These two assistants (Amazon Echo and Google Home) are modern day essentials to have inside your house – whether it be in your living room or your bedroom. Both of these smart homes have advantages over the other, therefore it will likely come down to personal preference which one you may choose.
When it comes down to design all of these pieces of smart home tech are beautifully designed to allow them to be seamlessly integrated into your current home decor. All 3 of the devices now use a fabric type material and come in 2 colours – notably grey/black and a more white/chalk colour. By having these two colours it means that these devices will go unnoticed in your decor (which could be unfortunate if you wanted to show it off…). As you can see above both pieces of kit are extremely well designed.
Application Usability and Functionality
Both smart home devices come with their dedicated applications that are available on both the Android play store and the Apple App store. Both of these apps work well and are relatively easy to use. The Google Home app is far cleaner in my opinion and has a more minimalist look compared to the slightly more clunky Amazon Alexa app. However, while the Amazon Alexa app may be more clunky it offers a huge range of ‘skills’ from third party developers that allow added functionality to the device. In the Google Home app the functionality is currently more limited, although, they may offer a similar ‘skills’functionality in the future.
Amazon Echo utilises the well known Alexa digital assistant, while the Google Home were less creative and use the Google Assistant.
Alexa can understand the majority of quite basic commands and unfortunately uses the search engine Bing (:() by default. Furthermore, sometimes Alexa is only responsive if things are phrased in a particular way, which limits how naturally it feels to speak to Alexa so that she understands you.
Another slight issue is in Alexa’s wake word (word used to activate) ‘Alexa’, as sometimes it mishears you and wakes up anyway.
Contrastingly, Google Home uses Google which has a far greater wealth of education and is built into Google’s architecture. Also, due to the double-barrelled wake word (‘Hey Google’), the speaker is often activated only on intention.
On the topic of wake words, something that is a really big thing for me as to why I like Alexa is that when she activates there is a sound that shows she has been activated – whereas with Google Home there isn’t. This was a more important thing for me than I thought.
Google Home also boasts a more natural two way conversation flow thanks to Google’s Natural Language processing algorithm. Therefore, Google is more context aware which encourages more natural conversation.
It must also be remembered that while Google can get more information on in depth questions and things like transport times, the availability of skills in Alexa is also priceless – as more skills are added consistently (continuing to improve functionality).
Smart Home Capabilities
One of the main reasons that many people buy these products is for their smart home control (letting you turn lights off/on or control thermostats using nothing but your voice!)
Both products support the biggest household names such as Samsung SmartThings, Philips Hue lights and the famous Nest Thermostat. Currently, Amazon is the standard and supports the widest range of smart home products, but Google is also expanding. One example of a product that only works with Amazon Alexa is the Dyson 360 Eye robot vacuum cleaner.
Thanks to recent app updates made by Amazon products such as the Philips Hue lights can be controlled from directly inside the application, whereas previously you would have to use a multitude of apps for your smart home devices.
Amazon also has the power of a feature that they have called ‘Routines’. This lets you control multiple devices with a single phrase. For example, ‘Alexa Goodnight’ could turn off lights, stop music playing on your Sonos speaker and set your heating to a certain temperature. Google has now recently launched this feature too – levelling out the systems in terms of these options.
With respect to overall control, the Amazon Echo is the best for smart homes due to the greater number of supported devices and a wider range of control options.
Music and Video Capabilites
Both the Google Home and Amazon Echo are small speakers so they both play music. The Echo can stream music from Amazon Prime Music, while Google will play content from Play Music and Google Cast. Both also have the ability to stream Spotify and TuneIn Radio, but Google also offers Pandora. One other thing to note is that Amazon allows for music connection via a aux cable which google home does not (although both can also play via bluetooth).
Both devices also let you create what are known as ‘Groups’ for streaming to multiple devices – allowing for multi-room audio. The control isn’t currently at the same functionality as a dedicated system such as Sonos which allows for the adding and removal of devices more easily.
Google Home’s major advantage is it’s Cast Support which allows you to send video to a Google Chromecast or a Xiaomi Mi Box. You can use your voice to play Youtube or Netflix too and control it solely with your voice.
Amazon Echo also has a similar version with the highly rated Amazon Fire TV, although it doesn’t have the same ability of broadcasting music.
Both the Amazon Echo and the Google Home are great products, so the choice will come with what you want to do. The Google home will be more natural to converse with and have a greater ability to answer those wild questions you throw at it. It also has the great ability of google chrome cast and is growing in support for smart home devices.
With that in mind though, the echo has a far wider range of speakers including the fancy Echo Spot and the Echo Show which are both extremely good. Alexa may be slightly trickier to talk to, but the large range of skills increases its functionality beyond Googles. Smart home control is still brilliant but still slightly has the edge over Google. If you want a wider device choice or expandable skills then Amazon Echo is for you.
Versions and Prices
Amazon Echo Dot (2nd gen): Echo Dot (2nd Generation) $39.99
Amazon Echo dot (3rd Gen): Echo Dot (3rd Generation) $49.99
Amazon Echo (2nd Gen): Amazon Echo (2nd generation) $74.99
Amazon Echo Spot: Alexa-enabled Speaker with 2.5″ Screen – Black $129.99
Amazon Echo Plus (2nd gen): Echo Plus (2nd Generation) with built-in Hub$149.99
Google Home Mini: Google Home Mini $49.00
Google Home: Google Home$129.00
Google Home Max: Google Store $399.00