Google may not have announced a new smart home tablet as expected at this year’s I/O 2022 Developers Conference, but it did unveil several new features. Specifically, those were features coming to its smart home ecosystem. Such as support for Matter and its new Look and Talk features. But while the company did outline upcoming features as expected, there’s still a proverbial elephant in the room. New features are great but Google really needs to fix its Home-branded ecosystem first.
What new features did Google unveil at I/O 2022 for its smart home ecosystem?
Now, it shouldn’t be said that we don’t care about new features. Matter support, for example, will greatly improve compatibility for Google’s smart home offerings. Not least of all because of support for a wider range of gadgets. Widely known as one area that Google has traditionally lagged behind on.
With Matter support, smart home devices from across the board will effectively be universally supported. So, for instance, the open-source protocol allows Google devices to interact directly with HomeKit devices. And with those from Amazon’s Alexa ecosystem and others. And vice versa.
Traditionally, those have only been supported by Apple. Matter’s underlying goal, after all, is to ensure that the various available ecosystems can be used together. As opposed to the individual walled gardens that exist now.
It will additionally make interactions between nearly all AI and smart home products faster as well. And, moreover, each ecosystem using the same supported protocol and manufacturers doing the same will reduce the need for dozens of apps to be installed to support a smart home ecosystem.
The addition of Look and Talk, conversely, takes things in a different direction. Allowing users to forgo saying the “Ok, Google” or “Hey, Google” wake word before directing their devices to do something. So, for example, users can look at their smart home hub and say “turn on the lights” to activate those. That’s as opposed to saying “Ok, Google. Turn on the lights.”
Both of these features and other improvements such as new Quick Phrases announced around Google Home go a long way toward fixing some longstanding complaints. But they don’t fix them all.
The real issue is those that still have no fix for Google Home
When discussing Google Home and the associated software ecosystem, in fact, there are plenty of issues that seem to always get swept under the rug. And those aren’t necessarily uncommon either. Any perusal of the topic on Reddit, for example, unveils a wealth of connectivity issues with Google Home, none of which have a fix in the most recently announced features.
Among those, the discussion often centers around random disconnects, for example. Meaning that users are seeing smart home products, some from Google itself and its Nest brand, seemingly randomly disconnecting from their internet connection.
The devices, as we’ve also experienced this issue and others here at Android Headlines, still appear in the device list in the Home app. But they aren’t able to be interacted with. Smart lights can’t be adjusted and volume for media playback can’t either, for example. Any changes simply revert back to where they were before adjustments were made.
That’s setting aside instances wherein devices randomly reappear at the top of the display. Namely, in the “Set up” devices chip, pictured above. Having apparently reverted to their factory state with no interaction.
Conversely, sometimes those devices turn into what I might define as “ghost gadgets.” They appear but not in the room they were assigned to. And setting them up again only results in them turning back into ghost gadgets again at a later date.
These two issues, for starters, have been around since nearly the beginning of Google’s excursion into smart home devices. And, in both of those cases, disconnecting the gadgets and resetting them seems to be the only current solution. There doesn’t seem to be any other fix incoming either, since the issues are so often not discussed at all.
Disconnects aren’t the only ongoing issue here
In addition to random disconnects from the internet entirely, Google has several other smart home issues that need a fix. One such issue is found in speaker pairs. For several years now, Google’s Nest-branded speakers have been pairable in tandem. Meaning that two speakers can be used to create a richer stereo experience. But that doesn’t always work as intended either.
In some cases, speaker pairs, as with internet disconnections, randomly disconnect from one another. And it’s hard to believe the problem isn’t related to the one above. As often as not, when disconnects occur between a pair, those speakers also become ghost gadgets. That’s when they don’t also simply begin showing up as a local Wi-Fi network but not in the Home app at all.
Perhaps worse, these types of issues don’t only occur in Nest devices. And, at least in our testing, they don’t all occur only under specific networking configurations, internet IPs, or with the same smart devices either.
They appear to also occur with partner devices, such as GE smart bulbs. And they’ve been noted with a variety of providers and even after following the steps to reset, reboot, and reconfigure the gadgets.
Still, other issues don’t seem to be related to connectivity at all. For instance, sometimes, attempting to speak to Google Assistant on a phone will trigger a speaker in another room. And that sometimes happens with the speakers themselves too. With users attempting to speak to the Assistant in one room and a speaker becoming triggered in a completely different room. Even when those rooms aren’t close to one another.
That’s something that could ultimately be made better by Look and Talk. But not in every case or for every user since it’s limited to devices with a camera.
There’s really no fix in sight
It is entirely plausible that the issues noted here only arise under very specific circumstances. So, while Google may be aware of them or not, it may not be fully aware of the extent of the issues either. Conversely, Reddit and Google forums show that the company has been ignoring feedback on some of the basics, regardless. As does our own experience with Google Home.
It’s worth pointing out that Google does deserve the credit it has earned for creating a great smart home ecosystem. And the incoming changes it has planned will only make that ecosystem better. But the search giant has earned any and all attention and credit for the issues too.
What’s more, the problems are not likely to go away on their own. Until Google puts some effort into understanding not only why they happen but also how they can be prevented, as well as how widespread they appear to be, they’ll just keep happening. With each issue that doesn’t have a fix, and an apparent focus on new features instead, marring what would otherwise be a brilliant smart home experience from Google.