Google is slowly killing third-party Smart Displays

The company is halting software updates on the nearly five-year-old Smart Displays that kickstarted the Nest Hub line.

A photo of the original Lenovo Smart Display in a kitchen.

Google seems to be deprecating the devices that walked so the Nest Hub could run. As spotted by 9to5Google, a support document on making voice and video calls using Duo with smart speakers has been updated to notify users that third-party Smart Displays have stopped receiving software updates, which could “impact the quality of video calls and meetings.” The devices in question include Lenovo’s Smart Displays, the JBL Link View, and the LG Xboom AI ThinQ WK9 Smart Display

The bigger story here is that Google wants to start slowly killing these Smart Displays, or at least that’s how it seems. Granted, they’re getting pretty old. The Smart Displays from Lenovo first hit the scene in 2018, while the JBL and LG alternatives were shipped soon afterward. (The newest third-party Smart Display is from late 2019, for reference.) The devices also use old software; Google initially relied on Android Things to power these displays, but has since switched to Cast and–more recently–Fuschia for the Nest Hub line.

It’s pretty rare for a device that’s not a laptop or PC to get software updates four or five years into its lifecycle, so it makes sense to see Google halt updates on Smart Displays. It’s also not the biggest shock in the world: back in February of 2019, the company stopped working on the underlying platform of Android Things, while the bundled web browser on third-party Smart Displays was removed three years later. These devices have been on their way out for quite some time, so it’s no surprise to see Google take this step.

Still, the news is a bit disappointing since the Smart Displays remain perfectly usable. You’re missing the newer camera features of the Nest Hub and fancier features like sleep tracking, but they work totally fine. You can still call upon the Google Assistant and ask it questions, play music, control your smart home, and more. Hell, I still have all of my Smart Displays from Lenovo that I’ve collected over the years, and they remain plugged in and are regularly used every day.

I reached out to Lenovo to get their response to the news, and I’ll update this article if/when I hear back.

It’s unclear if Google intends to partner with companies in the future for new third-party Smart Displays or if it intends to strictly sell Nest-branded displays powered by the Google Assistant. Of course, with the Pixel Tablet on the horizon that’ll double as a smart display of sorts, we could see a swath of third-party alternatives pop up in the future with similar feature sets.