Google Home Mini is Google’s first compact smart home hub and smart speaker with built-in Google Assistant, for the automation of homes. It is your best and cheapest bet to life in Google's smart home ecosystem.
Its smart factor is based on the artificial intelligence-powered virtual assistant developed by Google, the Google Assistant.
Google Home Mini requires stable Wi-Fi, power, and an Android or iOS mobile device to run the managing App, Google Home App.
What does the Google Home Mini do?
One of Google Home Mini’s endeavors is to deliver personalized help to each one of its users. Upon learning your voice, location, frequent needs, and how you like them, the smart speaker responds to your needs in the way that suits you best.
You can set it up to give you real-time news around you; weather updates for your location, sports news, traffic within your environ, and even the political atmosphere of the day.
Google Home Mini integrates various Internet of Things (IoT) devices to automate the running of your smart home. Such devices do not have to be Google smart hardware but must be Google Assistant-enabled.
This smart speaker can communicate with other smart devices from Wemo, Philips Hue, and TP-Link to mention but a few.
It can order the smart lights to go on, dim, or go off. It instructs your Chromecast to show a YouTube or Netflix movie or even a TV show you want.
It can also read out an audiobook or play a podcast you like. It streams music from Apps such as Pandora, YouTube music, iHeartradio, TuneIn, and Spotify.
The Google Assistant-managed smart speakers can also make free calls within the US and promise to flood the same within the UK. The rest of the world may have to wait a little longer.
How does a Google Home Mini work?
Google Home Mini must first be set up using Google Home App on your smartphone or tablet to run your smart home.
The App gives you control over all the smart home devices you intend to use. It allows you to install, manage, and control the Home Mini as well as enable the smart speakers to communicate to the other smart devices as per your command.
Google Home App is available on Google Play Store and Apple Store for free. But there is more needed to enable Google Home Mini to run your smart home, especially because some of your smart devices are not engineered by Google.
You use Actions. They are the little apps and services that allow third-party Services to communicate with your Google Home Mini smart speakers. There are over 1 million Actions ready to serve your needs.
Actions are like Skills in Alexa, Amazon’s voice assistant. They enable you to get into action; play games, order a pizza, listen to guided meditation, control smart devices by other brands, to mention but a few. There are over one million Actions so far.
The difference between how Actions and Skills operate is that Actions do not need to be enabled as is the case with Alexa’s Skills.
Most are available for use as soon as they show up in the Services section of your Google Home App. Linking is however required for some services such as Uber and Netflix because such require a user account.
There are over 50 Services available on Google Home App today. As long as you know the Service you need, you can get it into action by issuing the command to your Google Home Mini.
“Hey Google, let me talk to Domino’s” is a good way to begin ordering your food from Dominos.
Google Home App is your first contact with Google Assistant as far as setting up your Google Home Mini is concerned.
This voice assistant is the character you talk to when you need things done by alerting it, “Hey Google… (the command)”. But first, here is how you set up the Google Home Mini to carry on with the actions you need taken.
Setting up Google Home Mini Using Google Home App
Plug the smart speakers on power then download the Google Home App on your smartphone or tablet and launch it. The App detects Google Home Mini speakers immediately prompting you to carry on with the setup.
If it does not see the smart speakers at first, tap the Device button at the top right corner of the App and proceed to Add New Device for more on-screen instruction.
The correct setup is confirmed with a sound from the Home Mini speakers. Proceed to inform the App where the smart speakers are located; the room.
This is necessary for easy identification if you ever decide to add another Home Mini in your home.
The next step requires you to log in to your Wi-Fi network and connect. Then review the privacy information and move on to train Google Home Mini to recognize your voice. Tap continue when the training is complete.
The smart speaker allows you to choose between various voices so it can use such while responding to your commands.
Fill in your location to enable Google Assistant to deliver correct real-time news; weather, traffic, or when you order for other services.
If necessary you, include a suitable payment method for when you want to make purchases through speaking to Google Home Mini. That concludes the setup.
The last bit gives you sample wake commands you use to engage with the Voice Assistant. 'Hey, Google' or 'Ok Google' followed by your request does the job.
How Google Home Mini Gets the Job Done
Say you want to play music from your Spotify account now that you have set up your Google Home Mini. Call out, “Hey Google, play music from Spotify”. That gets your music playing as requested.
As far as controlling your smart home is concerned, the macaron-looking smart speaker matches its mightier cousins; Google Home and Google Max.
They all have Google Assistant as their voice assistant. It is a wonder that Home Mini's compact size does not compromise the assistant's ability.
Its smart home hub ability is strong, able to capture your voice command even when you stand 10 feet away from it whether with a gentle voice or shout.
Google Home Mini delivers a 360-degree pitched sound but with a minuscule profile. Expect the crisps highs but no bass at all.
