Rita El Khoury / Android Authority
I’ve spent the past four years coughing — I did it way before COVID made it cool — and after a lot of failed wishful thinking to make it go away, I ended up at a pulmonologist being diagnosed with asthma. My quest for cleaner and healthier air has made me look at some smart home gadgets like the Sensibo Elements air quality monitor, but I soon realized that wasn’t enough and I needed a purifier too. Some online digging led me to the smart Levoit Core 400S ($219.99 at Amazon), and after a short debate between it and the smaller/cheaper 300S, my husband convinced me we needed to fork the price for the better one. To be fair, I was coughing so much, I couldn’t string three words together in my argument.
I’m not here to talk about the merits of the Core 400S as an air purifier — it is good and my cough has dramatically subsided since we got it — but I want to discuss one core (ha!) feature of its smart home experience: Easy voice commands.
Google wants me to guess the voice commands for my smart home products, but ‘guess’ is such a bad user experience.
In the past seven years, I’ve tested plenty of smart home gadgets, and I’ve faced the same issue with all of them the minute I integrated them with my Google Home ecosystem: What are the darn voice commands for this thing?
Sure, in some cases, I can go by instinct. Dim the lights, set the thermostat to 20°C, turn on the TV, and other Assistant voice commands seem straightforward enough, but things get tricky when I want to change the speed of a fan or switch the cleaning mode of my robot vacuum. Does my device support those commands? What exact wording do I need to use to trigger those? Google doesn’t make this any easy; we’ve already complained about the lack of a list of smart home commands in Google Home and nothing has changed since.
But what Levoit has done through its VeSync app is provide a page in the Settings menu dedicated to connecting and using each product with Google Home and Amazon Alexa commands. It’s right there, no figuring out how to add a new product to Google Home, and no digging in support pages, frantic Googling, or throwing words together hoping one of them would stick as a voice command.
The Levoit air purifier offers an easy way to connect to Alexa or Google Home, plus a list of all the available voice commands for each platform.
That’s how I discovered that I can control via voice all modes and fan speeds of the Levoit Core 400S. The Google Home app doesn’t show speed controls (see the leftmost screenshot below), but they certainly work by voice (see the middle screenshot).
What blew my mind, though, was that there’s a specific voice command to turn its display off (see the rightmost screenshot) — a command I would’ve never thought to try by myself or imagined would be available via voice. And that one has been very handy for us when we turn on the air purifier at night and realize the display is still on and leaking some unwanted light in the bedroom. “Hey Google, turn off the display on the air purifier,” is all it takes to get back to a dim room and snooze in peace.
I would’ve never guessed I could turn off the air purifier’s display without the easily discoverable list of commands. Well done, Levoit.
About a year ago, someone had to point out to me that I could ask Google to “pause” my vacuum instead of just stopping it, a command I’d seen nowhere but that works as intended. I bet there are many other ways we can control our smart devices, but we don’t know them because neither Google, Amazon, nor Apple is showing us the available commands associated with each product in its smart home app. “Guess” is such a terrible UX, whereas properly documented and easily discoverable voice commands like the Levoit Core 400S ones completely take the guesswork out of using a smart home device. They’re a very small feature, but one that is transformative and sorely needed.