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Google Home: Download these other mobile apps to unleash the full power



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Google Home only requires one app, but several others can come in handy as well.

James Martin / CNET

If you dig into it Google home ecosystem long enough, you’ll find that the Google Home app alone won’t do everything you need to. Tons of great features will require you to download even more Google apps like Google Assistant and even Gmail, but there’s nothing in the Google Home app to let you know.

To make things even more confusing, there are some apps you think you need, but one, you really don’t, or two you do, just not for the reason you think. Be reassured; I’m going to figure it all out for you.

I will show you which app you absolutely need, which ones are not critical but definitely worth having and finally which ones you can keep in the app store shelf (unless of course you need it for a different reason you need your smart speakers up).

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If you want to set up a morning routine, you’ll want to use the Google Home app for that.

Dale Smith / CNET

The Google Home app does almost everything, but not quite

Everyone has to download the Google Home app to set up their Google branded smart speakers, so it’s by far the most ubiquitous of these apps. The Google Home app is the one you will use most of the time when you need to accomplish something that you cannot easily handle with voice commands. For example, you need the app to create custom assignments or routines, organize your smart home in rooms or create speaker groups for playing music throughout your home.

It is also incredibly useful as a centralized place to see the status of all your smart home devices at any time. Do you want to check whether you have left lights on at home? Instead of opening a bunch of apps for all the different smart bulbs or Wi-Fi outlets you have, you can open the Google Home app to get a snapshot of your entire smart home (and control everything with touch).

The Google Assistant app: Not required, but quite useful

Even though you have the Google Home app on your phone, to completely bridge the gap between your smart speakers and your mobile device, you’ll want to install the Google Assistant app as well. For example, without this feature, you won’t get notifications on your phone for reminders you’ve set on Google Home. You can’t tell Google Home that either send information to your phone without the Google Assistant app, such as answers to random questions, store hours, or even directions.

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Google Home is the name of the device, but it’s the Google Assistant that you talk to when you say “Hey Google.”

James Martin / CNET

Most importantly, though, you’ll need the Google Assistant app to see which third-party apps (called ‘Actions’) you have enabled, which is an important step to improve your privacy and security (check out our more in-depth guide to Google Home privacy and security here).

The Gmail app can help iPhone users tighten up Google Home security

If you really want to limit security and privacy with your Google Home setup, you need to enable two-factor authentication, also known as ‘2FA’. That means that every time you (or someone you aren’t) tries to sign in to your Google Home account, you’ll have to allow it via push notification (our full step-by-step guide on Here’s how to set up two-factor authentication).

If you have an Android device, 2FA for Google Home is baked into the OS. But if you have an iPhone (like me), you will need to download the Gmail app, which will generate the notification when someone (hopefully you) tries to log into your Google Home account. Why Gmail and not another app like Google Assistant? Your guess is as good as mine.

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Download the Nest app to set up and control Nest devices other than smart speakers, but for speakers use the Google Home app.

Tyler Lizenby / CNET

The Nest app is useless for speakers, but fine for other Nest gadgets

A common mistake for people who have just entered the Google Home ecosystem is to download the Nest mobile app when trying to install their new speakers. The confusion, of course, stems from Google’s slow rebranding of Google Home as Google Nest. Last year, Google rebranded the Google Home Hub as Nest Hub ($ 90 at Walmart), as well as the updated Google Home Mini ($ 29 at Walmart) like the new Nest Mini ($ 29 at Walmart). This year, Google discontinued the original Google Home speaker and replaced it with a new option called Nest Audio ($ 100 at Sam’s Club). However, the Nest app won’t help you set up any of those Nest devices, and you don’t need it Nest wifi. You just need the Google Home app for all of the above.

However, you will need the Nest app if you have a Nest Learning Thermostat ($ 240 at Amazon), Nest Protect ($ 119 at Amazon) smoke detector, Nest Secure ($ 407 at HP) Alarm, Nest x Yale lock of Nest security cameras, including Nest Hello ($ 218 at HP) Doorbell.

One Nest feature finally ported to the Google Home app: Location-based routines for at home and on the go. To date Google Home broadcast feature that lets you send messages throughout your home, plus my recent discovery of Google Home’s hidden short mode, “all contribute to making Google Home a formidable adversary in the ongoing smart speaker wars.


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