You should not compare it with the cousins. If you have to compare it with an Echo Dot, it does better than the second-generation Echo Dot but the fourth generation beats its pants down!
Should you need to group it with fellow Google smart speakers, its highs stand out. Overall, use it as a desk buddy, not a standalone speaker expecting full sound.
Google Home Mini also has a Bluetooth feature. That allows you to pair it with your smartphone or tablet using the Google Home App and play music.
It's unfortunate Google buried the Bluetooth pairing features deep in the Google Home App, it takes time to unearth the tiny feature.
Does Google Home Mini Ensure Your Privacy?
Smart devices equipped with microphones and cameras tend to leave a shrill effect whenever the issue of privacy comes to mind.
You never know who is listening or watching. And while you can cover the shutter on the camera, the microphone does not have that level of assurance.
This, and the fact that in the early days of Google Home Mini, the speakers tended to record conversations even without being prompted with the wake word, is discomforting.
But this is where Google Home Mini wins the battle.
Instead of using a touch spot to turn on or off the microphone like most smart speakers in the market today, Google Home Mini uses a toggle button you can slide from one end to turn it on, to the other for complete electrical disconnection.
Home Mini's mic off position reveals an orange spot indicating inactivity.
The touch button on Echo Dot leaves you wondering if your latest touch left it on or off, leaving you to depend on the LED lighting.
Google Home Mini on the other hand does not want you to leave your privacy to chance, muting off the microphone is deliberate.
Remember, the smart speakers listen for two main reasons, the first is to honor your command and give you what you asked for, and the second is for learning purposes to serve you better.
So, should you catch yourself saying something you do not think in line with your personal protocol when the microphone on your Home Mini, you can delete it? Just say, “Hey Google, delete what I just said.”
Google Assistant then goes on to eliminate the information from the cloud. Such is no longer available for Google's continuous learning process.
Growth of Google Home Mini
Home automation has become a big thing over the last few years and the competition between tech giants to dominate the market is harsh. That leads to the battle of voice assistants and that of the smart devices.
Each tech company wants to be the one whose variations of smart devices flood your home. That explains why Google has various smart speakers that have the smart home hub capability.
First Generation Google Home Mini
The first generation of Google Home Mini was released on October 19, 2017, as the smaller version of Google Home. It was seen as Google’s attempt to compete with Amazon’s Echo Dot in the smart homes lucrative market.
The smart speaker set the norm in the shape of Google’s compact smart speakers; a macaron look, small enough to fit in the palm of your hand.
It is 1.65 inches high, 3.86 inches in diameter, and weighing 6.08 ounces. Google Home Mini has a fabric coat on its upper part and a matte plastic bottom with a sitting allowance.
Its topmost surface has four status LEDs that shine through the fabric and a mute button on its side, in the plastic area. It comes in three colors; chalk, charcoal, and peach (coral).
The first generation Google Home Mini is fitted with 2 far-field microphones allowing it to capture your voice from a distance. It also has a 1.57-inch driver pumping out the 360-degree sound.
For controls, Google Home Mini’s top is touch-sensitive. Tapping it activates Google Assistant. This factor is however no longer available in the newer versions of the smart speakers courtesy of the ‘phantom input’ bug.
The speakers got voice-activated by neither touch nor voice causing unwanted voice recording.
Voice activation now requires you to call out the smart speakers using the wake word, ‘Hey Google’ or ‘Ok Google’
The initial Google Home Mini allowed users to tap its top to play or pause music. This function has long been removed along with the voice activation tap.
Today, smart speakers require you to long-press the volume buttons placed on the outer sides of the top area.
The left side lowers the volume while the right raises it with a simple tap. The touch-sensitive area is also used to silence the alarm or end a call.
Google Home Mini requires stable Wi-Fi and a constant power supply to work. It also uses Bluetooth 4.1 for connectivity enabling pairing with your smartphone to play your music.
Second Generation of the Smart Speakers
Google has long rebranded from the Google Homegroup of devices into the Google Nest. So instead of a second-generation Google Home Mini, you now see the Google Nest Mini.
This new version retains the macaron shape but is more powerful than the former. It was released on October 22, 2019.
Google Nest Mini runs on a 1.4GHz 64-bit quad-core ARM processor and uses both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0 for connectivity.
It has Chromecast built-in to enable you to stream your best music, podcast, or radio from your smartphone to Nest Mini without pairing because it works over Wi-Fi.
It is fitted with 3 far-field microphones, a 1.57-inch driver delivering 360-degree sound and it uses voice match technology.
Its size has not changed much but it weighs 6.4 ounces. It comes in four colors; chalk, coral, charcoal, and sky.
