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Google Brings Free Ad-Supported YouTube Music Streaming to Google Assistant Speakers

In lockstep with Amazon, Google has announced a free, ad-supported music streaming option for use with smart speakers that feature its voice-activated assistant. The new "free" streaming tier means owners of Google Home or other Google Assistant-powered speakers can listen to tracks from the YouTube Music catalog, albeit interspersed with ads. Listening to music on your Google Home speaker right out-of-the-box seems too good to be true, right? It’s not! Starting today, YouTube Music is offering a free, ad-supported experience on Google Home speakers (or other Google Assistant-powered speakers).Free, ad-supported YouTube Music is available on smart speakers in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia, Great Britain, Ireland, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Japan, Netherlands, and Austria. Google says it will be available in more countries soon. Note that the ad-supported streaming tier isn't supported on computers or phones. On that note, Google appears to be using the free offering to entice people to upgrade to YouTube Music Premium ($9.99/month), which enables listening on both supporting smart speakers and the YouTube Music mobile app, which also lets users background play music while using other apps and download tracks for offline listening. Amazon on Thursday also announced the debut of a free music option for Amazon Alexa users in the United States alongside its Prime music service, which provides access to more than two million songs, and Amazon Music Unlimited, Amazon's on-demand music service priced starting at $9.99 per

Spotify Offering UK Family Plan Subscribers a Free Google Home Mini Speaker

Spotify on Monday began offering all premium Family plan subscribers in the U.K. a free Google Home Mini smart speaker. From today, both new and existing family plan subscribers can claim their free Google speaker, worth £49, simply by heading to the Spotify website. The offer ends on 14 May 2019. Spotify's premium family plan costs £14.99 per month and allows up to six people to access the service using a personal account for each family member. Apple Music vs. Spotify With that in mind, it's worth noting that the free speaker offer can only be claimed by the master account holder. However the device's built-in Google Assistant can recognize up to six different voices in the home, which means each person in the family can stream Spotify tracks from their own accounts. Update: This offer is no longer available and Google is no longer offering free Google Home Mini speakers to UK family plan subscribers.

Google Says Bug Caused Apple Music to Appear in Google Home App [Updated]

Apple Music's brief appearance in the Google Home app earlier this week was due to a software bug, a Google spokesperson confirmed to Bloomberg. Specifically, we've been told that the Google Assistant and Google Home apps share various settings for music services. Due to a bug, Google opened up the ‌Apple Music‌ setting more broadly than it intended, including to Google Home app users. In an earlier statement, a Google spokesperson said "‌Apple Music‌ is currently only available for Google Assistant users on mobile phones. We have nothing to announce regarding updates to Google Home." Back in December, ‌Apple Music‌ became available on Amazon's range of Echo speakers, so there was hope that the service would be expanding to Google Home speakers too. Many other music services are available on Google Home, including Spotify, Pandora, Deezer, Google Play Music, and YouTube Music. Of course, ‌Apple Music‌ could launch on Google Home eventually, and the two companies could be simply hiding their tracks. ‌Apple Music‌ is currently available on iOS, Android, Apple Watch, Apple TV, HomePod, and Amazon Echo and Sonos speakers. ‌Apple Music‌ can also be controlled with the Google Assistant app on iOS

Apple Music Integration Possibly Coming to Google Home Devices [Updated]

Apple Music may be soon be available as an option on Google Home devices, according to an image that was shared by MacRumors reader Jason. We were able to track down the ‌Apple Music‌ listing within the Google Home app for iOS devices, but at the current time, it can't be linked to a Google Home device. In previous versions of Google's software, ‌Apple Music‌ was listed in a separate "limited availability" section of the app and also "Only available on iOS devices". The updated listing suggests that Apple could soon make ‌Apple Music‌ an available option for Google Assistant-powered playback on Google Home devices, much like it did with the Amazon Echo. Back in December, ‌Apple Music‌ became available on Amazon's range of Echo speakers, allowing Alexa voice commands to be used to control ‌Apple Music‌ playback. The ‌Apple Music‌ listing appears to be relatively new, and given that it's not working, it suggests an upcoming feature. ‌Apple Music‌ expanding to Google Home speakers would make Apple's music service more accessible across all of the most popular smart home speakers that are available at the current time, expanding access far beyond just the HomePod. Many other music services are available on Google Home, including Spotify, Pandora, Google Play Music, YouTube Music, and Deezer. Update: In a statement to VentureBeat, Google said that ‌Apple Music‌ is limited to Google Assistant and there is no new announcement regarding Google Home: "‌Apple Music‌ is currently only available for Google Assistant users on mobile phones. We have nothing to

