Amazon may have had a head start with the Amazon Echo and Alexa but with the launch of the Google Home and Microsoft's planned Home Hub, the other tech giants are catching up fast.
If you're looking for a futuristic constant home companion that answers your questions, plays music, helps you organize your day, and even brightens your day with a joke or two, then these "smart" speakers may just be the appliance you need.
Ladies and gentlemen, the home virtual assistant wars have started. For now, we'll compare the two virtual assistants that are currently available - the Amazon Echo and the Google Home.
The Amazon Echo is a 9.2-inch cylindrical Bluetooth speaker with a circular array of seven beamforming mics on its crown. Its smaller counterpart, the Echo Dot, replaces the Echo's cylindrical speaker with a tiny one and is a mere 1.6 inches tall. Both have a diameter of about 3.3 inches and they come in either black or white.
The Google Home is 5.6 inches in height with a 3.7-inch diameter. Its main body is white but the base's color can be swapped.
I personally prefer Echo's futuristic Pringles, but some may prefer the Google Home's more domestic appearance that some say looks like a vase or an air freshener.
Either way, both look fantastic and shouldn't appear out of place in any modern household.
Both the Echo and the Google Home work by constantly listening to the surroundings for their respective wake words. The Echo responds to either "Alexa," "Echo," or "Amazon," while the Google Home wakes up to "OK Google" or "Hey Google."
With both models' microphone and voice recognition technology, they are excellent in pinpointing your voice even from across the room.
Questions and Answers
The Amazon Echo can answer who, when and what questions, weather forecasts, do unit conversions and sports updates. It's a hit or miss affair, but occasionally you'll be surprised with what it actually knows.
Google Home, on the other hand, taps on Google's search engine expertise and can actually crawl the web for answers. It can also follow a thread of queries and thanks to Google Assistant, can respond in a conversational manner.
Although Alexa's knowledge is commendable, the Google Home appears to be a bit smarter because of the vast Google infrastructure it leans on.
Both the Echo and the Google Home's speakers are decent, not audiophile-quality-great but good enough for casual music listening. (As mentioned earlier, the Echo Dot only has a tiny speaker not really suited for music. Fortunately, you can connect an external speaker via Bluetooth or through its auxiliary 3.5 mm jack).
There is one Google Home audio feature that the Echo doesn't currently have: multiroom audio syncing. With GoogleCast technology, Google Home can simulcast and control multiple Google Homes and Chromecasts across multiple rooms.
The usual suspects of music streaming are available on both - Spotify, Pandora and TuneIn. They also have their own respective exclusive music services - Amazon Prime Music on the Echo and Google Music on the Google Home so it depends on whose service you prefer.
Due to Google Home's multiroom capability, it narrowly wins in the music streaming department.
Smart Home Control
For smart home control, the Amazon Echo currently integrates with more smart home appliances than the Google Home.
The Echo can control a wide variety of smart bulbs, locks, switches and thermostats while the Google Home only launched with four services - Philips Hue, Nest, SmartThings, and IFTTT.
This might change as Google integrates more services into Google Home but currently, for smart home control, the Amazon Echo wins it, hands down.
Alexa has a two-year advantage so third-party support is extensive. It currently has a library of 3,000 skills ranging from audiobook support via Audible, phone tracking, fun games, calendar and Amazon shopping list support.
With its ever-growing skill sets, here are a few examples of what my typical queries for Alexa are like:
..."Alexa, turn off the bedroom light" ..."Alexa, play Marconi Union from Spotify" ... "Alexa, how many teaspoons in a tablespoon?" ... "Alexa, when was 'The Lobster' movie released?" ..."Alexa, please set a timer for 15 minutes" ..."Alexa, find my phone." "Alexa, give me the news."...
Similarly, a day with Google Home could go something like this:
..."OK Google, turn on living room lights"..."OK Google, set the temperature to 75 degrees"..."OK Google, did the Phoenix Suns win in their last game?"... "OK Google, play "Civil War" on "Chromecast Dining"... "OK Google play "Trending Videos" on YouTube on "Chromecast Living".... "Ok Google, set a timer for 15 minutes"...
Also, since Google Home strives to be more conversational, you can actually string queries together and it will derive its answers in context. For example: ..."OK Google, play "Beat It"..."OK Google, what album is this from?"... "OK Google, play that album"...
The Google Home still can't match the Echo's catalog of third-party apps but what it does have is access to Google's family of services and all the data that comes with it. It is also open to third-party app developers, including the API for its "conversational" skills.
Only time will tell if the Google can match or even surpass the Amazon Echo in this department but for now, Amazon Echo is the clear winner.
To recap, here's a handy comparison chart:
|Amazon Echo||Google Home|
|Price||Regular Price: $180 for Amazon Echo, $50 for Echo Dot|
Holiday Price: $140 for
Amazon Echo, $40 for
|Google Home: $129|
|Wake Word||Alexa, Echo or Amazon||OK Google|
|Music||Prime Music, Spotify, Pandora, TuneIn, iHeart Radio||Google Music, Spotify, Pandora, TuneIn|
|Audio Output||No with Echo, Yes with Echo Dot||Yes through Chromecast|
|Synced multiroom audio||No||Yes via GoogleCast|
|Smart Home control||Philips Hue, LifX, Nest, EcoBee, SmartThings, Wink, WeMo, IFTTT and more||Philips Hue, Nest, SmartThings, IFTTT|
|Customizable look||No, but available in Black or White||Yes via interchangeable color plates|
|Personal Assistant functions||Answers questions, calendar support, Amazon shopping lists, check flights, package tracking||Google searches, calendar support, check flights, package tracking, daily briefings for a linked Google account|
|Other featured functions||Thousands of "skills" available like book reader, phone tracker, food ordering, games, etc.||YouTube TV casting via Chromecast|
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