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Amazon Echo Show finally has competition in the form of the just released Google Home Hub.
With the new smart display, Google has finally completed a smart speaker lineup that goes head to head against Amazon’s Echo speakers.
There’s the main Google Home speaker to compete against the Echo, the dainty Google Home mini to compete against the Echo dot and now Home Hub to give people an alternative to the YouTube-less Echo Show (though Amazon has found a sort of a workaround).
The Home Hub has everything you’d expect from a smart speaker with a screen. You can view your calendar, see YouTube videos, control your smart home and view Google Photos.
But compared to Amazon Echo, the Home Hub’s design feels minimalist…even basic.
Take the screen size for instance. Home Hub has a 7” display compared to Echo’s 10.1 inches.
The Echo show is bigger overall and heavier as well.
But the biggest difference between these two speakers is one we didn’t anticipate – the camera.
No Camera in Google Home Hub
This was perhaps the biggest surprise when Google launched the Home Hub.
Amazon Echo has become the de facto standard-setter when it comes to smart home speakers. People have come to expect features like the camera in smart speakers despite widespread privacy misgivings.
We don’t know whether Google omitted the camera to woo over customers with privacy concerns. Perhaps they wanted a speaker that stands out from the Echo Show.
But it could very well be that they realized most people don’t need a screened smart speaker with a camera.
Amazon Echo Show and Echo Spot are aggressively marketed around the video calling and Drop-In features. That’s all the camera is used for.
But there are plenty of limitations with these features.
For one, you can only video call people with an Echo Show or Spot or the Alexa app on their phone.
Considering most people buy the screen-less Echo speaker, you are going to have a hard time finding friends to chat with on your Echo Show speaker.
No wonder Amazon has decided to add Skype support to their Alexa devices. This will allow calls between the Echo Show and other devices such as a smartphone or laptop.
Let’s face it. If you need to video chat with someone on phone, there are plenty of ways to do it including Facebook Messenger, FaceTime and even Instagram.
For tablets and laptops, most people prefer using Skype.
Sure, video chat on the Echo Show has many advantages. But there are plenty of other convenient ways to chat with family and friends that don’t raise serious privacy concerns.
No Camera = More Privacy
With no camera, it means you cannot make video calls using Google Home Hub. You can’t even use third party services like Skype.
But this is a small sacrifice for the confidence that there isn’t someone watching in your home.
Sure, Amazon lets you turn off the camera in Echo Show and Spot. But it’s impossible to shake off the fear that someone’s watching.
We are already afraid of these speakers’ always-listening microphones. Why make it worse with a camera?
One big advantage of Google Home Hub’s lack of a camera is that you can comfortably use it anywhere in your home whether it’s the bedroom (it’s small enough to fit on the nightstand) or even bathroom.
You can’t say the same for the Echo Spot which was designed as a bedside smart speaker but has a camera.
Perhaps in the future things will change when enough people have smart screened speakers to make video calls with smart speakers easy.
Google could easily add a camera to their second or third generation Home Hub.
But for now, I think the Google Home Hub is perfectly fine and much more reassuring without one.