The best of Google, now in new devices

Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, technology should work for you. This week during a virtual CES and Galaxy Unpacked, we were introduced to a lineup of new products that do exactly that, all with the best of Google built in.

Whether you’re heading out or staying in, there’s something new for you to get excited about.

When you’re on the go

The new Galaxy S21 series comes with a more cohesive Android experience and updates that make it easier to stay in touch with friends and family. From your phone, you can now mirror Google Duo to your Samsung TV, so video calls feel a little more like the real thing. With the Messages app, you can use Rich Communication Services (RCS) to chat over Wi-Fi, know when messages are read, share reactions as well as high resolution videos, and enjoy a more dynamic communication experience with features such as Smart Actions and spam protection (varies by carrier and market availability). A single swipe from your home screen will give you the option for personalized content with Discover, while our screen reader TalkBack has been revamped so that people with blindness or trouble seeing their displays can use spoken feedback and gestures to navigate their phone without having to look at the screen (varies by carrier and market availability).

We’re also working with Samsung to make it easier to manage smart home products from your device. You can control Nest devices, like Nest thermostats, cameras and doorbells, from the SmartThings app on Galaxy smartphones and tablets. See all your connected devices on one screen by tapping on “Devices” in the Quick Panel of the Galaxy S21. Starting next week, SmartThings will also be available in Android Auto, so you can do things like turn off your kitchen lights from your car’s display as you pull out of the driveway.

For parents who want a productive tablet that can easily be shared with their kids, the new Lenovo Tab P11 comes with Kids Space, our new kids mode that features recommended apps, books and videos to help kids under 9 learn and have fun. 

And to get help from your wrist, new Wear OS by Google smartwatches keep you connected wherever you are. For Android phone users in the U.S., you can send texts and make calls on Fossil’s Gen 5 LTE Touchscreen Smartwatch without your phone. And Michael Kors Access Gen 5E MKGO and Gen 5E Darci smartwatches are a fashionable option for keeping track of your health and wellness, staying in touch with friends and family and even making payments.

You’ll even be able to leave your phone in your pocket when you’re outside. New headphones, including the JBL Tour ONE and Tour Pro+ and Kenwood WS-A1G come with help from Google. Simply press the earbud to send a message, access your calendar or change songs.

Of course, for those times when you’re perfectly happy…

Hanging out at home

Google TV will be available on 2021 smart TVs from Sony and TCL. Google TV is a new entertainment experience that brings together movies, shows, live TV and more from across your apps and subscriptions and organizes them just for you. You can ask “Hey Google, find action movies” or “show me sci-fi adventure TV shows” and browse a wide selection of content with your voice. In fact your voice can be used in all sorts of ways: Your LG TV (from 2019 models) can now be controlled by a Google-enabled smart speaker in 15 countries and six languages. You will also soon be able to control your Verizon Fios set top box by voice when connected with a Google-enabled smart speaker or Smart Display. And to do more on your TV, you can stay connected with your loved ones with one-on-one or group video calls with the Duo app on Samsung TV (an optional USB-camera needed).

New connected lights from LIFX, Nanoleaf and Yeelight now work with Hey Google. These new devices support Seamless setup, which makes it possible to connect compatible smart home devices directly through the Google Home app and a Nest speaker or Smart Display without the need for an additional hub or bridge. 

If you’re looking for an assist with cleaning up around the house, you can just say “Hey Google” to control the Smart MEDION’s vacuum cleaner MD 19601. To help more manufacturers bring voice capabilities like this to their smart home devices, we also recently launched the Authorized Solution Provider program. Our certified partners Tuya and CoolKit can now help manufacturers  build smart home Actions for Google Assistant. 

Whatever new device you pick out, Google will be there to help you get things done and get the most of your tech.

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Guest Mode: An easy privacy control for your home devices

It’s our responsibility to respect your privacy, no matter what device you’re using. That’s why Google Assistant is built to automatically keep your information private, safe and secure. By default, we don’t save your audio recordings and you can ask Google Assistant questions like “How do you keep my information private?” or delete activity from your Google Account by saying things like “Hey Google, delete everything I said to you this week.” 

