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Google Hires Former Essential Exec For Home Improvement

As much as Google would like users to believe there’s no device like Home, the smart speaker is not exactly delivering an over-the-rainbow experience for some.

Music fans are frustrated with the Home after a recent update, purported to let them play songs they had purchased from or uploaded to Google Play Music, has failed to give them consistent access to their music library. The idea was that users would be able to listen to Play Music tracks even if they hadn’t invested in Google’s streaming service subscription. However, for many, that hasn’t been the case.

Some Home owners are finding that the device will only play music by artists who don’t have any songs available in Google Play Music’s official library. Others are being launched into a “station” of related music after the Home plays one song from their personal library – which is great for listeners who want to discover new music, but not so great for people who wanted to hear an album in its entirety.

Still others can get the Home to play their music, but only by casting the songs to the device – they can’t command it to play using their voice, which was kind of the whole point of Google Home.

Google is reportedly working on fixes for these issues. Until then, 9to5 Google suggested making a playlist of purchased and uploaded songs in order to play them normally.

The Home device is apparently also struggling to control certain lights, including Phillips Hue lights. The device is reportedly able to dim or brighten the lights but glitches when asked to turn them on or off. Google told the Verge on Friday that it was working to resolve the matter.

Business Insider noted that Google is going to have to step up its smart home device game if it wants to remain competitive in the coming months, with new devices hitting the shelves from Apple, Microsoft, Samsung and possibly even Facebook.

Consumers purchase home devices because they want to add convenience to their lives. If the experience isn’t seamless and the device doesn’t work as intended, it sort of defeats the purpose.

That’s probably why the company hired Liron Damir, former Pebble VP of design and a leading force behind the webOS operating system for HP and LG, to lead the design of Google Home products in an effort to improve the smart speaker’s user experience.

“Definitely took the scenic route, but super excited and proud to be joining Google today to lead the design of Google Home products,” Damir said on LinkedIn.

Damir vacated the same position – head of user experience – at the Essential company before its Essential Phone could even get off the ground, following in the footsteps of Essential’s former VP of marketing Brian Wallace and former head of communications Andy Fouché, who both left the company last month.

The Essential Phone, created by Android founder and former Google executive Andy Rubin, was supposed to be in consumers’ hands already but has been delayed a number of times, and the hemorrhage of Essential executives is probably not doing it any favors.

While Google is still ironing out some major wrinkles in the Home, the device can tell you what the fox says, what’s cooler than being cool, and what you want (what you really, really want) – just ask.

In Other News…

Renderings of the forthcoming Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL were leaked last week, though have not yet been confirmed by the company. This week, a second series of leaks backed up the first: some Amazon vendors have started listing cases and screen protectors for the future phones.

BGR noted that third-party smartphone case makers often see smartphone designs earlier than the public so that they can have cases ready to sell when the phone is released. The designs, like many others, were probably leaked by connections at factories in China, BGR speculates.

Google has come under scrutiny by the FTC due to its new advertising program tying consumers’ online actions with later purchases in physical stores. Google said that this approach to advertising is “common” and guaranteed that it was storing users’ data privately, securely and anonymously.

However, a complaint by the Electronic Privacy Information Center says that Google needs to reveal how it acquired so much credit and debit purchase data from consumers and share its methods for encrypting it, since the secret method has not been vetted by outsiders and therefore could be vulnerable to a breach. The complaint also says that Google must give consumers a way to opt out.

Finally, in yet another attempt to save the world, Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc., is working on a system for storing renewable energy that would otherwise be wasted. The project comes out of Google’s X moonshot factory, which hatched the driverless car, and has been code-named “Malta.”

As venture capitalists and governments slash support for innovations to build alternatives to fossil fuels, X director Obi Felten says it’s more important than ever for someone like X to keep trying.

“If the moonshot factory gives up on a big, important problem like climate change, then maybe it will never get solved,” Felten said. “If we do start solving it, there are trillions and trillions of dollars in market opportunity.”

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