Why my family can’t imagine life without this smart speaker

Tom Butler
Senior Editor
Why the Google Mini has become my families favourite item of tech. (John Lewis)

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It’s very rare that a gadget comes along and completely changes your life so seamlessly that it becomes hard to remember how you coped without it. Smartphones spring to mind, but since then the only other gizmo that seems to have had a similar effect - for me at least - is the smart speaker.

After introducing the first Google Nest Mini into our house around two years ago, our Google Home network has continued to grow from one speaker to three, a Google Chromecast in every TV, and a smart screen in the kitchen. And as our family of voice-activated and inter-connected devices has grown, as has the number of now obsolete devices it has replaced in our lives.

Out go the digital radios, satellite receivers and bluetooth speakers, which have all been replaced by tiny little unobtrusive devices, that lie hidden behind picture frames, or tucked behind TV’s waiting to respond to our every command. Our tablets and smartphones are now left untouched for days on end too, cutting down our screen time, leaving us more free time to spend with the kids.

Like I said, I don’t know how we coped without them now.

Why we rate the product

The connected Google Home range is so versatile, it has become part of our daily routine in a million and often imperceptible ways.

We use the Google Nest Mini to play music every day, either through digital radio or via Spotify, but we also ask it for weather updates about a hundred times a day too.

We use the screen in the kitchen to stream the news while we cook, to display recipes to follow, or often just as a hands-free kitchen timer, when your hands are covered in cake mixture. And our Chromecast has virtually replaced the need for bulky boxes sat under the telly as we’re able to cast whatever we want to stream from iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and Disney+ at the touch of a button.

How the product works

Every device we’ve taken into our home has been really easy to set up, and the voice control through Google Assistant is surprisingly intuitive to use once you get over how daft you sound saying “Hey Google” or “OK Google” every time you want to use it.

You don’t always have to use voice commands though, you can also cast music to the devices using your smartphones too and Spotify offers parental controls to prevent the children listening to songs with explicit lyrics.

Google Assistant is also on hand to set reminders, alarms with morning routines, take shopping lists, read the news to you, or control any other smart device on your network. We haven’t taken that leap yet, but we have friends who use it to switch on the heating, or lights, or even open curtains.

What the product reviews say

The smart speaker is currently trending at John Lewis and has an impressive rating average of 4.5/5.

  • “It's just great. Fab sound. Easy to set up, takes up little space.....I am converted and may in fact treat myself to another for upstairs!”

  • “I'd avoided buying a smart speaker until lockdown. It has been a saviour for reducing the amount of phone use, as typing has become painful with the increased use of tech during lockdown. I use it for making calls, playing music, getting weather updates, news updates.The speaker itself for music is amazing quality. So glad I took the plunge.”

  • “We have 3 dotted around our flat and play music, the radio, set alarms, turn on/off some lamps, check the weather and sport scores very naturally from anywhere we are.”

  • “Easy to use and very popular. Specifically I was surprised by the quality..of the speaker. Clear and excellent bass tones. Highly recommended to listen to music.”

Buy it: Google Nest Mini Hands-Free Smart Speaker | £49 from John Lewis