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Google Home smart speaker is no longer available

Mariana Zamoszczyk, Senior Analyst, Smart Home Services

Since the launch of the Google Nest brand in 2019, Google has been working to bring together all products, accounts, and services under the same roof. To make progress, Google is currently focusing on the promotion of the rebranded Google Nest portfolio, while discontinuing devices that still have the old branding such as the Google Home, the company’s original smart speaker. This decision responds entirely to a branding strategy designed to tie Nest and Google portfolio closer together and create a more unified proposition for the smart home. Omdia expects Google to continue to work on the creation of a more joined-up hardware story to compete against Amazon, focusing on Google Assistant as its key platform and development engine. Most importantly, the company should define what to do regarding the smart speakers that still have the old Google Home branding to overcome the perception that the portfolio remains disconnected despite efforts to show otherwise.

Google updates Nest Aware subscription service

Mariana Zamoszczyk, Senior Analyst, Smart Home Services

Google has finally revamped the Nest Aware subscription service that was first announced at the Made by Google event last year. The update includes a price drop and new service features. The new pricing strategy offers a single subscription fee for the home rather than on a per camera basis. In terms of functionality, Google has introduced different types of alerts and has expanded the list of compatible devices. For example, the new sound detection alert sends an audio clip to the subscriber when a suspicious sound, such as glass braking, is picked up by Google Nest speakers and displays, allowing him/her to call 911 directly from the Google Home app (this feature is only available in the US). Google has greatly simplified the Nest Aware subscription model from a customer perspective. This change has improved Google Nest’s video recording and storage proposition for the smart home, enabling the company to compete head-to-head with Amazon’s Ring Protect subscription service.

Amazon discontinues the Echo Look

Mariana Zamoszczyk, Senior Analyst, Smart Home Services

In April 2017, Amazon introduced the Echo Look smart camera with the objective of expanding Alexa’s functionality as a virtual fashion assistant capable of providing advice and style recommendations. Three years later, the company has decided to discontinue the camera and its companion app arguing that many of Alexa’s fashion and style features have now been moved to the Amazon Shopping app and made available in other Alexa-enabled devices beyond the Echo Look.

Amazon is constantly reviewing Alexa’s product portfolio, making strategic adjustments to meet the company’s business objectives as well as the always-evolving demands from its customer base. In this case, Amazon has retired a product, but not the purpose it was designed to serve, offering instead service continuity by granting customers access to the “Style by Alexa” feature via other channels and devices. This approach to some extent can help minimize the obvious disruption generated by the product retirement, but also serves as a reminder that many products in the smart home industry are still experimental and subject to elimination.

Wink delays mandatory subscription fee after customer negative response

Michael Philpott, Research Director, Service Provider – Consumer

Wink is fundamentally an independent smart home hub that enables the integration and control of a range of smart home devices from well-known brands such as Ring, Philips, Nest, Honeywell, and so on. The main value to the customer is simplicity—a single app to control all devices. The cost of the hub is a one-off fee of $99. In May however, the company suddenly announced that all customers would also have to pay (and at quite short notice) a monthly subscription of $4.99, for the exact same service they had previously been getting for free. If customers don’t pay then the app no longer works, basically rendering their smart home hub unusable. Understandably customer feedback has not been positive, and Wink has had to backtrack on the cutoff date for the subscription although has not gone so far as to cancel the move altogether.

Wink needs to find a new way of making money—there have been reports that in some weeks the company has struggled to pay its staff, and it is suspected that if it doesn’t find another way of raising funds soon then the company could stop functioning altogether. However, the customer backlash is also understandable, this wasn’t what they had bought into and paying a monthly fee for no added value seems a big ask. This is a stark warning therefore to all smart home players to make sure their business model is viable and able to scale, because retrofitting charges for no added value later on is unlikely to meet with customer approval.

Comcast partners with Tile to bring new converged smart home offering

Michael Philpott, Research Director, Service Provider – Consumer

Comcast has announced a new parentship with Tile (a leading Bluetooth tracker vendor) in what it classes as a first in the integration of a third-party device with both its voice assistant and video platform. The resulting use case is that a customer can use voice control to ask Xfinity Home to find an item fitted with a Tile tracker and the results will be displayed on the TV screen. To Omdia, this use case seems a bit gimmicky—similar perhaps to showing a doorbell camera image on the TV screen. On the odd occasion it might be useful, but it is not going to be an everyday scenario unless you assume customers do not move from their TV screen.

However, overall this is a bigger step in the right direction for the future of smart home then the actual use case may suggest. Integrating different technical platforms around the home so that they can interact to provide additional value, flexibility, and convenience is certainly the right way to go. The next step will be to insert the intelligence so that the home platform knows which channels are best to provide the best interaction. Kudos to Comcast therefore for continuing to innovate, both on its own platforms and with third-party partnerships, and explore and experiment with new potential smart home use-cases.

Further reading

Smart Home Devices Forecast Report: 2020–25, CES004-000153 (June 2020)

Telco Smart Home Strategy, CES006-000135 (June 2020)

Consumer AI Device Forecast: 2020–25, CES004-000154 (June 2020)

The Role of AI during COVID-19: Impacts in the Consumer Domain, CES003-000807 (May 2020)

Author

Mariana Zamoszczyk, Senior Analyst, Smart Home Services

Michael Philpott, Research Director, Service Provider – Consumer

[email protected]

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