Sections of code within a recent update to the Google app seem to bolster reports that Google is working on a competitor to Amazon’s Echo Show smart speaker.
An Android Police teardown of the Google app’s v7.14.15 beta update uncovered several references to functions and commands that can be performed by a device or feature codenamed “Quartz.”
The code suggests that Quartz is activated through voice commands and can perform typical smart speaker tasks like setting a timer or checking the weather. However, it also points to several functions that would likely involve a screen, such as Web browsing, showing Google Maps data, and displaying recipes and other cooking info. The update also seems to contain different layouts for watching videos on YouTube, which Google pulled from Amazon’s touchscreen speaker last month with little explanation.
Now, all of this is far from a confirmation that Google is making a new smart speaker with a touchscreen. As Android Police notes, the Quartz references software—like the “visual responses” feature that Google dangled in front of us at its I/O conference earlier this year—might just let Chromecast-enabled televisions work as a display for existing Google Home speakers.
But the teardown is worth noting in light of a TechCrunch report from September that said Google is indeed building a touchscreen tabletop device. That report said the device would utilize the Google Assistant, make video calls, work as a smart home hub, and generally do things similar to what the Echo Show does today, though the report did say the device was codenamed “Manhattan” at the time.
Nevertheless, a Google-ified Echo Show wouldn’t be a total shock given the continued growth of the smart-speaker market. Amazon has jumped ahead of that pack by a good distance thus far by selling an array of Echo speakers with varying features at varying price points. That has left Google to play catchup—earlier this month, for instance, Google released the Google Home mini, a more affordable version of its Home speaker and a clear response to Amazon’s popular Echo Dot device. A stationary touchscreen device like the Echo Show doesn’t have as much mainstream appeal as a cheap speaker, but—with voice assistants like Amazon’s Alexa expected to become an increasingly prominent outlet for gathering information—the search giant may find it necessary to counter every move from Amazon that it can.
Google did not respond to a request for comment.