists, and placing audio calls to friends and businesses. Like other Google Assistant-supported devices, it uses a voice-matching function to identify separate users and deliver their calendar, commute, and reminders, augmented by the new screen visuals.

More importantly, it will integrate seamlessly with third-party providers like Nest. As with similar Google devices, the Google Home Hub should support more than 5,000 products across 400 brands.

The Google Home Hub will also allow access to Google photos, allowing users to enable “Live Albums” to create slideshows or simply generate them on the fly with voice commands like, “Hey Google, show me my photos from New York City.” The presumably HD display will also play videos from YouTube and a few other video apps.

The specs

Here are the basics on the technical specifications: It has a 7-inch screen, which is probably a specific choice that affects the price point — not as big as a standard tablet but a pretty good size compared to a smartphone screen and compact enough to fit tighter spaces like countertops.

It weighs about 17 ounces (480g) and its dimensions run about 7 inches by 4.5 inches with a surprisingly robust depth of 2.65 inches — analysts have pointed out that it weighs the same as the standard Google Home, which means the engineers have been tinkering with its guts to make it lighter. Others have also wondered if Google has opted for a cheaper processor to bring down the price.

Per connectivity, the device will support 802.11b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi in both 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz bands.

There are two physical controls that are likely to turn out to be a volume rocker and a privacy switch to turn off the microphone to stop the device from listening for “OK, Google” voice commands. There’s also talk of an ambient light and color sense to allow the Hub to set a mood, so to speak.

In the box: the Google Home Hub, its 15-watt power adapter, a quick start guide, and a warranty booklet.

Some observations on design

The current thinking is that the Google Home Hub will follow the current Home aesthetic of quality fabrics and muted colors; the initial leaked images of the device indicate that it will initially be available in “chalk” (white) and “charcoal” (black), although Google counterintuitively introduced a new color for the Google Home Mini, “aqua” in advance of the Google Hardware event, so we will see if that choice extends to the Google Home Hub or not.

Another curious question about the Google Home Hub is about the now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t stand that appears in leaked photos. In some photos, the Hub is held upright by a stand or some kind of physical base. In others, the device stands alone. Whether this means the Google Home Hub can be detached from its base and moved around like a stand-alone tablet remains to be seen.

google home hub charcoal color leaked ah 02Courtesy of Android Headlines

What we don’t know yet

First, Google hasn’t specified the resolution of its nifty 7-inch screen or audio specifications beyond the “full-range speakers for crystal clear sound.” Anyone who tried to listen to the latest Lady Gaga single on a tablet versus a Bluetooth soundbar would beg to differ on the quality between the two.

Here’s the big kicker: Almost every other smart display product includes a camera (sometimes two) to enable the functionality of certain apps. According to everything that market watchers have been able to discover about the Google Home Hub, it doesn’t have a single camera integrated into the product. Some have suggested that the camera might not be visible on the images that have leaked out so far, but the leaked spec page doesn’t indicate one either.

Does this mean Google wants to direct camera users to its new Pixel smartphones for video calls or are they target marketing consumers who have serious privacy concerns about smart home products? Time will tell.

The pricing strategy

Google and Amazon are in a war with each other to capture the largest fraction of the smart home market as quickly as possible. The price of the Google Home Hub could be another barrage in Google’s latest bombardment, as retail venues like Home Depot have pre-listed the device for $150. This would undercut competing devices like the Lenovo Smart Display ($200) and JBL Link View ($250) by a significant amount.

Here is another curious point in the business plan: earlier this year, Google confirmed that certain Google Home features wouldn’t be made available on Lenovo’s smart displays. Combined with the fact that Google is adopting its fancy new hub into the Google Home family of products, this could mean that the Google Home Hub might have features and functionalities that the company hasn’t allowed to be ported to third-party software.

Our team is on deck to watch the Google Hardware event on Tuesday, October 9, starting at 11 a.m. (ET) and we will keep you posted on what Google drops for us next week.

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