Last year, we also added a way to adjust how sensitive Google Assistant is to the phrase “Hey Google,” giving you more ways to reduce unintentional activations. And as more people discover the convenience of smart speakers and displays, we want to make sure it’s as easy to control how Google Assistant works with your data as it is to play your favorite song.

“Hey Google, tell me about Guest Mode” 

Today, we’re introducing Guest Mode, another easy way to control your privacy on smart speakers and Smart Displays, like Nest Audio and Nest Hub Max. Just say, “Hey Google, turn on Guest Mode,” and your Google Assistant interactions will not be saved to your account. While in Guest Mode, you can enjoy popular features, like asking questions, controlling smart home devices, setting timers and playing music. Your device won’t show personal results, like your calendar entries or contacts, until you turn the mode off. 

Once Guest Mode has been turned on, your device will play a special chime and you’ll see a guest icon on the display. If you’re ever unsure if you’re in Guest Mode, you can always ask your device, “Is Guest Mode on?” Guest Mode will stay on until you choose to turn it off: When you’re ready, say “Hey Google, turn off Guest Mode” to return to your full, personalized Google Assistant experience. 

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More privacy for your shared devices

Recently, I was looking up new recipes to surprise my family with a nice New Year’s Eve dinner, but didn’t want those suggestions to appear on our Smart Display and spoil my plans. By turning on Guest Mode I could ask Google for recipes suggestions knowing that research wouldn’t show up in my history, and without having to manually go through my settings or toggle other controls on and off. When I finished, I turned Guest Mode off so I could enjoy my fully personalized Assistant and use things like my custom routine, which helps me unwind by playing my favorite jazz music and prepares me for the next day by reviewing my calendar.

Guest Mode can also come in handy when you have people over and you don’t want their interactions with your device to be saved to your account. You or your guests can easily turn it on and off at any time. Whatever your reason, we know there are times you may not want your own Google Assistant interactions saved — the choice is always yours. When you use your Assistant in Guest Mode to interact with other apps and services, like Google Maps, YouTube or media and smart home services, those apps may still save that activity. You can find more information here.

Google Assistant is designed to automatically safeguard your privacy and offer simple ways for you to control how it works with your data. Try Guest Mode today on Google Nest speakers and displays in English, and we’ll be bringing it to more languages and devices in the next few months. For more information, just say, “Hey Google, tell me about Guest Mode” to your Google speaker or smart display, or visit g.co/assistant/guestmode. 

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Here’s how Google Assistant lent a helping hand in 2020

As we look at how people used Google Assistant this year,

We hope these reflections may bring you some cheer.

From staying in touch to cooking a meal, 

It’s clear we find many of the same things ideal.

In 2020, it felt like many of us needed a little more assistance than usual. With more time spent at home, the ways people used Google Assistant evolved to accommodate new habits and routines—and to help with this, we focused on launching new features, adding new services like Disney+, Netflix, Duo, Meet and Zoom, and creating new tools for developers. As we close out the year, we’re taking a look at the most popular ways that people used Assistant, as well as some more recent trends. 

Lending a hand to families

This year, we launched Family Notes to keep the whole house up to date and running smoothly. We also introduced Family Bell, which launched just in time for the (mostly virtual) school year and was quickly adopted to help families stay on track throughout the day. Here are the top five bells set this school year:

  1. Time for bed

  2. Time for breakfast

  3. Lunch time

  4. Dinner time

  5. Class is starting

If you’re enjoying time off from work or school, today we launched the ability to pause your bells until you resume your normal routine. Simply tap the “Pause bells” banner on the Family Bell settings page. Your bells will automatically resume once the pause period is over.

And the amount of requests made to Assistant for help with spelling, using the dictionary and translations more than doubled this year. The top translation request this year was for “I love you”—and the top word that people needed help spelling? “Quarantine.” 

(As a reminder, with their parent’s permission, children under 13—or the applicable age in their country—can have a personalized Google Assistant experience when they log in with their own account, powered by Family Link.)

