I bought a Google Home Mini last week. I’d been vaguely considering one, thinking that the kids would have a blast with it, which was of course the perfect excuse for me to buy one so I could fiddle around with it. A 20% off deal on eBay sealed the deal and in a matter of hours I had one in my clammy little hands.

It’s turned out to be a lot more useful than I thought. Not life-changing, and it certainly doesn’t do anything I couldn’t already do: it simply makes things easier.

For example, I watch a lot of stuff through my Chromecast. It’s awesome, but the one area it falls down (at least on iOS) is when you have to pause something. The process goes a little like this:

  • Unlock your phone
  • Find/open the Google Home app
  • Click the little icon to get to the screen that shows you what’s playing
  • Wait for the Google Home app to register that the Chromecast is playing something
  • Hit the pause button

It’s hardly laborious, but it takes a second or two. But now all I have to do is say this:

  • “Hey, Google – pause”

It’s a similar process for getting stuff playing through the Chromecast – which wasn’t especially hard to begin with. Whereas I’d previously open, say, the Netflix app, click the cast button, wait for it to connect, then start playing my chosen programme; now I can just say:

  • “Hey Google, play Star Trek Discovery [on Netflix] on Chromecast”

You can skip the “on Netflix” bit, since the Google Home will typically default to finding your programme on Netflix anyway. Another useful feature is that, although the Google Assistant can’t select specific episodes of TV shows (yet), Netflix will default to the latest unwatched episode. And if it gets it wrong a quick “Hey Google – next episode” will usually fix things.

I don’t have many other smart devices (yet), but I do have a Yeelight lightstrip that works through the wifi network, and has an ‘action’ available in the Google Home app. Once I’d set that up (which was easy), I was able to do things like:

  • “Hey Google, turn Yeelight lightstrip on”
  • Hey Google, change Yeelight lightstrip to green”

Even better was the realisation that, because I only have the one lighting device, I could just say things like:

  • “Hey Google, turn lights on”

Another area where the Google Home makes life a little easier is, perhaps not surprisingly, helping you search for things. For example, instead of going into the Youtube app and typing ‘Guardians Inferno’, then selecting the Guardians Inferno video and hitting play, I can just say:

  • “Hey Google, play Guardians Inferno on Youtube [on Chromecast]”

So, yeah, it doesn’t do anything I can’t do already, but it’s one of those things that just makes your life a few percent nicer. Plus, it’s pretty cool being able to turn lights on with your voice!