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Via Stuff : Google’s smart benchtop speaker and mesh WiFi network go on sale in Australia on Thursday, staking Google’s claim in the simmering smart home war with Amazon and Apple.

Selling for A$199, the voice-activated Google Home speaker brings the talkative Google Assistant to life and is available via Google’s local online store as well as traditional brick and mortar retailers. The same goes for the Google WiFi hub, which sells for A$199, or A$499 for three, working in unison to fight WiFi blackspots in your home

We’ve been waiting for Google’s latest smart home gadgets to go on sale locally since they were launched in the US late last year. The versatile Google Home speaker understands a wide range of spoken natural language queries, offering everything from weather forecasts to sports results, plus it can set alarms, keep shopping lists, stream music and control other smart home devices.

Australians who couldn’t wait, and imported a Google Home speaker, can now take advantage of support for Aussie accents and slang – although even set to US English you don’t need to fake a southern drawl in order to make yourself understood.

Of more importance to Australians is that, with Google Home now officially supported here, the search giant finally plans to add localised services such as the ability to order home food deliveries.

Google isn’t very forthcoming with details at this point, it says Google Home will have access to third party apps “soon” and you can be sure that a pizza home delivery deal will be near the top of its list. Launching without any local deals in place is surprising, perhaps Google was concerned that if it waited too long to launch the Amazon Echo speaker would steal its thunder.

Australians can link up to six Google accounts to their Google Home, with Google Assistant learning to recognise their voices so she can offer personalised answers to queries such as “what’s on my calendar today?”.

Unfortunately Google Assistant still lacks a parental mode, meaning parents can not declare some features off limits for the children – which could create problems when the youngest members of the household discover that the genie in the lamp can magically make pizza appear at the front door.

Meanwhile Google’s mesh WiFi routers aim to help busy households by tackling the WiFi woes which plague some homes.

Like Linksys Velop and Netgear Orbi, Google WiFi hubs relay signals around your home in an effort to combat dead zones. Along with improving coverage, Google WiFi also supports bandsteering to automatically shift your wireless devices between the 2.4 and 5GHz bands in search of the best performance.

This week’s Australian launches give Google the jump on its major smart home rivals. Apple’s Siri-powered HomePod smart speaker will be available by Christmas, while if Amazon comes good on plans for an Australian expansion this year it will likely include the Echo speaker powered by Amazon Alexa.

Smart speakers are shaping up to be the heart of the smart home, with Internet of Things pioneer Nest launching in Australia last week to coincide with their arrival.

Amazon Echo and Google Home are the two most popular smart home devices with Nest owners, while Nest won’t talk to Apple’s smart speaker. Nest’s product manager recently lamented Apple HomeKit’s locked-down approach to the smart home – which makes it more difficult for smart gadgets like Nest’s thermostat, smoke alarm and speakers to connect to an Apple-centric home.

As Google’s smart speaker arrives in Australia, with Apple and Amazon not far behind, the battle for control of the smart home is hotting up. Which smart ecosystem will live at the heart of your home?

 

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