HomePod Estimated to Have Just 4% Market Share Worldwide Despite 45% Sales Growth Last Quarter

HomePod shipments totaled 1.6 million units in the fourth quarter of 2018, a 45 percent increase on a year-over-year basis, according to Strategy Analytics. Despite the growth, the research firm estimates that Apple's share of the worldwide smart speaker market was just 4.1 percent during the quarter. By comparison, Amazon and Google commanded the market with an estimated 13.7 million and 11.5 million smart speakers shipments respectively. The two companies combined for an estimated 65.5 percent market share in the quarter. A lot of this comes down to pricing. At $349, the ‌HomePod‌ is significantly more expensive than the Amazon Echo and Google Home. In particular, the smaller Amazon Echo Dot and Google Home Mini models were available for as low as $25 during the holiday season, a fraction of the cost of a ‌HomePod‌. "Amazon and Google both have broad model lineups, ranging from basic to high-end, with even more variants from Amazon. Apple of course has only its premium-priced ‌HomePod‌, and likely won't gain significant share until it offers an entry-level product closer to Echo Dot and Home mini," CIRP co-founder Josh Lowitz said last month. To improve sales, many resellers offered the ‌HomePod‌ for $249 during the holiday season, and $279 is a commonly seen price too. Second is the fact that the ‌HomePod‌ is not so smart, as many reviews found, due to Siri's shortcomings compared to Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Apple recently restructured its Siri team as it works to make improvements. A third reason is availability. Apple launched the ‌HomeP

Google Planning to Launch Echo Show-Like Smart Speaker With Touch Screen Later This Year

Google entered the smart speaker market in 2016 with the introduction of Google Home, allowing users to speak to Google Assistant and control various smart home products, listen to music, get the news, and more. Eventually, Google added the Home Mini and Home Max to the lineup, introducing products that were direct competitors to the Amazon Echo Dot and Apple HomePod, respectively. Looking forward, the next Google Home will be a smart speaker equipped with a touch display that should arrive in time for the holiday shopping season, according to sources speaking to Nikkei Asian Review. This means that the new device "is likely to be similar to the Amazon Echo Show," which includes a display so users can do things like watch videos, view photos, and hold video calls. The Lenovo Smart Display with Google Assistant (left) and Amazon Echo Show (right) Google's plan for the upcoming device is described as "aggressive": "Google targets to ship some 3 million units for the first batch of the new model of smart speaker that comes with a screen," an industry source said. "It's an aggressive plan." Earlier in 2018, Google announced a new "Smart Display" platform with partners like Lenovo, JBL, and Sony. Through these partnerships, the Google Assistant can be placed in devices not directly built by Google, like the Lenovo Smart Display and upcoming JBL Link View and ThinQ View. The new product described in today's report would represent Google's own first-party entry into this market. Google and Amazon butted heads following the launch of the Echo Show last year, when Google

Smart Speaker Survey States iPhone Owners 22 Percent More Likely to Buy Speakers, Favor Amazon Over Google

