Google Home and Assistant routines have improved quite a bit since their launch in 2018. We started with six preset routines then got customization and scheduling, workday organization, home/away presence sensing, and just yesterday discovered sunrise and sunset routines. Turns out that functionality is part of a huge routines overhaul that brings the look of the feature more in line with Google’s recent design language. Functionally, though, I’m sad to say not much has changed besides the new sunrise/sunset options.
The list of routines in the Google Home app is now better presented with your Home/Away household options on top, followed by all your routines and Assistant in-app shortcuts. You can trigger any of these by simply tapping the play button next to it. The real difference in the UI shows up when you view a routine’s details or try to edit or create a new one.
Everything there has been revamped using Google Sans fonts, cards for all the actions and triggers, blue icons and highlighted text, and more suggested actions. It looks a lot cleaner and is easier to parse too.
You’ll feel the usability improvement when creating a new routine. Instead of the one-screen-fits-all approach, you now go a step at a time, from adding one or multiple triggers (voice command, time, sunrise/sunset) to picking all the actions it should execute. These are now grouped by type: info and reminders, communication, Assistant volume, smart home devices, phone controls, media, and your own custom actions. There are a few new actions in some of these categories, like getting articles about coronavirus or the US elections (outdated much?), but most features appear unchanged.
Above: New. Check all the different screens for setting triggers and actions. Below: Old.
The new interface appears to be rolling out via a server-side switch. I didn’t have it yesterday, but I see it today even though the Home app was last updated six days ago on my phone. Although I’m pretty happy with this cleaner and clearer UI, it does seem slower to load than the previous one and I’m frustrated to notice it doesn’t bring any big feature changes. I’d like to see conditional routines (by presence, time, location, sensors, device state, etc…), an option to repeat a routine several times a day, and much more. I hope the interface is the first step towards those bigger functional improvements.