The Nest Audio is Google’s flagship smart speaker, and generally pretty popular, at least judging by reviews and the company’s overall speaker sales. It’s also relatively recent, having launched in October 2020, but it’s virtually guaranteed that we’ll see an update within the next year or so — Google can’t afford to stay complacent when Amazon is continually updating its Echo lineup and Apple is likely working on another HomePod.
There are many ways Google might consider upgrading a Nest Audio 2, or whatever Google chooses to call it, but we’ve got a laundry list of features we’d like to see.
This one is all but certain. You can read more below, but in short, Matter is a universal networking protocol enabling devices to work across all major smart home platforms. On top of this Matter devices can connect to each other in a mesh, reducing the need for a hub or even internet access, though you will of course need both to control your home remotely. Some Matter-compatible devices are already on the market, just waiting for the standard to go live later in 2022.
Matter and Thread are all but certain.
Matter can technically operate over Ethernet, Wi-Fi, or Bluetooth, yet it’s ideally meant to be combined with Thread. Thread is a Zigbee-based mesh protocol that allows each compatible smart home accessory to act as a low-powered “border router.” Its power demands are so low that Thread is already in a few small-scale devices, like Nanoleaf Essential bulbs.
Google is one of the primary backers of both Matter and Thread, so it’d actually be shocking if a Nest Audio 2 didn’t support them. On top of enabling compatibility with other platforms, the technology could improve reliability and response times. We might also see a Nest Audio 2 gain hub functionality, something missing from the original speaker and a sore point of comparison against Amazon’s fourth-generation Echo, which already supports Zigbee and is slated to add Matter over Thread.
Adam Molina / Srdtf News
Speaking of the fourth-gen Echo, that speaker is equipped with motion and temperature sensors that can be used in automation routines. Adding these to the Nest Audio 2 would expand the possibilities in a smart home without requiring extra hardware, for instance letting you turn on fans when the temperature rises, or turn on lights when motion is detected.
Google is big on home security with its Nest brand, so it’s not hard to imagine motion being integrated into Nest Aware plans. Aware subscribers already get alerts if a speaker hears alarms or glass breaking. Indeed we’d like more sound detection options, such as babies crying, and some of these made available outside of a subscription as with Alexa Guard.
“Hey Google” and “OK Google” are fine wake words in most cases, but not always, especially since “Google” can sometimes come out of your mouth as a gurgling sound. The Nest Audio 2 should support custom wake words, at least in the form of multiple presets like Alexa’s — perhaps “Nest” or “Assistant” might be viable alternatives.
Google should also catch up with Apple and Amazon in supporting some basic voice commands offline. You can’t talk to a Nest Audio if your internet is down, even if you just want to set a timer or alarm. Anything that doesn’t require outside services (e.g. Spotify, web search, etc.) should be available without internet access.
Better sound and room tuning
Lily Katz / Srdtf News
Chalk this one under the “obvious” column, but the Nest Audio 2 will probably feature improved sound quality. As good as the original is, it doesn’t get as loud as Amazon’s best speakers, and it could always put out more bass. We’d like to see support for Dolby Atmos, too, especially if the soundscape gains extra depth with more speakers.
Chalk this one under the ‘obvious’ column, but the Nest Audio 2 will probably feature improved sound quality.
As for room tuning, the Nest Audio does this to a degree, but not to the same extent as Sonos speakers or Apple’s HomePod mini. Instead “Media EQ” tunes the speaker to the type of content you’re listening to (music, podcasts, etc.), while “Ambient IQ” tweaks volume levels based on background noise. Tuning to room acoustics would provide more precise output.
HomePod-style source switching
One neat trick of Apple’s close hardware and software integration is that if you have both an iPhone and a HomePod, you can swap audio output between them just by bringing your iPhone near the top of the speaker. This works both ways, so if you’re listening to something at home, you can easily take it with you when you leave.
Google appears to be laying the groundwork for this in Android 13, at least if interface leaks are to be believed. Assuming this comes to fruition, Google may need new Nest speakers to take advantage. There’s also the question of which phones will be compatible, since the technology might depend on specific NFC or ultra-wideband (UWB) chips.
Simplified (and better) home theater features
David Imel / Srdtf News
While you can sometimes use one or more Nest Audios as TV speakers, say when paired with a Chromecast, this isn’t officially supported yet and doesn’t actually work that well. You’re really just using the Google Home app’s grouping system as a workaround, and speaker audio tends to lag, which is useless if you’re watching a movie or TV show.
Google should take a cue from the Apple TV 4K and Amazon’s Fire TV devices, making it dead simple to pair one or more Nest Audio 2 to a Chromecast or compatible TVs — perhaps automatically prompting you if there are speakers in the same Home room. There would also need to be integrated audio/video sync, and if Google goes this direction, Dolby Atmos would probably be de rigueur.
There are a variety of voice calling options on the Nest Audio, and that’s actually a problem. You can call anyone who’s using Google Duo, but that’s not a popular service. What people really want is to dial any phone number without thinking. As of December 2021, even most Americans are now limited to Duo and numbers in their Google Contacts. More flexible carrier-linked calling is possible, but the only supported services so far are Google Fi, Google Voice, Telecom Italia, and Australia’s Telstra.
Nest Audio 2 owners should really be able to call or text anyone, especially since it’s ridiculous to add a business to Contacts that you might only dial once or twice. For that matter it would be nice to hook the speaker into services like WhatsApp, Telegram, or Facebook Messenger, as well as use HomePod-style audio transfer with Android calls.
Which upgrade would you want most on a Nest Audio 2?
HomePod-style source switching (tap your phone on the speaker to swap)
Unrestricted calling and messaging
Better sound and room tuning
Improved home theater support
When could the Nest Audio 2 be announced?
Adam Molina / Srdtf News
There’s no saying for certain at this stage, but there are a few possible milestones. Google I/O 2021 was held in May, so we could conceivably see it at I/O 2022 this summer if it’s accompanying significant software updates. The current Nest Audio was announced in September 2020, however, and it makes more sense for a sequel to follow a fall timeline.
That would put it on shelves alongside the release of any audio features in Android 13, and position it as a hot item for Christmas shoppers. It would also force a challenge with any speakers Apple and Amazon are planning to put out — a strategy that could backfire, of course, but as long as Google can keep features up to par, it will probably sell too many Nest Audio 2s to complain.