These mostly inexpensive gadgets can make Google's smart speakers even better.
By Jon Phillips
TechHiveMar 18, 2019 11:22 am PDT
Welcome to the Google Home shadow market, a symbiotic ecosystem of third-party products that add a bit more versatility to the Google Home Mini and original Google Home smart speaker. Some grant true portability to Google’s otherwise-tethered speakers. Others help you place the speakers in a more convenient position. Intrigued? Let’s jump in.
The Google Home Mini is already small enough to place just about anywhere, but its USB power cable is gangly and unsightly, and Google provides no in-box adapter to plug the Mini directly into a wall outlet. Luckily, the Google Home Mini Outlet Wall Mount from Mount Genie is an effective widget for slapping the speaker directly on your wall, though its build quality aligns closely with its $8 price.
This plastic mount comes in either black or white, and when inserted into an electrical socket, it left enough room to plug in either my electric toothbrush, beard trimmer, or hair dryer plug pictured here. The far edge of the speaker extends less than 5 inches from the edge of the outlet cover, so it can fit in tight spaces whether your outlet is oriented horizontally or vertically, and whether you plug the Mini upside down or right side up. There’s a hole in the mount to reach the mute button, but be forewarned: If you orient your Mini above the outlet, as shown here, you’ll need to reverse your touch volume controls.
You install the Mini by mounting Google’s power adapter, snapping in the speaker, and then threading Google’s power cord underneath the mount’s plastic clips. It’s difficult to get the USB connector underneath the clips, and I found I had to raise these flimsy plastic pieces to fit in the cord. One clip broke during the process, but the remaining clips kept the cord in place. Sure, build quality could be better, but the mount costs only $8, and it solves a big problem.
Dot Genie Google Home Mini Backpack
It looks like the folks at Mount Genie have continued to evolve their technology for slapping a Google Home Mini directly on a wall. We have no idea why the $15 Google Home Mini Backpack is sold under the Dot Genie brand, but the box is labeled Mount Genie, and the assembly process is a vexing as the Outlet Wall Mount covered above.
Ostensibly, assembly should be easy. First you pop in the included power adapter, which replaces the adapter Google ships with its smart speaker. Next you insert the speaker into the Backpack chassis—it’s supposed to click together with an obvious snap. Finally, you link the power adapter to the Mini with a bundled USB connector. This teeny, tiny cable replaces Google’s gangly cable, completely obviating the question, “What do I do with this stupid cord?”
Just one problem: It took six or seven attempts to get the speaker to snap into the Backpack. I was about to give this widget a bad review, complaining the plastic bracket was molded too short to actually grip the speaker. But I gave it one final try, and, alas, the Mini snapped in.
The Google Home Mini Backpack comes in black, white, or coral to match Google’s colors. Its outlet footprint is bigger than the Outlet Wall Mount, and while my electric toothbrush plug settled in nicely, the hair dryer plug was a very tight fit, and the beard trimmer plug wouldn’t fit in the neighboring outlet at all. What’s more, the Backpack can only be inserted into three-prong outlets thanks to its plastic “dummy ground” pin, which keeps the unit stable in your wall. And because of this plastic pin, the unit can only be oriented right-side up—but at least that positions your volume touch controls correctly.
The Backpack uses thicker plastic than the Outlet Wall Mount, and I think it’s the better choice, despite costing a whopping $15 (that is, unless you have big plugs that need to share the same outlet). Just make sure you pop it all the way in, even when it refuses to snap.
JOT Portable Battery Case for Google Home Mini
The concept is simple: Pop your Google Home Mini into the JOT Portable Battery Case, and it will let you use your speaker anywhere within Wi-Fi range, completely untethered from Google’s power adapter. Obviously, a cord-free Google Home doesn’t offer any benefits unless you need portability. But by using the $30 JOT, I’m able to take my Mini outside and listen to music and podcasts anywhere in the backyard. You may have other uses in mind. Consider the possibilities.
Of all the Mini accessories I’ve tested, the JOT Portable Battery Case has the best build quality and easiest installation. To insert the Mini, you depress two buttons on the thick plastic shell; align the speaker’s USB port with JOT’s built-in micro USB plug; snap the shell back together with a satisfying click, and… that’s it. Now it’s time to charge the battery case with Google’s power adapter. It takes about three hours to charge fully, but once it’s done, you can enjoy the Mini for a claimed eight hours of run time. Four LED lights indicate charge levels, and the unit leaves a hole for you to access the speaker’s mute switch.
It’s a simple product that gets the job done. Available in carbon or silver.
Mount Genie Google Home Mini Pedestal
The Mount Genie Google Home Mini Pedestal lifts your wee smart speaker off a flat surface and orients it more or less upright. In this position, you can better see its colorful Google lights, and the audio soundscape should improve too. The pedestal is just a single piece of molded plastic, but that’s what you get for $11.
The plastic feels rather thin and insubstantial, but once you thread Google’s USB cable through the pedestal’s base, and plug it into the speaker, the Mini sits confidently inside. Just make sure to reverse your touch controls, because, technically, your speaker will be sitting upside-down. The pedestal comes in charcoal, silver, and white.
Ninety7 Loft Portable Battery Base
Finally, we have a little accessory love for Google’s original smart speaker, the full-size Google Home. The Loft Portable Battery Base ($39.95) replaces the existing base on Google’s speaker, and gives you up to 10 hours of cord-free power, thanks to its integrated Lithium-Ion battery. (Battery life will really depend on how hard you push the speaker itself.)
We were impressed by the Loft’s lightness, and how well its design integrates with Google’s speaker. And it’s easy to remove Google’s base and quickly snap the Loft base into place. You charge the Loft with Google’s own power adapter, and the total charge time is about four hours.
If you’re looking to take your Google Home anywhere within Wi-Fi range (the backyard perhaps), the Loft is your ticket. We wish it came with a USB port to charge other devices, and it seems a bit pricey considering the Google Home itself costs only $99, as of press time. But other than that, we really can’t complain.