Google Home is the first smart assistant speaker in Canada, and it's a big deal. Here's what you need to know.

Google Home is now available in Canada, and it's the first voice assistant-powered speaker to make the trip north (despite years of secret Amazon Echo smuggling). Available for $179, the diminutive speaker is terrifically cute and extremely useful, but there are a few differences between it and the U.S. or international versions that you'll want to know about.

It sounds pretty great

I've a Google Home and an illegal Amazon Echo next to one another, and they both sound OK — not great, especially when compared to something like a Sonos Play:1, but pretty good — but I think the Google Home sounds better. It has truer low-end from a nicely-sized passive cavity and a fairly accurate driver for accurate music and voice reproduction.

Given that the Amazon Echo isn't officially sold in Canada, Google Home's respectable sound quality is a bonus, but it helps even more when two units are paired together to form multi-room, or intra-room, music parties.

There's support for Canadian French

Support for Canadian French means that francophones across Canada can now communicate with the smart speaker, while citizens of France at least have an option to communicate with the speaker in something that isn't English.

More importantly, it means that French Canadians can communicate with the assistant in their native tongue, while bilingual Canadians can easily go back and forth between the two. Incroyable!

It's not just an American thing

Google hasn't just slapped a second language on Home and called it a product; the company has added a number of Canadian-specific news sources that everyone can enjoy. Those include:

  • CBC
  • Radio Canada
  • Global News
  • Sportsnet
  • TC Media (Metro)
  • The Weather Network
  • MétéoMédia

These sources can be added to a daily news roundup when selecting English (Canada) or French (Canada) in the language settings of the Google Home app and, thankfully, can be combined with U.S. and UK sources to create a diverse set of news sources, if desired.

There's no multi-user support just yet

Just as the U.S. has received one of the most important Home updates yet, the ability for multiple users to interact with a single speaker with different results based on voice signature, Canadians have been told that feature won't be coming for some time. It's a blow to the out-of-box experience, since multi-user means that six people can get personalized readouts from Google Assistant on daily routines, music playlists, commute times, calendars, and more.

There's no word on when multi-user support will come to Canada, but it should be relatively soon given the imminent release of the feature in the UK.

It's not just for asking questions

Google Assistant knows a lot of things — it's connected to Google, you know — but Home can also connect to smart devices like Philips Hue lights, Nest thermostats (and soon Nest Cams) and Chromecasts. I have a bunch of lights in my office that I leave on all the time now, only to tell Google to turn them off before bed. It's pretty damn convenient.

The list of supported smart home products is growing every day, and the ability to connect a IFTTT account to Home means that even products that aren't supported can be made to work with certain phrases.

It's getting better all the time

Like Google's Pixel smartphones, or its Chromebook laptops, the company is pretty good at iterating on and improving software experiences, and despite not having a screen, Google Home is no exception.

Since it was released, Google has added a handful of new supported products and services, such as LIFX bulbs and Rachio sprinklers (!!) to the list.

There will also soon be bases — the bottom of Google Home is removable — so you can accessorize your speaker with different colors.

There are some cute Easter Eggs

This being a Canadian product, it also has some Canadian quirks. According to the Canadian sleuths over at MobileSyrup, there are some special Canadian-isms that are included in the localization. Start by asking or saying these phrases:

  • What's your favourite kind of chip?
  • What's your favourite Canadian food?
  • What's your favourite snack?
  • Where are you from?
  • Why are Canadians so nice?
  • What are you doing for Canada's birthday?
  • You'll have to excuse me, I'm not at my best

To get the proper responses to these queries, your Google Home's language must be set to English (Canada).

It's available in a lot of places around the country

Google Home is getting a pretty wide release in Canada, including the Google Store, Bell, Best Buy, Fido, Indigo, London Drugs, Rogers, Staples, The Source, Telus, Visions, and Walmart.

That's a lot of places to pick up the new unit, but it's not surprising: this is a product perfectly suited for the tech-obsessed Canadian market, especially since Echo doesn't exist here and Google wants to get ahead of Amazon (and later this year, Apple) in this very lucrative space.

Pick it up for $179 and enjoy talking to your appliances. It's really fun!