Finding ways to keep in touch

The number of text messages sent with Assistant more than doubled in 2020; currently, “Mom” is the most-called person with Assistant. Many of us also turned to group video calls through Zoom, Google Meet and Duo to host virtual celebrations, attend workout classes and to simply catch up with loved ones.

Spending more time in the kitchen 

Recipes searched with Assistant grew over eight times this past year, and thanks to quarantine’s baking trends, banana bread is still the most requested recipe on Assistant. And because baking calls for perfect timing, more timers were set in 2020 than ever before.

Staying informed and entertained 

Streaming entertainment helped us enjoy newfound time at home, and Assistant brought us even more movies and TV shows from Disney+ andNetflix on Nest Hub devices. We told stories, too: This year, the number of stories told by Assistant increased over three times. Try it out yourself by saying, “Hey Google, tell me a story.” 

In recent trends, the top music genre is currently holiday music, followed by country, relaxing music, rock and pop. And while many of us commuted more frequently between the couch and kitchen than to and from an office, we still turned to podcasts to stay entertained and up-to-date. The most-listened to podcasts on Assistant currently are: 

  • The Daily

  • NPR

  • Savage Love

  • Joe Rogan

  • Ben Shapiro

  • Two Princes

  • This American Life

Controlling homes and devices

Assistant was even busier controlling smart home devices this year. The most popular ask was to turn the lights on or off, and many of us also asked Assistant to adjust the fan, change the temperature on the thermostat, control the TV or launch a game on Xbox.

Today, we rolled out Scheduled Actions so people can “set it and forget it.” Try asking Google to turn off the lights in 10 minutes, or at 11:25 pm on the dot; or say “Hey Google, run the fan for 20 minutes” eliminating the need to remember to turn it off later. 

We also made it easier to quickly set up many smart devices, including lights and plugs—from Philips Hue, C by GE, Yeelight, Nanoleaf, Ledvance, ABL Lighting and Energetic by Yankon—right out of the box. Supported by Seamless Setup, you can now connect your new devices to Google Assistant right from the Google Home app in just a few steps. There’s no need to download another app or install anything else. 

2020’s been a busy year for Assistant, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Ready to play? New games on your Smart Display

The holiday season is here and hopefully that means you’ll get a chance to relax. If you find yourself with some down time, check out the latest collection of games for Smart Displays. 

Just say, “Hey Google, let’s play a game” and Google Assistant will present you a collection of puzzles, word games, and even virtual pets. Here are some of the titles we’ve recently added:  

Calling all wordsmiths

I’ve always enjoyed crossword puzzles but have limited time to play, so I usually play Horizontal Crosswords, a fast-paced game that gives you fresh puzzles every day. You’ll see a series of clues and need to speak your answer before time runs out. There’s also Game of Words from Stoked Skills, in which you’ll be given six letters and need to use them to assemble as many words as possible. The longer the word, the more points you get. You can even compete against other players around the world and move up the ranks as you win.

If you’re more into fantasy-themed games, try Voice Quest from Doppio Games. You play a mage who uses synonyms to power spells and your voice to cast magic and defeat your enemies. Another adventure game is Power of Words from Just AI. Your mission is to save peaceful warriors from evil trolls and you battle monsters by guessing hidden words.

Looking forward, Zynga’s upcoming release Daily Word Wheel challenges you to solve crossword puzzles by unscrambling letters. As you play, your progress is saved so you can take a break and pick up where you left the game. . 


Solve challenging puzzles 

From Cool Games, the makers of Guess the Drawing, comes Daily Brain Trainer. Keep your mind sharp with quick daily puzzles that test your memory, reaction times, and pattern matching skills. Success unlocks even more difficult puzzles and you can compare your results to other players and track your performance as you improve. 

Soon you’ll also be able to try Brainwash Puzzle. Ready yourself as the countdown begins and a series of pictures flash past on the monitor. Find the common theme as quickly as you can to advance to the next session. 