In January, Voicebot.ai surveyed 1,057 Americans over the age of 18 regarding their ownership or interest in smart speakers, and today the researchers have published their final report with the results. While the data precedes Apple's entry into the market with HomePod in February, it does include a few points of data regarding iPhone/iOS users and their interest in smart speakers, prevalent long before rumblings about Apple's HomePod began. Specifically, the Smart Speaker Consumer Adoption Report states that iPhone owners are 22 percent more likely to own a smart speaker compared to non-Apple smartphone owners. Of the smart speakers on the market besides HomePod, iPhone users are 30 percent less likely to own a Google Home and favor devices like Amazon Echo. Graphs via Voicebot.ai In fact, Voicebot.ai argued that Apple and Amazon are likely companions in "multi-manufacturer households," where HomePod is purchased as a "luxury item for music listening" and Echo is used for more "utilitarian tasks." iOS users are attractive consumers and far more likely to own a smart speaker overall, but far less likely to own a Google device. However, the data also suggests that Google is at less risk of losing share to Apple HomePod than Amazon. Apple and Amazon may be the focus of multi-manufacturer households where HomePod is a luxury item for music listening in living spaces while Echo products get placed in the kitchen and bedrooms for utilitarian tasks. In addition, iPhone owners are a good fit for Amazon because they are far more likely to have made a purchase by voice

Smart Speaker Showdown: HomePod vs. Google Home Max vs. Sonos One

Apple's new HomePod is late to the smart speaker market, which is already crowded with speakers from companies like Amazon, Google, and Sonos. The latter two companies, Google and Sonos, have released speakers with high-quality sound and robust voice assistants, giving the HomePod some serious competition. We decided to pit Apple's $349 HomePod against both the $399 Google Home Max, which comes with Google Assistant, and the $199 Alexa-powered Sonos One to see how the HomePod measures up. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. To compare the three speakers, we focused on design, sound quality, and the overall performance of Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant. When it comes to design -- and this is certainly subjective -- we preferred the look of the HomePod with its fabric-wrapped body and small but solid form factor. The Sonos One looks a little more dated with its squarer body and standard speaker mesh, while the Google Home Max has a much larger footprint that's going to take up more space. Apple's HomePod All three offer touch-based controls at the top of the device, but the Google Home Max has one design edge - a USB-C port and a 3.5mm audio jack for connecting external music sources. The Sonos One has a single Ethernet port, while the HomePod has no ports. Though we liked the HomePod's design, Siri, as you might expect, did not perform as well as Alexa on Sonos One or Google Assistant on Google Home Max. Google Home Max On questions like "Is Pluto a planet?" or "What's the fastest car?" both Alexa and Google Assistant were

Google Home Mini Firmware Update Reinstates Touch Controls Previously Disabled Over Privacy Concerns

Google's Home Mini smart speaker received an update on Friday that brings back some of the touch-based controls that the company had to disable shortly after its release back in October (via AndroidPolice). Google was forced to turn off the built-in touch panel, which is designed to let users activate Google Assistant with a long press instead of a voice command, after a reviewer discovered that some of the devices were registering "phantom touch events". The issue meant that some Minis were prone to recording conversations and sounds even when no "OK Google" voice command was spoken, immediately prompting privacy concerns. As a result, Google opted to disable the touch features completely, including single-tap functions that played and paused music, snoozed alarms, and ended phone calls. Friday's v1.29 firmware update reinstates some of that single-tap functionality, but via a side long press instead. After installing the update, Google Home Mini owners will again be able to play/pause music, end phone calls, and silence alarms without speaking to the device. However, users still won't be able to trigger voice input using touch, because the top long press functions remain disabled. The software tweak is initially being rolled out in the preview firmware channel, which Home Mini owners can join via the Home app settings if they don't want to wait around for the automatic

Google Disables Malfunctioning Home Mini Feature That Could Cause Non-Stop Recording [Updated]

Google recently disabled a feature included in its upcoming Google Home Mini smart speaker after a reviewer found that it was causing the device to record conversations and sounds even when no "OK Google" prompt word was spoken. As detailed by Android Police's Artem Russakovskii, who received a Google Home Mini test unit last week, the device was malfunctioning due to an issue with the built-in touch panel designed to let Google Assistant be activated with a press instead of a voice command. The Google Home Mini's touch mechanism was registering phantom touch events, causing it to continually record audio, which is not supposed to happen. Russakovskii discovered the problem after finding thousands of recordings in the Assistant section his My Activity portal on the web, where Assistant queries are stored. Google was alerted to the issue and collected his unit for testing, which led to the discovery of the faulty touch mechanism. The problem as described by Google:We have learned of an issue impacting a small number of Google Home Minis that could cause the touch mechanism to behave incorrectly. We are rolling out a software update today that should address the issue.To fix the malfunctioning touch panel, Google released a firmware update for all Google Home Mini devices disabling the feature allowing Google Assistant to be activated with a long press. Google told Russakovskii a longer-term fix is in the works, but in the meantime, the press to activate feature will not be available when the Google Home Mini launches.In response, the updated software disables the

