Raise your hand if you or someone you know received a Google Home or Amazon Echo for a gift (maybe the holidays last year? A birthday?). These smart home devices were all the rage in 2016 and continue to be so in 2017. Amazon flooded TV commercials with Alec Baldwin and Garth Brooks asking “Alexa” for tips on how to fix their problems and answer their tough questions. Google took a less star-studded approach, with commercials of everyday users asking Google to help them turn on their lights, play their favorite song and tell them when their next meeting was.
Both of these smart home products are intended to be a virtual home assistant—making the users’ lives simpler and easier. And while they are considered a fun little addition to one’s home at this time, we will likely see these types of products continue to rise in popularity, eventually becoming a significant part of nearly every home in the future. For those considering adding an Echo or Google Home to the family, here is a quick roundup:
Round 1: Which device is more knowledgeable?
When it comes to asking random questions about all sorts of facts, Google Home is going to come out as the more knowledgeable of the two home devices. Google Home is also able to remember the previous question you asked. For instance, if you were to ask “Who played Dori in Finding Nemo?” Google Home would answer “Ellen Degeneres.” If you followed up with “How old is she?” Google Home would say her age, even though you didn’t directly say Ellen’s name. Alexa cannot do this.
Echo connects you to Amazon Assistant, which is a powerful tool for lots of basic questions. Home connects you to the vast knowledge of Google.
Winner: Google Home
Round 2: Which device will better sync up with my smart home?
The Amazon Echo has been around longer than Google Home (since 2014), so the list of complementing smarthome devices is fairly long. Google Home is in the works and being perfected, meaning the supporting list of devices is smaller. Both devices integrate with IFTTT, which then allows it to connect to many different products and services. If you’re using your virtual home assistant to control your smarthome gear, then the Amazon Echo is probably the device you’ll want until Google Home obtains more support for more devices.
Winner: Amazon Echo
Round 3: Which is best in terms of shape, size and controls?
Both devices are sleek and sophisticated. The 9.2-inches-tall Amazon Echo is a small black tower with a blue circle that lights up on top. It has seven microphones to easily pick up sound from any direction. It is complemented by the Echo Dot, a separate device that looks like a hockey puck and is designed to help you deliver voice commands in other locations in your home.
The 5.6-inches-tall Google Home is shaped like a small vase. Its main body is white, but the base’s color can be swapped. Both devices look sharp and the aesthetic appeal of each one’s shape and size comes down to the user.
Both the Echo and Google Home come with a small handful of controls on the device itself that allows the user to turn change the volume and mute the microphone. However, the Google Home’s control interface allows slightly more. The Echo includes a volume wheel that you spin to turn the volume up or down, and the mute button sits right on top of the device, as well as a button to activate or cancel Alexa.
On the Google Home, the entire top surface is a touchpad and it relies on finger gestures to control everything, which are easy to grasp. This touchpad allows users toplay or pause music, adjust the volume, and activate Google Home to begin listening. The microphone mute button sits on the back of the device.
Winner: Google Home
Round 4: Which is better for streaming music?
Both devices have decent speakers for casual listening, and can fill a room with music. Both devices can also stream music through the usual services—Spotify, Pandora and TuneIn—and each device has its own music service. Echo connects to Amazon Prime Music, and Home connects to Google Play.
Round 5: What are the privacy concerns with each advice?
In order for Amazon or Google to answer your questions on demand, they have to be listening all the time. According to Amazon, when Alexa detects its wake word and glows blue, it streams “a fraction of a second of audio before the wake word” to Amazon’s servers and closes once your command has been processed. That fraction of a second gets saved along with your main command. Home operates in a similar way. It constantly listens for the phrase “OK Google.” Once detected, its LED lights activate and the recording is sent to Google’s servers.
Overall, Echo appears to be the best choice, as of now, for techies looking to connect all of their home smart devices. Home appears to be the more knowledgeable and user-friendly option of the two. As time goes on, both companies will continue to modify and perfect their devices, likely closing the gap between abilities. We would like to know—which device do you currently prefer and why?