New experiences for kids and families

You can also grab some time with an adorable digital critter. In My Smart Pet, your adventure leads you to a virtual pet that grows to understand you the more you talk to it. And since visiting an aquarium might be tough right now, you’ll soon be able to enjoy your own virtual aquarium with Hey Fish. Customize your fish bowl and take special care of its inhabitants. Also coming soon, you’ll even be able to choose Hello Kitty as a virtual companion. Help her choose where she should go and who she should meet. 

For some extra fun during reading time you can now say: “Hey Google, tell me a Shimmer and Shine Story” and hear content from the popular Nickelodeon series. Or, you can just say: “Hey Google, tell me a bedtime story” to see a selection of stories that’ll help you get some rest. There are even more educational songs, books, and videos just waiting for you to say: “Hey Google, Talk to ABCmouse.” (With a parent’s permission, children under 13, or the applicable age in their country, can have a personalized Google Assistant experience and access these games designed for kids and families, powered by Family Link.) 

Discover more, more easily

We’ve redesigned the Games lobby on your Smart Display to highlight Featured Games, top-ranked games, and your recently played games so it’s easy to find your favorites again. You’ll also see cards and tiles on your Smart Display that launch great games with a single touch. Of course, you can always say: “Hey Google, play a game” and we’ll be here for your entertainment needs—through the holiday season and into the new year.

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How to host a group video call to celebrate the holidays

This is the first year I won’t be celebrating the holidays in-person with family. I’ll be with my wife and young son, and like so many others, we plan on hosting a group video call to virtually “get together” with family and friends spread out across Ireland and England. Thankfully, Google Assistant can already help us make group video calls with Google Meet or Duo—and just in time for the holidays, an early preview of Zoom calling is starting to roll out on Nest Hub Max. So if you have a Zoom account in the U.S., U.K., Canada or Australia—whether it’s free or paid—keep an eye out for this new video calling option.

Because no one likes when their video call freezes mid-sentence, a good internet connection and solid Wi-Fi are a must. To help with that, Google Wifi and Nest Wifi just got even better by auto-detecting and prioritizing video conferencing on Google Meet and Zoom Meetings. 

Whichever holiday you celebrate this season, here are a few steps you can take to host your next virtual gathering.

Step 1. Ahead of the big day, create a Google Calendar invite on your phone or laptop and send it to everyone you’d like to add to your video call. You can add up to 100 people with Google Meet, so you have no excuse not to invite your second cousin once removed. If you’re planning to host your call through Meet, choose the “Add Google Meet video conferencing” option. It’s also OK if your family members don’t use Google Calendar—simply grab the meeting ID and share it with them via email, text or whichever way you keep in touch, and all they have to do is click it to join the video call with a web browser. 

Step 2. If you’re planning to host calls through Zoom on your Hub Max, you’ll need to link your Zoom account to your Google account beforehand. Just make sure to create your Zoom meeting ID first and add it to the calendar invite for your guests. 

Step 3. Use your Hub Max to open Zoom, Google Meet or Duo for your holiday celebration call. Just ask, “Hey Google, join my next meeting” to join the next video call on your Google Calendar. Or say, “Hey Google, start a Zoom call.”

Bonus tips:

  • Meet video calls are unlimited (up to 24 hours) through Mar. 31, 2021, so you won’t have to worry about your celebrations being cut short.

  • Choose which device you’ll use ahead of time—and try to place it near your router. If you have a mesh Wi-Fi system (like Nest Wifi and Google Wifi), your home will have smarter Wi-Fi coverage, so you may not need to worry about this! 

  • Did you know that Nest Wifi and Google Wifi users can make sure any device gets video calling preference by default? Just open the Google Home app (if you’re still using the Google Wifi app, you can easily migrate your network to get this feature), tap the Wi-Fi icon at the top and ensure that video conferencing is enabled in the preferred activities settings.

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A smarter smart home from Google and Samsung

So many products come together to power a smart home—light bulbs, thermostats, TVs, speakers…the list goes on and on. To make it easier for you to control all of your connected devices, we’ve been working closely with manufacturers to make sure your devices communicate and work across the smart home ecosystem. Coming soon, your Assistant and Nest devices will now interoperate more easily with your Samsung smart devices in your home.

