Google Home is 6 times more likely to answer your question than Amazon Echo (study by 360i.) While Google’s Home Mini is still quite limited in the actions it can perform, there are still a few ways you can maximize its convenience while we wait for software updates to unlock more features.
Controlling it: The most annoying aspect of controlling your Mini is the need to preface every question with “OK Google” or “Hey Google.” You can’t customize the wake phrase and you can’t wake it by touch. Press controls can be used for other features, sparing you an “OK Google” in a lot of scenarios where your Mini is within reach. Pressing and holding either side will pause and play your music or hang up the call you’re on. Tapping the side will control volume and turn off an alarm. Also, you can string multiple questions or requests in a row after you’ve woken Mini up, and it will answer them in order with great consistency.
Making calls: Phone calls through the Mini aren’t exactly HD, but they’re good enough to make it a handy feature when your hands are full. Just be sure to set up your caller ID in the Google Home App so that it displays your real phone number. It defaults to ‘Unknown Number,’ which will drop your chances of someone accepting your call significantly.
Playing music: You’ll want to link your music accounts via the App and select your preferred music service. While Spotify is more popular than Google Music, Spotify limits its third party integration to playing artists and playlists. You can’t order up specific songs except through Google Music. The cool thing is that you can be really lazy with your requests. Since Google owns search its really good at understanding requests like: “Play the song that goes… Don’t take the money. Don’t take the money.”
Getting around: You can let Google know via the Home App whether you generally travel to work by car, public transport, on foot or by bike. You can set a separate default for all travel unrelated to work, making Google’s direction and traffic information quite customizable.
Listening to the news: Out of the box Home Mini assumes you want to hear news from NPR, Fox and ESPN, among others. Customize your news sources by removing those you don’t want and adding others in. Then order your news sources for a more efficient briefing at the beginning of each day.
Requesting really specific things: Find yourself giving Google a specific long-winded request on a regular basis? Give it a shortcut in your settings. You can define complex actions based on a specific phrase you say.
Syncing your calendar: Sadly Mini will only read your Google Calendar out of the box. There is however a Home App called Fetch my Calendar that you can use to integrate your Outlook calendar as well.
Watching TV: One of the coolest features of Home Mini is its ability to control Chromecast. It can even turn your TV on as it looks up specific episodes from Netflix or a search on YouTube.
Recognizing who’s talking: Part of the initial setup with Google Home Mini involves saying the wake phrase a few times. This lets Google define your voice, to which it assigns all of your custom preferences. Google can do this for up to six people, so take the 30 seconds to train it on everyone’s voice. It will vastly improve everyone’s experience.
Google Home Mini has yet to roll out the ability to dictate text messages, emails or notes. We’re hoping to see these important features rolled out in 2018. Until then, we hope this list helps you maximize your Mini.