SINGAPORE: Google is not slowing down bringing its hardware devices to Singapore, launching its smart speakers Home and Home Mini here on Wednesday (Apr 18).
These latest devices mean the tech giant has launched five products in the last eight months, highlighting Singapore’s importance in the company’s overall hardware strategy, Mr Rishi Chandra, vice president and general manager of Home Products for Google, pointed out.
The smart speakers will be available for purchase in StarHub, Courts and Challenger retail stores from Apr 20, Google said. The bigger Home device will retail at S$189, while the Home Mini will cost S$79, and they come in Chalk, Charcoal and Coral colours, it added.
StarHub is the exclusive telco partner for Google Home, and it said in a separate press release on Wednesday that the Home Mini will be available free for customers who sign up for its new plan – HomeHub Plus – which will bundle four services. These services include 1Gbps fibre home broadband, up to 77 channels on fibre TV, home phone line and mobile broadband, it said.
HomeHub Plus customers can choose to upgrade to the larger smart speaker for S$120, the telco said, adding that they can also buy Wemo Switch smart plug at S$59 to “augment the smart home experience”. These plugs can be used to control lights and home appliances using voice commands via Google Assistant, it said.
Google did not disclose how long the exclusive partnership is for. Mr Chandra did note it had a good experience bringing the Google Wifi here and doing so “lowered the risk in execution”, thus it continued with the same playbook for its Home devices.
Challenger’s chief marketing officer Loo Pei Fen also said its ValueClub members will get S$20 off the smart speakers when they pre-order at their stores or via its online portal Hachi.tech.
The smart speaker market has been identified as a growing one by research firm Research and Markets, with its January 2018 report stating the market is worth US$2.68 billion this year and is expected to reach US$11.8 billion by 2023. The other major players in this space include Amazon and its Alexa-powered devices, as well as Apple’s HomePod devices with its digital assistant Siri.
“The growth of this market can be attributed to rapid proliferation of multifunctional devices, growing trend of personalisation, rising disposable income, and increasing number of smart homes,” it said.
“However, issues related to connectivity range, compatibility, and power restrain the growth of the smart speaker market.”
WANTED: LOCAL DEVELOPERS
Google said users of its Home devices here will be able to access the latest news from Channel NewsAsia and Straits Times, among others, play songs from Spotify or watch content from YouTube and Netflix (Chromecast is needed for this).
Other local organisations that have come on board the voice-activated speaker platform include Singapore Airlines, National Library Board, OCBC Bank and Bus Uncle. It declined to reveal how many developers here are working on bringing their services on to the platform.
“To help Singaporeans enjoy easy and fast access to more services and content, we’ve enabled Actions for the Google Assistant with the launch of our developer platform, Actions on Google, in Singapore,” the company said.
“This means lots of your favourite brands can build for the Google Assistant.”
GOOGLE SINGAPORE STORE COMES ONLINE
Beyond the devices, Mr Chandra revealed that a dedicated Singapore online store was also launched.
To commemorate the launch, consumers can get the Home Mini in Coral only from the online store, while those who buy a Pixel 2XL smartphone will get a free Home Mini, he said. Other products available in the store includes the Pixel Buds, Google Wifi and Chromecast.
Mr Mickey Kim, director for Product Planning and Partnerships for hardware products at Google Asia Pacific, shared during the briefing that products bought from the newly launched online store will get local warranty and support. Devices bought from other markets will not have local warranty, but consumers can get customer support, he clarified.
As to how the online store plays in the overall hardware strategy for Singapore, Mr Chandra told Channel NewsAsia that it acts as “another forum to tell the Google story”, such as promotional opportunities and the flexibility to offer exclusives.
Asked if there are plans to open a physical store here, following in the footsteps of the competition like Apple, the executive said: “This is not a priority right now.”