Published on September 1st, 2019 | by Sudhanshu Sorout0
Battle for the smart home – Google Home Vs Amazon Echo
“Ok, Google”. “Alexa, Let’s chat”. It’s 2019. You look around your room and you are not feeling it. Your home smells too much like the 20th century and you want to make it a little smart. You want to hold a conversation with it, hear a beautiful robotic twang tell you the weather in a speech synthesized with machine learning kung-fu, and hopefully, have it help you with chores and simplify your day. You know, all the things wives used to do. Not to be undone, you pull out your phone and Her is fresh in your mind as you find yourself staring at the luscious bodies that house Alexa and umm, the Google Assistant. You are itching to welcome one of them into your abode but you are just not sure which device will treat you the way you deserve. We hear you. (And distant contractors with strict confidentiality agreements definitely don’t).
There’s seemingly a hundred devices floating around, with a hundred differences in what they can and cannot do. So here’s a breakdown of their cost, what they can do, what smart devices they can interact with and their appearance, to allow you to make a well-informed purchase.
A Tambourine Tambola of options
A smart speaker will have you feeling like the Jetsons on vacation in no time. Your options from Google and Amazon are very extensive. The basic Google Home and Amazon Echo are discussed in detail further in the article, so let’s have a quick look at the complete portfolio of devices here.
Aside from the original Google Home, Google offers the Google Home Max, the Google Home Mini, the Hub, and the Hub Max. Which one should you pick? The answer according to Google is probably all of them, but we should be able to whittle it down a bit. If you like things big (I am sorry) and heavy, then the Home Max is for you. It’s built for music and is probably suited for a game room or a basement. Especially good for man caves as well. The home Mini is a small device for those of little faith, who want to see what the smart home paradigm can offer before committing to greater things, whereas the Hub, now rebranded the Nest Hub, is for those of generous and remitting faith. All of the devices come with the Google Assistant so you don’t miss out on any essential feature, but the Nest Hub comes with a screen so you can see more than things being read out to you, and to accomplish a few other tasks which can only be done with a screen. Such as looking at who’s at the door of your enhanced home. The Nest Hub, however, cannot do two-way video calling, and for that, you will require the Nest Hub Max.
In addition to the regular Echo, Amazon has been kind enough to produce the Echo Dot, the Input, the Show, and the Echo Spot. The Dot, just like the Google Home Mini, is a mini version of the regular device. The Input is not a standalone Echo device, but it’s a contraption that can turn any old speaker in your house into a smart speaker. The Echo show is the corollary to the Google Nest Hub, but the main difference is that it can do two-way video calling, like the Nest Hub Max. The Echo spot resembles an alarm clock and is probably suited best to be at your bedside, and it can do video calling as well. There is an Echo Plus as well, which is the bigger and badder version of the regular Echo. It features better speakers, and a Smart Home Hub built-in, which basically means that it will let you control some of your smart devices offline too. That could be pretty useful.
Overall, Amazon appears to have a better range of devices than Google. It’s inexcusable that the Nest Hub can’t do two-way video calling and one has to go up-to the Nest Hub Max to get that feature in Google’s ecosystem. In Amazon’s ecosystem, you can have that feature with either the Echo Show 5 or the Spot, which are both cheaper than the Nest Hub Max.
Appearance and Design
Amazon was the first to foray into the smart speaker market, essentially birthing it single-handedly in 2015 with the original Amazon Echo and since then, have released a gaggle of Echo products, including the second generation of the Echo which is what we are focusing on today. The original Echo was an industrial looking cylinder, rather tall and monolithic at 9.25 Inches, impressive or cumbersome depending on one’s taste. The sequel, however, is much more petite and compact at just 5.8 inches tall, a full 3.5 inches shorter than the original. Whereas the original was available in black and white colors, the Echo 2nd gen is available in a variety of colors and covered in your choice of fabric, wood or metallic finish. There are five color options – charcoal, heather, oak, walnut, or sandstone (there are six colors if you include the limited edition red color). The fabric covering is available in three shades of gray, whereas the wood finish is available in either walnut or oak. The multiple options definitely make it easier to find something that more readily matches your home décor and is inconspicuous on a desk. The fabric options will pick up more dust and so it’s good that they are available in shades of grey, which will make the presence of dust less conspicuous.