Upcoming 'Google Home Mini' Smart Speaker Details and Images Leaked

We've previously covered rumors that Google has been working on a "mini" version of its $129 Google Home smart speaker, which is expected to be unveiled at the company's Pixel 2 smartphone event scheduled for October 4. But it looks as if details and images of the "Home Mini" have already been leaked, courtesy of DroidLife. According to the tech site, Google Home Mini is the official name of the new smart speaker, which will cost $49 and come in Chalk, Charcoal, and Coral colors. The Google Home Mini is said to be able to help users with their schedule, set reminders, catch up on news headlines, and other Home-related inquiries, thanks to integrated Google Assistant. The pictures show lights on top of each unit, which will likely indicate interaction with Google Assistant. But unlike the original Google Home, the images suggest owners won't be able to change the color of the bases on the Mini versions. Alongside the new smart speaker, Google is expected to launch a rebranded Chromebook or "Google Pixelbook" at its Pixel 2 smartphone event. DroidLife has also managed to unearth pictures of the new notebook, which will reportedly come in silver, offer stylus support, and have three different storage tiers – 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB, costing $1,199, $1,399, and $1,749,

Enhancements Coming to Google Assistant Set to Rival Siri Improvements in iOS 11

In the run-up to the official release of iOS 11 this month, much of Apple's focus has been on touted improvements coming to its built-in virtual assistant, Siri. Apart from becoming more naturally spoken, Siri will allow users to get real-time translation between select languages and is said to boast a greater understanding of the user's needs dependent on circumstance and time of day, with the AI assistant's learning synced across devices. Apple is hoping these and other improvements will go some way to quashing negative perceptions of Siri, which have led some iOS users to turn to rival assistants for a better experience. One of those rivals is Google Assistant, which as well as powering Google's Pixel smartphones is integrated into Google's iOS Search app. In general tests, Google Assistant consistently beats Siri in areas including language comprehension, responsiveness, and answer accuracy. But like Apple, Google's AI team is not resting on its laurels, and this week at Google Developer Days, the company demoed some of the new features it is working to bring to its flagship assistant in the near future. Like Siri, one of the major additions coming to Google Assistant is a new translator mode, which once activated by the user with the phrase "OK Google, be my [specify language] translator", repeats everything that is subsequently said in the requested language both vocally and visually. While standard translation as such isn't new to Google Assistant, the new way of interacting with it is designed to be more useful when users are traveling abroad. Another

New Google Chromebook and Google Home 'Mini' Could Debut Alongside Pixel 2 Phones

Google will launch an all-new Pixel-branded Chromebook and a miniaturized version of its Google Home smart speaker alongside new Pixel smartphones at an event this fall, according to a source familiar with the company's plans. Details are scant on the new Pixel notebook, which will revive the Chromebook line after two years of inactivity, but AndroidPolice suggests it could be the fruition of Google's secretive "Project Bison" first reported last year. According to rumors, the Bison has a 12.3-inch display, 32 or 128GB of storage, 8 or 16GB of RAM, and a thickness of under 10mm, with the possibility of a "tablet" mode. Originally tipped for a Q3 2017 release and with prices said to start at $799, Bison was said to be considered internally as a serious competitor to Apple's MacBook and Microsoft's Surface Pro, but it's unknown whether the new Pixel Chromebook will actually take this form. Again, details are few and far between regarding the rumored Google Home "mini" that could debut at the company's fall event, but it's likely to be positioned similarly to Amazon's Echo Dot as a smaller, cheaper version of the $129 flagship model, offering existing Google Home owners a more affordable way of extending smart speaker coverage to additional rooms of the house. Google's second-generation Pixel smartphones will come in two sizes and both models are expected to feature "squeezable" sides that enable them to perform different functions. The 4.97-inch device will by made by HTC and is said to have a 1080p display and stereo speakers, while the 6-inch XL handset made