You’ll be able access and control your Nest devices, like Nest cameras, thermostats and doorbells with the SmartThings app—and even through Samsung smart home devices, like smart TVs and refrigerators. Previously, you could only do things like set the temperature remotely or view your camera feeds from your Nest devices from the Google Home app, but now you have more ways and more places to control your smart home from (And interested developers can learn more about our Device Access program).

Nest SmartThings

More Samsung smart home appliances and devices will also soon come with voice support from Google. So you can say “Hey Google, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.” And we recently announced that Google Assistant is available on Samsung’s latest lineup of Smart TVs, making it easy to turn your TV on or off, change channels and control the volume without even getting off your couch or digging for the remote. 

Setting up your smart devices will also be easier: Samsung now offers simple linking with your Google Assistant right from multiple Samsung apps, including SmartThings to streamline the process. Plus, we’ve also expanded the Google Assistant control of Samsung devices across six new languages (Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Korean and Japanese) to meet users in their native languages.

And to make it even easier to quickly control all your smart home devices, we’re working to bring one of our favorite features of Android 11 to Samsung’s new Galaxy smartphones. When you tap on “Devices” in the Quick Panel of the phone, you can choose an option among multiple apps and see all connected devices within the app on one screen.

Whether you’re starting the dishwasher or checking the porch for packages, Google, Samsung and SmartThings can make the increasingly connected home a little bit smarter. 

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Never miss a beat: Apple Music is now available on the new Nest Audio

Get ready to jam: You can now ask Google Assistant on Google Nest and other Assistant-enabled smart speakers and displays to play all the music you love on Apple Music. 

Starting today, Apple Music is rolling out to Google Assistant-enabled devices like Nest Audio, Nest Hub Max, Nest Mini, and more. Apple Music subscribers can search and play songs (more than 70 million!), albums and playlists—all ad-free—just by using their voice. 

To play music from Apple Music, first link your Apple Music account in the Google Home app. You can also select Apple Music as your default music streaming service. Then, all you have to do is say, “Hey Google, play New Music Daily playlist,” or “Hey Google, play Rap Life playlist.”

You can ask Google Assistant to play any specific song, artist or playlist available on Apple Music, and you can play music based on genre, mood, or activity. You can also play your liked songs from your Apple Music library by saying, “Hey Google, play my songs” or “Hey Google, play my library.” If you have more than one compatible smart speaker or display, you can use our multi-room control feature in the Google Home app or on a Nest smart display to dynamically move your music from one device to the other, and even play music on all of the devices in your home by saying, “Hey Google, play music on all my speakers.” 

Apple Music will begin rolling out today on Nest and other Assistant-enabled smart speakers and displays in the U.S., U.K., France, Germany and Japan. With the addition of Apple Music to our audio streaming lineup, you have even more choices when it comes to music streaming services. So whatever the occasion, we’ve got the DJ booth covered.

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How Google is helping me connect with family this year

In a normal year, my family would be planning for our 12-hour flight to South Africa, my home country, to see family for the holidays. But since we can’t do that this year, we’re trying to reimagine the usual gatherings and traditions—the same way we’ve already reimagined work, school, birthdays and other holidays.

I’ve been thinking back to how we coped with lockdown in March and April, and using that to figure out how to close out the year. Like every other family with small children, I am not entirely sure how I managed it—and let’s be honest, most of the time I relied on pure survival tactics. But I also developed a range of new hacks and skills, making use of a few practical Google products. As we prepare to do it all again, with shorter days and colder weather, these are some of the lessons I’ll take with me:

photo of a girl coloring while having a virtual video call with her grandma on a laptop

Storytime Hour with Granny comes with a free printout to color with each story.

Near or far, loved ones can be close

So many families are dispersed across the globe. I live in the UK, but I’m originally from South Africa, and my family still resides there. I haven’t ever experienced what it’s like to have parents living nearby, but somehow during lockdown the thing I needed most was to have my mum there to lend a hand with the kids or just pop in for a cup of tea. My children were not in school, and I was managing a large project at work. To add insult to injury, my kids also openly admitted that my storytelling was just not up to scratch during our daily school lessons, and that they’d prefer to “hear from Granny, because she does the funny voices.”

