The latest update to the Google Home app is out, but it’s not going to give you much to look at in the form of live changes. Instead, this update appears to be largely focused on adding new hardware support for Nest security products, and possibly a few others. There’s also a new feature in the works called Talk and Listen that could be a solid enhancement to the Broadcast feature.
- Ambient Mode renamed to Photo Frame
Rename to Photo Frame
Left: v2.9.40. Center: v2.9.65. Right: Page title wasn’t updated yet.
It’s a relatively small detail, but Ambient Mode has been renamed to Photo Frame. In case the name doesn’t give it away, this is the feature that allows smart displays like the Home Hub to cycle through photos when the device is not otherwise in use.
The features discussed below are probably not live yet, or may only be live for a small percentage of users. Unless stated otherwise, don’t expect to see these features if you install the apk. All screenshots and images are real unless otherwise stated, and images are only altered to remove personal information.
Talk and Listen
A new feature has been named in some text for a permission. Something going by the name Talk and Listen will request access to a microphone, but not much else can be conclusively read from the evidence.
<string name=“talkback_microphone_permission_description“>To use Talk and Listen, go to Settings in the Home app, tap Permissions, and turn on microphone access.</string>
My first instinct is that this is a feature building on top of Broadcast, the ability to send a voice message to Google Home devices. If this guess is correct, I picture it working out so you can speak a message to a Google Home, then wait for some length of time to hear a response.
This concept is possibly further supported by some additional new lines that describe calling devices in your home. These have no definite relation to the first pair of strings, but the theme matches closely enough.
<string name=“accessibility_call_home_button“>Call devices in your home</string>
<string name=“home_tab_coin_call_home“>Call Home</string>
This could certainly be a useful feature, both for starting an intercom-like communication between people in different rooms without requiring constant broadcast commands and possibly for checking in on your home when you’re not around.
Google Home didn’t begin with support for very many hardware types, focusing almost solely on lights and Google Home devices, but it is starting to grow to include a bit more. One definite addition will be the Nest Cam, a security camera produced by Google’s Nest team. A built-in setup procedure is in the works that will give users the ability to set up the camera natively in the Google Home app.
As is already the case, users can set up the camera using either a QR code or WiFi, and the same options will be available here.
<string name=“add_device_method_wifi_row_text“>[PH] WiFi scanning</string>
<string name=“qr_code_add_device_list_title“>[PH] Choose the product you’re setting up</string>
<string name=“select_add_device_method_title“>[PH] Choose how to add device</string>
(Open) Door and window sensors
Continuing on from the previous topic, there are also two other device types mentioned, but not exactly by name. An addition to the text reveals that support is also coming for door and window sensors. Of course, these are the 2-part sensors that detect if a door or window is opened.
The new lines will ask whether you’re installing a sensor to a door or window, then proceed to ask which one, giving you the opportunity to clearly identify each one.
<string name=“major_fixture_type_selector_title“>[PH] Will this %1$s be on a door or window?</string>
<string name=“major_fixture_type_selector_body“>[PH] Choose the fixture you are setting up</string>
<string name=“fixture_name_door_selector_title“>[PH] Which door will this %1$s be on?</string>
<string name=“fixture_name_window_selector_title“>[PH] Which window will this %1$s be on?</string>
The product that’s obviously going to benefit from this is the Nest Detect, part of the Nest Secure bundle. Similar sensors from other manufacturers might also be able to work with this native setup interface, but that assumes Google opens the protocol so others can use it.
New devices, sorta
Two new device names (or types) popped up in the text, but there’s no point pretending they are significant because they are just placeholders for the real names. It’s possible these are for existing devices that are now being integrated into Google Home, similar to the sensors discussed in the section above, or they might be entirely new devices or types of devices.
Both of these could match up with the Nest Cam and Nest Detect, or some other part of Nest’s product lineup. The timing is right, but it doesn’t make much sense to keep the names secret, so these are more likely to be for new products coming later this year.
The name FaceMatch emerged in a teardown of the Google app back in January along with a few details about its setup and operations. In short, this appears to be a personalization feature similar to voice recognition that will allow Google Assistant to give responses based on the user it’s interacting with.
Of course, FaceMatch will rely on a camera instead of a microphone, which could make it suited for working in different situations like loud environments or in collaboration with other hardware like security cameras that may not have a microphone.
The single line doesn’t add any new information, it’s just a title for a settings page, but it does name FaceMatch specifically. This implies the name is likely final — something that wasn’t entirely certain — and confirms that there will be a page in Google’s settings area.
The APK is signed by Google and upgrades your existing app. The cryptographic signature guarantees that the file is safe to install and was not tampered with in any way. Rather than wait for Google to push this download to your devices, which can take days, download and install it just like any other APK.