Google Home Owners Can Now Stream Songs They Uploaded to Play Music

Google has updated its Home smart speaker software so that owners can now listen to music they have uploaded to and purchased on Google Play Music. Previously, using a free Play Music account through Google Home was limited to playing radio stations, while paying subscribers could listen to tracks in the streaming service's own online catalog. But now both types of account holders can also play music they have personally uploaded to the cloud (up to 50,000 songs) or bought outright on the Play Music store. As detailed in the company's product forum post, Google Home will now prioritize uploaded and purchased tracks over radio mixes when users ask to play a certain artist, but on-demand content will play before purchased/uploaded content unless paying users specifically ask Home to play something from their library. The feature is currently rolling out to all regions where Google Home is supported. See Google's help page on the subject for

Google I/O 2017: Assistant on iOS, Bluetooth Streaming on Google Home, and Easy Sharing With Photos

Google today kicked off its annual I/O developer conference in Mountain View, California, beginning with a keynote where the company announced Google Assistant for iPhone, new Google Home features including the ability to stream Apple Music via Bluetooth, and new photo sharing features in Google Photos. Google Assistant on iOS As it was rumored earlier this week, Google today announced that its AI helper Google Assistant is out now for iOS as its own standalone app [Direct Link]. This way, users will be able to chat with Google and gain access to all of its interactive features without needing a Pixel or Android smartphone. The company also revealed that Google Assistant will be gaining new chatbot abilities and integration with a new technology called Google Lens, which enhances a smartphone's camera with AI learning. As an example, Google showed a demo where a user took a picture of a business's sign, and gave them reviews, menu items, friend check-ins, and more. Other examples include the camera's ability to identify what a user is looking at, such as the species of a flower, or connecting to a Wi-Fi network by taking a picture of a sticker on a router.

Apple's Echo-Like Smart Speaker With Siri and AirPlay Could Debut as Early as WWDC

Apple is widely rumored to be working on a Siri-based smart home device with a speaker, and Australian leaker Sonny Dickson has shared new details about its possible design and features on Twitter and with MacRumors. Apple's smart speaker could take design cues from the Google Home Dickson said that Apple is currently "finalizing designs" for the Amazon Echo and Google Home competitor, which he expects to be marketed as a Siri and AirPlay device. "It is believed to carry some form of Beats technology," he added, while noting that the device will run a variant of iOS software. It is believed to carry some form of Beats technology, and is expected to run an variant iOS— Sonny Dickson (@SonnyDickson) April 27, 2017 Dickson later told MacRumors that the device, allegedly codenamed B238 internally, will feature a Mac Pro-like concave top with built-in controls. His source, which he told us is "someone inside Apple," described the device as "fat" like the Google Home with speaker mesh covering the majority of the device. Dickson was told Apple's smart speaker could be unveiled at WWDC 2017 in early June, but as always, the company's plans could change. In September 2016, Bloomberg reported that Apple's smart home device had entered prototype testing, including both a larger and a smaller model in line with Amazon's current Echo lineup. However, at the time, the report cautioned that Apple's early efforts do not guarantee that a finalized product will be released. The report said Apple's smart home device would be able to control appliances, locks, lights, and

Google Home Smart Speaker Now Supports Multiple Users

Google Home received a major update to its voice recognition system on Thursday that lets owners set up the smart speaker to recognize multiple account holders. The software update means that up to six people can connect their Google account to one speaker and Google Assistant will be able to distinguish users by the sound of their voice. Amazon is said to be working on a similar feature for its Echo range of devices. The feature works by listening to how individual users say the phrases "Ok Google" and "Hey Google", and then runs the samples through a neural network that can detect certain voice characteristics and match vocal analyses in a matter of milliseconds. Google says the process happens "only on your device" and the samples aren't sent anywhere else. ArsTechnica asked Google how confident it was in the speaker's ability to distinguish users only by voice. Google responded by explaining that the feature was still being refined. "We don't recommend that users rely upon voice identification as a security feature," said the company. To enable multi-user support, owners need the latest version of the Google Home app. If the app doesn't highlight the new feature, click the icon in the top right to see all connected devices. After selecting the Google Home speaker from the list, tap "Link your account" and the app will run through the process that teaches Google Assistant to recognize your voice. The feature began rolling out in the U.S. yesterday, and Google says it will expand to the U.K. "in the coming months".