Necessity being the mother of invention, “Storytime Hour with Granny” was born. 

We began a tradition of setting up a Google Meet every afternoon, so she could read a story to her grandchildren for an hour. We set up the call in Google Calendar, where it was easy for her to simply click on the Meet link, and for one precious hour, my children were transported to another place, mesmerized by old storybooks. (And I transported myself to my home office for some less mesmerizing but blessedly uninterrupted focus time while listening to questionable music and sipping coffee that wasn’t cold, for a change.)

Two children roll out dough while watching an instructional video on YouTube

Sometimes you need to consult the biscuit instructors. Yes, that is a job. 

Create a class

As much as my kids loved the connection with their grandmother, they also needed to connect with their friends. My son is in his third year of primary school, so he’s not old enough to socialize virtually on his own. So I set up a weekly “class assembly” where he could connect with his peers, say hello and spend most of the hour pulling faces at each other. Using Google Meet on my laptop meant we could see all 30 kids and their parents joining from their homes. (Even if, at times, the camera was pointed towards the ceiling or only the top of a child’s head.) 

Each week we picked a different topic to talk about. When it was my turn, I hosted a banana bread-making class, where I asked the Google Assistant to pull up a simple recipe from YouTube that we could all follow easily. As a backup, the Google Assistant can quickly provide answers to questions such as “How many tablespoons is one cup?” (It was also helpful with the many other fundamental questions lockdown brings, such as “How many blues are there in the world?” and “What does a peregrine falcon sound like?” among others I needed reminding of, such as what day of the week it was.)

photo of a Next Hub Max displaying a photo of two children on swings

Besides all the helpful features, Nest Hub Max can display a seemingly infinite carousel of photos.

Share and display your photos 

As my parents live far away, this year I have decided to gift them a Nest Hub Max for Christmas. I know my mum will keep it in the kitchen, which means she can watch YouTube videos, stream Netflix content, listen to music and make video calls on Google Duo, all while she’s preparing meals or having tea. It also means my parents won’t need to set up their laptop for Storytime Hour anymore; they can just dial in straight from this nifty device. 

But the thing I’m most excited about is the Nest Hub Max’s photo frame feature. All grandparents love photos, but they seem to have taken on new significance in the absence of face-to-face visits—even the not-so-photogenic ones (and like many families who take photos on the fly, we have plenty of those action shots). And now my children won’t have to say, “Take a picture! Don’t forget to send it to Granny! Did you send it to Granny? You forgot, didn’t you?” Soon they’ll be able to automatically see and enjoy those moments in a shared photo album from Google Photos shown on the display, whether it’s that vacation we took to Croatia pre-lockdown, or a macro close-up of my daughter’s forehead. To enable this, all you need to do is set up the Nest Hub photo frame feature.

photo of two children in a bedroom crowding around and looking intently at a nightstand

“That’s a really great photo of your arm…or is that my arm?”

Help with bedtime

When the days slip into more days that feel exactly the same as all the other days, creating a set daily schedule—especially for bedtime—has been key to helping my children settle down. I set up a Routine using the Google Assistant on a Google Nest Mini in the kids’ room. As they’re getting into their pajamas and bouncing off the walls, I say the command that, frankly, Mary Poppins would’ve been grateful for: “Hey Google, bedtime.” I’m given tomorrow’s weather forecast (informing us, almost always, that we’ll need to pack an umbrella) and any scheduled calendar events. It then sets an alarm for the morning and dims the lights, ready for story time. To help them nod off, it also plays relaxing sounds, turning the noise off automatically after an hour when they are hopefully sound asleep. This has really helped them adjust to their own rhythm at home, even if it doesn’t always go to plan—which, let’s be honest, is at least 50 percent of the time. But at least the chaos is accompanied by the lulling background noise of crashing waves.

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