Google Unveils New Home Mini, Max as Smart Speaker Battle Heats Up
The Google Home Mini and Home Max speakers show the company is ready to wrestle the smart home back from the clutches of Amazon and its Echo devices.
SAN FRANCISCO — Google unveiled a handful of new products and innovations at its Made by Google event here yesterday.
Among the new products were two new smart speakers — the Home Mini and Home Max.
The Home Mini is surely aimed to take market share away from Amazon’s Echo Dot device, while the Home Max looks like a potential competitor for the Apple HomePod and Sonos.
The $49 Google Home Mini features a small, rounded design that is available in three color choices. The device features far-field voice recognition, and includes the same lineup of Google Assistant, Chromecast built-in and calling capabilities as its larger Google Home counterpart.
The $399 Google Home Max speaker features the same capabilities as the Home Mini, plus four drivers (dual 2-way configuration) and has 20 times the sound output of the original Google Home. The Home Max also features Google’s new AI-driven Smart Sound technology, which automatically tunes the speaker to the acoustics of the room and adjusts volume based on time of day, ambient noise level, situational context, as well as other factors.
Since the release of the original Google Home device last year, Google has been playing catch-up to Amazon in the smart home field.
Below, IHS Markit gives its take on the situation between the two powerhouse companies:
With the launch of Google Home Mini, Google now has rough parity with Amazon in terms of market-penetrating low-end affordability of its smart speakers, but remains at a competitive disadvantage in two obvious dimensions. The first is in the current positioning of the original Home speaker, still priced at $129 – bracketed by the revamped Amazon Echo with better two-way sound reproduction at $99, camera-equipped Echo Spot at $129, and the Zigbee-hub-equipped Echo Plus at $149. Over time, it would seem fitting for Google to drop the original Home to sub-$100, roll out a newer enhanced version, or both.
The second disadvantage is in bundling. Amazon’s current price-aggressive bundling of Echo Dot with its Fire TV products is expected to help keep Dot shipment volumes healthy despite the arrival of the Home Mini as a direct competitor. Though there have been leaks of a $25-off Home Mini promotion with Walmart and Google Wallet, and a free Home Mini bundling offer with Pixel 2 pre-orders from Best Buy Canada, these are short term launch offers. Google will be best served by taking another page from Amazon, and offering bundling offers combining a control device (Home-series device) with a destination/target device (Chromecast / Chromecast Ultra). Short of this, it is unlikely that Google will be able to catch up to Amazon’s Echo shipment volumes with its first-party Home Mini in the near future.
While Amazon also leads Google in partner integrations, Google has recently made up some ground in that respect, especially in the security department, integrating with Honeywell as well as Alarm.com this year.
How will consumers react to Google’s latest devices? We’ll find out this holiday season.
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