“Hey Google, are you needed?” “Nice of you to ask. I have everything I need, thanks.” That doesn’t help. Then even more directly: “Hey Google, can you write my text for me?” “You do the thinking, I do the searching. Sounds like a good approach, doesn’t it?” Honestly no. The assistant may have learned something new over the past few years. However, the Google alternative to Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri cannot yet write its own test report. So the central question of this column, “Do you need that?” still has to be answered by a human.
The Assistant is a central part of the Home Max, Google’s newest and most expensive smart speaker. The more or less intelligent loudspeaker can announce the weather and the traffic situation, serves as a shopping list and has reminders dictated to you, knows the next appointment in the calendar, controls other devices in the smart home and knows the answer to all questions that you would otherwise google with your smartphone would have to. But mostly, he plays radio, podcasts, and music, and he does it pretty well.
There are good alternatives with similar capabilities
As a streaming provider, Google supports Spotify and Deezer as well as its own YouTube and Google Play Music services. “Hey Google, play Bob Dylan.” Pop songs sound great. The bass is rich but not overdone, the highs are clear, listening to music is fun. “Hey Google, I want to hear jazz.” The Home Max can handle almost all genres. The dynamic range is greater than Apple’s Homepod, and classical music in particular sounds better. Amazon’s cheaper Echo devices fall significantly short in comparison.
But there are good alternatives for 400 euros: numerous third-party manufacturers now offer smart speakers in which they integrate the assistants from Google and Amazon. You get about two Sonos One boxes that can be connected to form a stereo pair. The Sonos Play 5 costs a little more, but sounds a whole lot better and brings the more mature and open ecosystem with it. Only Alexa is currently on board, the Google Assistant will follow soon. If Google wants to give an honest answer to the question, it would have to be: “No, you don’t need me. But if you’re looking for a smart speaker and you care about sound quality, then you can’t go wrong with me either.”