Google Nest Mini’s exterior is made with durable fabric built from 100% recycled plastic bottles while the lower plastic enclosure is made with about 35% post-consumer recycled plastic.
Chances of getting a third-generation Mini are unforeseen bearing in mind Google is more focused on making the voice assistant brighter and better by the day. The firm does not seem keen to work on the hardware bit of the minis, but time will tell.
Is Google Home Mini Worth Buying?
As long as you are looking for a compact smart speaker to work within Google’s ecosystem, Google Home Mini, and its successor, Nest Mini are both worth owning.
The speakers have not risen beyond $49 since the launch date. In fact, on a lucky day, you could get these smart speakers for less than this price.
And while your concern may not be the money, Google is working hard to ensure Google Assistant keeps up with the competition, Alexa from Amazon. That explains why they insist on continuous learning of the voice assistant based on your daily requests.
Google Home Mini does have a fairly good sound for a desktop buddy. Expecting it to match your home theatre speakers is too much to ask from such a small item.
However, technology is growing, soon we could have the mini booming like the Google Home Max.
But for now, use it for what it is meant to be, a smart home hub that can fill your kitchen with crisp high notes and nothing more.
Is There a Monthly Fee for Google Home Mini?
None whatsoever. You buy the smart speakers once and you forget it.
Ok, maybe that is too much to expect. Google Home Mini in itself does not require you to pay any monthly fee.
But since it uses Google Assistant to link you to the service you want, some of those have advanced actions that come at a cost.
A good example, Google Home Mini acts as the smart home hub to 2020 8k QLED smart TV from Samsung. For you to watch Netflix on the TV after the first-month installation, you must pay for it.
Some actions are free all through.
Does Google Home Mini Work on its Own?
Not as a standalone speaker that can fill your home with the sound you deserve. Google Home Mini was not built for such.
At its best, it delivers crisp highs for all your audio content and can be paired with your smartphone via Bluetooth giving it a somewhat standalone ability.
But the sound quality will not match even the ordinary standalone dumb speaker. As said earlier, Home Mini is best left as a desk buddy.
The best standalone smart speaker from Google is the Google Home Max. It is a big speaker measuring 7.5 inches high, 13 inches wide, and 6 inches deep.
It weighs about 187 ounces as compared to Google Home Mini’s 6.08 ounces. The Home Max is equipped with two 4.5-inch high-excursion dual voice-coil woofers, two 0.7-inch custom tweeters, and 6 onboard microphones with far-field voice control ability. It uses USB-C input and has a 3.5mm supporting input.
Google Home Max has the same smart home hub capability; it uses Google Assistant and can perform all the features of the Google Home Mini. Only, the sound performance is a thousand times better.
It is built for both smart home control and to deliver outstanding sound performance. That explains why it is about six times more expensive than the Home Mini.
Whether Google intends to leave the compact smart speaker as it is; below-average sound quality is a mystery we have to wait for them to solve. Google Nest Mini came and did not do much to the sound quality.
We can only wait and see if they will integrate say two woofers and a tweeter in a miniature speaker and still keep it smart!
Chief Competitors of Google Home Mini?
Like every other smart speaker, Google Home Mini has competitors. We focus on those of similar size so the completion is fair.
Home Mini competes with the fourth generation Alexa-enabled Echo Dot, Siri-enabled HomePod Mini, Galaxy Home Mini running on Bixby, and its own sibling Google Nest Mini. None of these costs beyond $200 and can stream as much music as you need.
What most users look for its compatibility with the rest of the devices they have at home.
And since this involves voice assistants, understanding the race between Google Assistant, Alexa, Bixby, and Siri help you decide the best smart speaker for you.
Google Assistant and Alexa have been at each other’s necks for dominance. That leaves the main competitor here as the fourth generation Echo Dot whose sound quality is much better than that of Google Home Mini.
Final Verdict on Google Home Mini
The beauty of Google Home Mini lights up your home if not blending with your décor from the word go and its growing intelligence is worth giving a chance to run your smart home ecosystem.
With the Bluetooth added support, this smart speaker can now operate as your tabletop companion in small rooms.
Google Home Mini’s sound performance has a long way to go. We hope that as Google works hard at making Google Assistant a better worker and daily learner, they will also put a little more effort into the hardware, this way the compact smart speakers will be worth taking home.
Users are way past falling for huge names; they want the best of the smart home control as well as sound quality.
The outstanding advantage Google Home Mini has over other tiny smart speakers at the moment is the handling after use; Google’s way of showing gratitude to users.
Google gives all their hardware, including the Home Mini you no longer use a definite afterlife. You only need to contact a partner for a free delivery label, remove all your data, and send the old smart speakers back to Google for recycling.
That way you reduce clutter and give Google the opportunity to leave you better than they found you.