New Google Home app redesign readies platform for Matter smart home standard

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Google is previewing an all-new Home app to control its smart home devices and the many other gadgets it expects people to add to their homes once the new Matter smart home standard arrives. The new app is initially rolling out as a public preview starting a few weeks ago, and you can sign up to try it out soon.

Google Nest’s Anish Kattukaran described the new Home app – which adds a new Favorites page and support for sensors to trigger automations and brings the camera interface from the Nest app – as “the best place to configure, control and automate Nest devices and all Matter devices.

The new Google Home app is coming to Wear OS

The company will also bring Google Home to the web later this year, letting you view Nest Camera and Doorbell feeds from a web browser at home.google.com. In addition, you will be able to control your home on your wrist. The Home app is coming to Wear OS this week, debuting on the new Google Pixel Watch and rolling out to Wear OS 3 shortly after. The app will let you turn off the lights, adjust your Nest thermostat, and receive notifications from your Nest cameras on your wrist.

Google’s Fast Pair provides a smart plug using Matter.
Picture: Google Nest

Material really matters to Google

Google is fully committed to Matter, the new smart home connectivity standard that aims to address many industry issues such as complicated setup, confusing integrations, and poor reliability.

During a briefing with The edge, Google Nest’s Kevin Po confirmed to me that Google Nest Hub Max, Nest Hub (2nd Gen) and all Google’s Nest Wifi routers (including the recently announced Nest Wifi Pro) will be Matter controllers for Google Home when the standard arrives later this year. This means that these devices can control any Matter device locally in the house, either through their interface or through the Home app.

Nest devices will also be Thread border routers to provide connectivity between the Thread mesh network and Wi-Fi. Thread is a key Matter protocol; it allows devices to communicate more effectively on your home network.

Additionally, Po confirmed that Fast Pair for Android will work with Matter, allowing Android phones to automatically detect all Matter devices on your network and help you set them up with just a few clicks, including connecting to any compatible Matter controller app on your smartphone. Po demonstrated setting up a smart plug with the option to add it to the Google Home app or the Eve app.

The Favorites page includes a custom favorites section and new Spaces shortcut buttons.

The Favorites page includes a custom favorites section and new Spaces shortcut buttons.
Picture: Google Nest

The new Google Home app is inspired by the Nest app

Personalization is at the heart of the new Google Home app, with the app’s homepage now called “Favorites”. Here you can create a custom view of the devices, actions, or automations you want to access most often.

This includes live feeds from any camera you select as a favorite, which will play in the thumbnail as soon as you open the app. Plus, any device you add – from light bulbs to locks – will give you live status when the app opens so you can quickly see what’s going on in your home.

Above the Favorites page is a new Spaces feature that’s akin to the new Shortcuts buttons in the Apple Home app. These take you to a collection of similar devices such as lights, cameras, air conditioning units and Wi-Fi.

You could have a pet space for your pet camera, pet feeder, robot vacuum and air purifier

Kattukaran said The edge Google plans to add the option for custom spaces where you can group devices outside of traditional room groups next year. For example, you might have a pet space for your pet camera, pet feeder, robot vacuum, and air purifier.

Also on the Favorites tab is a mini floating media player, which gives you quick access to controls for all the media playing in your home, including the Google TV remote interface. It also lets you swipe to control any other device streaming music or video in your home.

The Devices tab takes you to the traditional room view – still in alphabetical order, but now with live previews of all the cameras in every room. Here you can control and see the status of any device.

A floating media player appears in the app when a Google Home device is playing music or videos.

A floating media player appears in the app when a Google Home device is playing music or videos.
Picture: Google Nest

Clicking on a camera thumbnail takes you to a camera controller page where you see a live view of the camera above a vertical timeline. Here you can scroll through any video history in the same view as the Nest app. This includes small snapshots along the timeline so you can quickly see what might be most relevant. You can choose to see every motion event or filter by activity, such as a person or animal. This is a significant improvement over the old Home app, where you had to tap multiple times to access recorded video.

The Home app public preview will work with all current and discontinued Nest cameras, but will still only show video history for cameras manufactured after 2021. Kattukaran says that over the next year, Google will move entirely old cameras in the Home app. “The Nest app was designed for wired cameras, not battery-powered cameras,” he explains, explaining why the transition is taking time.

Keep the best for last

Finally, Google is bringing sensor support to the Google Home ecosystem. This means that you will be able to trigger motion-based automations. It is not clear if contact sensors or other types of sensors such as leak or smoke detectors will also work. I contacted Google for clarification.

Kattukaran said Nest Protect smoke detectors will be migrated to the new Home app, so hopefully they can also be used as a trigger for automations. Additionally, he showed that pressing the doorbell triggers automation, a sign that cameras could also be motion detection-based triggers.

You will soon be able to use sensors like

You’ll soon be able to use sensors as “starters” for automations in Google Home, a feature that Amazon Alexa and Apple Home have had for some time.
Image: Google

The lack of triggers (or starters, as Google calls them) has been a major issue for Google Home automations. Until now, you could only start an automation based on the time of day, when you dismiss an alarm, by tapping the app, or using a voice command.

While the app’s automation capabilities still seem fairly basic – although they now include the ability to schedule cameras to turn on and off – Google is introducing a script editor early next year. This web-based editor is designed for power users who want to create more complex automations with “complex triggers and multiple conditions,” says Kattukaran.

The public preview of the new Google Home app will run for a while before the Home app officially launches, Kattukaran says. You’ll soon be able to sign up for the preview in the Google Home app and updates will start rolling out in “a few weeks”. The preview will continue once the new Home app arrives, as Google says it will continue to refine the app based on user feedback.

Correction, Tuesday, October 4, 9:45 a.m.: This article originally stated that you could sign up to join the Google Home app preview today, but Google has clarified that the sign-up page will be available at a later date. Also, Kevin Po’s name was misspelled. We regret the error.

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