Google Store officially opens in Singapore; Home smart speakers launched

Google also officially selling its line of smart speakers - the Google Home - to coincide with the store's launch in Singapore.
Google also officially selling its line of smart speakers - the Google Home - to coincide with the store's launch in Singapore.PHOTO: GOOGLE

SINGAPORE - Shoppers here will finally be getting official access to Google's online store, where consumers will be able to buy its products directly from the company.

The technology giant is also officially selling its line of smart speakers - the Google Home - to coincide with the store's launch here.

Google also announced a tie-up with Singapore Press Holdings, which will allow users of the voice-enabled smart speaker to listen to news and podcasts from The Business Times, The Straits Times and SPH Radio's MoneyFM 89.3.

Other products which will be available to local consumers in the online store are Google's Pixel 2 XL smartphone, the wireless Pixel Buds, Google Wifi and Google Chromecast.

Google Store, which opened on Wednesday (April 18), can be accessed at store.google.com/sg. Singapore is the first country in South-east Asia to have an official Google Store.

Mr Mickey Kim, Google's director for Asia-Pacific hardware product planning and partnerships, said: "The newly launched Google Store is part of our commitment to bring our hardware to more Singaporeans following the positive response we've seen so far." 

The smart speaker works with Google's Assistant software, which lets users talk to it using voice commands.

The Home costs $189 while the smaller Home Mini costs $79. A larger variant, the Home Max, is sold only in the United States.

 

It is fully voiced-activated and users can ask it to perform a variety of tasks, such as setting alarms, playing music through Spotify, or provide a run-through of the day's tasks.

The Home is also adjusted to understand local speech, places and objects, so users will be able to ask, "Where is the nearest kopitiam (coffee shop)?", with the Home providing addresses and directions.

It also supports features from local companies and agencies, such as OCBC Bank and national carrier Singapore Airlines.

OCBC provides a chatbot-like service through the Home where users can ask the bank how much they need to save a month so they can retire comfortably, or how they can finance a new home.

Users can also check the flight status of their Singapore Airlines or SilkAir flights by telling the Home their flight number.

Pre-orders for the Home begin on Wednesday (April 18) and it will be available for purchase on Friday. Consumers can order it in the online store or buy it at selected bricks-and-mortar retailers: telco StarHub, Courts and Challenger.

Courts is also giving a free Google Home to those who buy a television set at $2,000 or more, or a Google Home Mini to those who buy a laptop above $899, among other offers.

Software engineer Randy Ho, 33, already owns four Google Homes but is looking to buy a Home Mini.

"I have them in my kitchen, living room, study and bedroom, and will put the Mini in my baby's room," he said. "This way, I can have coverage in my entire house, so in any room, I can ask it to play music, tell me about my day, set reminders and also control my connected lights and fans." 

The Google Store was first launched in the United States and Europe in 2015, spinning off from the Devices section in the Google Play app.

Prior to the store's launch here, local consumers who wanted to buy its products had to pay extra for mail-forwarding services, or go through telcos which had exclusive partnerships for certain devices.


PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM STORE.GOOGLE.COM/SG

Google's vice-president and general manager of Home products Rishi Chandra said the launch of the store here serves as a starting point for expanding into South-east Asia.

"South-east Asia is a huge potential market, given the number of people living here," he said. "Singapore is always, for us, a starting point. It has a lot of characteristics that help us validate our technologies in different ways.

"It's a very mature market, with high Internet connectivity rates. It also helps us with learning languages in the region, since there are so many different accents, languages in Singapore.

"We use it as a baseline on how we can expand more broadly in South-east Asia."