The LED light ring at the top is still there, which I find pretty attractive. It cycles around when the Echo is engaged or performing any action which is a nifty little feature. The rotating volume ring has been replaced with physical buttons at the top, which join the action and mute buttons.
The google home is circular and looks a bit like a pod, like some kind of incubator from the Alien movie series. It has a white top with a grey bottom, and the latter can be switched out for other colors. The top of the device is a bit slanted, as opposed to the Echo’s flat top.
Which device’s appearance you prefer will come down to your taste. If you prefer something soothing or unassuming and don’t care for a futuristic look, the Google Home is perhaps the right fit for you. If you want your smart speaker to exude a technological charm, however, you should opt for the Echo. I like the echo more and so it gets the nod in this segment.
Winner: Amazon Echo
I will be honest- for the longest time I was cynical about the utility of “Smart Speakers” for the average person but very clearly, the general public didn’t share my cynicism since they have sold very well. Over time I have come to appreciate the different things these assistants can do, aside from potentially logging every single word you speak in a day for nefarious bond villains. Let’s look at the functionality these devices offer.
The Voice assistant
The Amazon Echo comes equipped with the cloud-based voice assistant called “Alexa”, which is a smart little kitten that when awakened by the “wake” word, which is “Alexa” by default, answers your commands and questions, and you can ask her to control your smart home devices as well. The Echo can play music via the internet ( Spotify, TuneIn or Radioplayer, Amazon Prime Music), tell you the weather over the weekend, set reminders and timers, provide traffic and commute information, set alarms, and a lot of other things. New features are continuously added to Alexa by Amazon.
Google’s device features the creatively named Google Assistant. The Google Assistant can do most things Alexa can do, but owing to Google’s advantage in the AI (apocalypse) realm, the Assistant is more ‘natural’ in many ways. The google assistant is context-aware and has a feature called “multiple actions” which allows people to ask more than one question at once, which is not possible with Alexa. The Google Assistant is generally more intelligent than Alexa, and from the standpoint of pure breadth of knowledge, can answer more queries than Alexa can. It’s also more conversational than Alexa.
The Echo features thousands of third-party “skills” ranging from games to books and music. Moreover, you can create your own skill using the blueprints portal that amazon offers.
Both the Echo and the google home feature a routines feature using which you can set up “routines” comprising multiple actions triggered by a single action or command. Both devices can be used to place calls. The Google Assistant will gain a new feature in the future called the Google duplex, which places a very authentic call on your behalf to say, restaurants to book you a table, etc.
The Google assistant generally answers more questions than Alexa and makes more attempts to respond than it as well. The Echo has more total number of skills or features, but when It comes to specific capabilities, it’s the google home you want.
Smart Devices Compatibility
Amazon Echo boasts support for more than 60,000 smart home products, while Google Home supports more than 30,000. Obviously, the Echo has wider support, but the competition here will come down to which devices exactly you want to have in your home. The list of compatible devices is readily available on the sites of the two manufacturers. For our money, we would choose the Amazon Echo since it’s been on the market longer but we aren’t counting the Home out. Google packs a mean punch and this is one space to watch out for them coming from behind and taking the crown in the dead of night.
Winner: The Amazon Echo
The Amazon Echo and the Google Home Hub are pretty evenly matched in this department. The Echo goes for around 100$, and the Google Home does so as well. The Echo Dot can be found retailing at 50$, and the Home Mini retails at 50$ as well. The Echo show 5 Smart Display is cheaper however, going for 90$, whereas the Google Nest Hub retails for around 129$. The Nest Home Hub Max retails for 229$.
Winner: Amazon Echo
The overall winner of the smart wars today is the Amazon Echo, but the Google Home is quick on its heels. One would be a fool to ever count Google out and this is a developing space. It is very possible that Google will catch up with Amazon in the future and we will keep our eyes out for that. Until then, the smart money is on the Amazon Echo.