Google Home: download these other mobile applications to unleash all its power


Google Home only requires one app, but several others can be useful as well.

James Martin / CNET

If you search the Google home for quite a long time, you’ll find that the Google Home app alone doesn’t do everything you need to do. Tons of cool features require you to download even more Google apps, like the Google Assistant and even Gmail, but nothing in the Google Home app lets you do that.

To make things more confusing, there are some apps that you might think you need, but either, one you really don’t or, two, you do, but not for what you think. Rest assured; I’ll take care of everything for you.

I’ll show you which app you absolutely need, which aren’t essential but definitely worth using, and finally which one you can leave on the App Store shelf (unless, of course, you need it for a different reason your smart speakers).


If you want to set up a morning routine, you’ll want to use the Google Home app to do it.

Dale Smith / CNET

The Google Home app does almost everything, but not quite

Everyone has to download the Google Home app to set up their Google-branded smart speakers, so it’s by far the most ubiquitous of those apps. The Google Home app is the one you’ll use the vast majority of the time when you need to accomplish something that you can’t easily manage with voice commands. For example, you need the app for create custom orders or routines, organize your smart home in the rooms or create groups of speakers to play music throughout the house.

It is also extremely useful as a centralized place to see the status of all your smart home devices at any given time. Want to check if you’ve left any lights on at home? Rather than opening up a bunch of apps for all the different smart bulbs or Wi-Fi outlets you have, you can open the Google Home app to get a snapshot of your entire smart home (and control everything with it. touch).

The Google Assistant app: not mandatory, but very useful

Even if you have the Google Home app on your phone, to completely bridge the gap between your smart speakers and your mobile device, you’ll want to install the Google Assistant app as well. Without it, for example, you won’t receive notifications on your phone for the reminders you’ve set on Google Home. You also won’t be able to tell Google Home to send information to your phone without the Google Assistant app – stuff like answers to random questions, store hours, or even driving directions.


Google Home is the name of the device, but it’s the Google Assistant you’re talking to when you say “Hey, Google”.

James Martin / CNET

Most importantly, however, you need the Google Assistant app to see which third-party apps (called “Actions”) you’ve enabled, which is an important step in boosting your privacy and security (check out our more comprehensive guide on Google Home privacy and security here).

Gmail app can help iPhone users to boost Google Home security

If you really, really want to limit security and privacy with setting up your Google Home, you’ll want to enable two-factor authentication, also known as “2FA”. This means that anytime you (or someone who isn’t you) try to sign in to your Google Home account, you will need to authorize it via a push notification (our complete step-by-step guide on how to configure two-factor authentication is here).

If you have an Android device, 2FA for Google Home is built into the operating system. But if you have an iPhone (like me), you’ll need to download the Gmail app, which generates the notification when someone (hopefully you) tries to sign in to your Google Home account. Why Gmail and not another app like Google Assistant? Your guess is as good as mine.


Download the Nest app to set up and control Nest devices other than smart speakers, but for speakers, use the Google Home app.

Tyler Lizenby / CNET

The Nest app is useless for speakers, but great for other Nest gadgets

A common mistake for people new to the Google Home ecosystem is downloading the Nest mobile app when trying to set up their new speakers. The confusion stems, of course, from the slow rebranding from Google Home to Google Nest. Last year Google renamed the Google Home Hub to Nest Hub ($ 90 at Walmart), as well as the updated Google Home Mini ($ 29 at Walmart) like the new Nest Mini ($ 29 at Walmart). Then this year Google discontinued the original Google Home speaker and replaced it with a new option called Nest Audio. ($ 100 at Sam’s Club). However, the Nest app won’t help you set up any of these Nest devices, and you don’t need it to. Nest Wifi. You will only need the Google Home app for all of the above.

However, you’ll need the Nest app if you have a Nest Learning Thermostat. ($ 240 at Amazon), Nest Protect ($ 119 at Amazon) smoke detector, Nest Secure ($ 407 at HP) Alarm, Nest x Yale lock or Nest security cameras, including the Nest Hello ($ 218 at HP) Doorbell.

A Nest feature that was finally integrated into the Google Home app: Routines based on location at home and on the go. This and Google Home streaming feature that allows you to broadcast messages throughout your home, as well as my recent Google Home Hidden Brief Mode, “all of this makes Google Home a formidable opponent in the smart speaker war.

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