The Google Home app on the Pixel Watch is a good start, but I want more

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Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

The new Google Home app on Wear OS garnered a lot of interest ahead of its launch on the new Pixel Watch and then made its way to other smartwatches in the Android ecosystem. For now, Google is clear about the scope of the app: a “Preview” notice is prominently displayed, just to help you discover potential bugs and missing features. But preview or stable, we like to dissect Android-related news, so that’s what we’re going to do.

In its current form, this new wrist-bound Google Home app looks very basic. A three-level navigation structure lets you choose the house you want to control, then a list of the different rooms in that house, and finally all the devices in that room.

I haven’t installed many smart home products in my current tenancy, but the few I own show their current status in the app. Smart lights, thermostats, two smart speakers and a screen, two TVs and a Chromecast, a fan and a robot vacuum – all of these things show whether they’re on or off. Some also display additional information: current or set temperature for thermostats, brightness level for lights, sound volume for speakers, etc.

Tap certain devices to turn them on and off. I can quickly operate my robot vacuum or light up my living room with just one touch. A bit of granular control is also available with the lights and speakers: sliding my finger across their tile increases or decreases the brightness and volume, respectively. For thermostats, the plus and minus icons on either side of the tile allow me to move the temperature in 0.5°C increments.

Well, that’s all there is to it.

The app works well, but it’s limited to a few very basic smart home commands.

The application performs well within these very limited constraints. It lets me control certain aspects of my smart devices without using my voice and waking my husband up, and without talking and hoping Google Assistant understands what I wanted to say. Also, I can do it from the watch I always wear on my wrist, instead of trying to find my phone in the apartment. I didn’t see any serious lags or issues, but like I said up top, I wish there were more.

Google Home app on Pixel Watch showing thermostat controls

Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

On the one hand, I would like to organize my smart devices like in Android’s Quick Settings panel. Why does one room turn on my lights first while another starts with the thermostat? Why is my robot vacuum at the very end of my hallway, under the grouped lights and individual light tiles? And why are the TV and Chromecast above the living room thermostat and speaker? If there’s a rhyme or reason behind this organization, I can’t see it or get used to it.

Every time I open the app, I have to be careful that I scroll across the small smartwatch screen until I find the device I’m looking for. Organizing them according to my own prioritization system would be amazing.

Organizing the devices would allow me to reach the ones I use the most more quickly.

For two, there’s an annoying inconsistency in what a tap or swipe on a product’s tile does. A tap turns lights and robot vacuums on/off, but not thermostats or TVs. Tapping on a speaker that is playing music does not stop it. And more often than not, all you get when you tap on a product is this generic message to open the Google Home app on the phone to do more.

Google Home app on Pixel Watch showing app open notice on phone for more controls

Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

It also lacks many smart home commands you can perform in the app. You can’t change the colors of the lights, change the mode of a thermostat, start music playing on a speaker, or do anything “advanced.” For these, you’ll need to talk to Google Assistant on the watch.

Start and stop commands are not available for all devices and the app hides many simple commands.

This brings me back to a similar complaint I have with the Google Home app on phones: there’s no comprehensive list of voice commands and a lot of commands don’t display visuals in the Home app. . Basically, many features are unseen, untraceable, and impossible for a newcomer to guess. The same now lives on on our wrists: the Assistant can do much more than what we see in the Home app; we just need to know these commands somehow.

Perhaps my biggest annoyance is that none of the smart speaker controls are available on the watch. They don’t appear through this Google Home app and I also can’t find a way to get the phone broadcast notification to appear on the watch. (The phone notification is from Google Play Services, which cannot be shared with the watch.) If I listen to music on a speaker, I don’t see the convenient skip, pause, rewind buttons or stop on my watch. All I can do is control the volume from the Home app or, again, resort to Assistant commands.

Speaker Control on the Google Home app on the Pixel Watch next to the Speaker Cast Control notification on a Pixel 7 Pro

Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

With this app still in preview and the Google Home app getting a massive refresh soon, I can hope that Google is working on fixing some of these limitations in the Wear OS version of the Home app. I don’t need to rename rooms or deal with speaker settings, but a bit of tidiness, consistency and a few extra commands would be more than welcome to make this a fantastic controller for any smart home.

Want more features in the Google Home app on Wear OS?

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