Nest Earth Day Discounts Include $30 Off Learning Thermostat, $50 Off Combo Purchase With Google Home

Nest recently announced a new discount has launched for customers looking to purchase the company's Nest Learning Thermostat, allowing them to buy the IoT temperature-controlling device for $219 on its website, totaling $30 in savings. Nest founder and chief product officer Matt Rogers announced the temporary deal in a blog post this week, which he said is tied into upcoming celebrations surrounding Earth Day. As such, Nest Learning Thermostat's $219 price tag will only remain available to customers until Earth Day, on Saturday, April 22. In the post, Rogers mentioned that since the Nest Learning Thermostat's launch in 2011, the device has "saved over 12 billion kWh of energy," which equates to "enough to power New York City for 81 days." For us, home isn’t just an address where we raise our families. It’s the world we inhabit, and it’s our only one. As the late Carl Sagan noted in his book Pale Blue Dot, “On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives." So it’s up to us to take care of Earth, for all the generations to come. In honor of Earth Day, we want to help more people save energy with a Nest Thermostat. Reversing decades of global warming is a huge challenge. But we believe that together, we can change climate change. Customers also interested in Google Home have a chance to save a little more as well, as Nest also announced a combo deal where purchasing both the Nest Learning Thermostat and Google Home at the same time will earn users $50 in savings. Instead of paying $378 for

Burger King TV Ad Highlights Voice Recognition Challenge For Smart Speakers

Burger King made headlines yesterday when it began running a 15-second television ad made to intentionally activate Google Home speakers and Android phones within earshot. The simple commercial involves someone posing as a Burger King employee who leans into the camera to ask the question "OK Google, what is the Whopper burger?" – a request designed to prompt Google virtual assistants nearby to start reading the burger's Wikipedia entry. To the relief of many, Google quickly moved to prevent its Home speakers from responding to the ad by registering the sound clip and disabling the trigger. Voices on TV have been inadvertently triggering smart speakers for months now, but the ad represents the first attempt by a company to purposely hijack users' devices for commercial gain. One likely reason Burger King chose to target Google Home rather than iPhones is that unlike Apple's Siri, the virtual assistant cannot be trained to recognize a particular user's voice, which highlights one of the main issues with connected smart speakers currently on the market. As it stands, Google Home can only be used with a single Google account at a time, and lacks the ability to differentiate users by their voice patterns. Google has said its ultimate goal for Home is to be able to identify different people in the same room – and hints of multi-user functionality have briefly appeared in the Google Home app – suggesting some sort of voice identification feature is likely coming. Likewise, Amazon is known to be working on a similar system that would allow its Echo range of

Google Home Arriving in the U.K. on April 6, Priced at £129

Google has revealed that its Amazon Echo rival, Google Home, will arrive in the United Kingdom on April 6. The announcement was made on Tuesday at an event in London, where it was also revealed that the British version of the connected smart speaker will deliver news briefings from several U.K. media outlets including The Guardian and the BBC. Rollout of Google Home beyond American shores has lagged behind its main rival. The Echo range of speakers was released in Germany and the U.K. back in September 2016, allowing Amazon to gain an early foothold in the British market over the holiday period. Google's voice-activated speaker has also recently been dogged by accusations that its virtual Google Assistant responds to some questions with dubious answers because of flaws in the way its online search algorithm operates. Google Home will cost £129 when it arrives in the U.K. next month and will be available from the Google Store, Argos, Dixons, John Lewis, and Maplins. Google is also launching colored bases, costing £18 for fabric and £36 for metal