Home devices that answer your questions, give you a rundown of your upcoming schedule, and tell you the weather are becoming a part of people’s lives. These devices are becoming so ubiquitous that toddlers are now growing up asking Alexa to play “The Wheels on the Bus.”
Smart speakers are adding features all the time, making it more appealing to consumers who aren’t the “early adopter” crowd. If you’ve decided it’s time for a smart speaker, you are likely comparing Google Home vs Amazon Alexa, the two most prominent brands making these devices. Is one different than another? Do they offer the same things? Before you buy, here’s what you need to know to decide which one is right for your home.
At first glance, the multiple versions of Amazon smart speakers and Google’s seem to do many of the same tasks. Both can respond to voice commands. Both are always listening (except Tap). Both rely on a “wake” word, such as “OK Google” or “Alexa.” Both offer music streaming options as well. Both can stream Spotify, Pandora, and TuneIn, but Google offers Google Play Music and YouTube Music, while Amazon works with its own streaming service plus IHeartRadio and a few others. Both devices work with many others, such as Nest, SmartThings, Honeywell, Logitech, WeMo, and more. If you’re hoping to connect your bot with other devices around the house, it’s worth looking at the full list of partnerships for each to see where you’ll get the most value.
Both offer several “personal assistant” options, such as checking your calendar, tracking a flight or a package, making a shopping list, and order a pizza. Because Amazon has been in the space longer, its devices seem to have a longer list of things it can do. While Google’s devices connect well with the rest of your Google life, such as your calendar, features such as changing an event with your voice are still coming.
However, as one reviewer pointed out, Amazon’s devices can order things for you, but struggle to help you find reviews about products. Home also has a bonus if you’re a Chromecast user: you can control your TV with your voice, pulling up YouTube videos or watching a show on Netflix. You can tell it to pause, rewind, or fast-forward with voice commands. This feature is in the works, too, for Hulu and HBO Now. Google’s Home can also make phone calls for free using VoiP. Amazon’s Echo can call other Echos and call people through the Amazon Alexa app.
Whether one is “better” for you depends on what you need and what other systems you use. For example, if you’re committed to Google’s other products, you might want to go with the Google Home, so it seamlessly joins your team.
According to review sites such as Wirecutter and CNET, both bots do a fair job of picking up your voice, even with some background noise. The Google Home can customize answers based on who’s asking once you train it to recognize various family members.
Both devices offer higher-end versions and lower-end: Amazon Dot and Google Home Mini. If you’re looking at those on the low end, the Dot might be a better choice if music is your primary goal. With the Dot, you can connect headphones or other speakers via a jack on the unit, and it has Bluetooth as well. The Home Mini has no jack, but has Bluetooth and can connect to Chromecast Audio-capable speakers.
If sound is your focus, you want one of the higher-end versions anyway, because what you’re paying for is a better speaker. Those truly serious about audio quality won’t be fully satisfied, but the higher-end versions of the smart speakers produce a decent sound in most home spaces.
Aesthetics may play a role in your decision as well, and it’s a matter of personal taste whether you prefer the look of the Google bots or Amazon’s. Amazon’s bots are black and either resemble a hockey puck or are a tall, vertical speaker. Google’s Home gives you the option to change out the base color, though many compare its overall look to that of an air freshener.
In the end, choosing which of these devices (or Apple’s version) is a good fit for your ecosystem comes down to size, compatibility, and bonus features. Because both companies will continue to add features, most consumers should choose the one that seems most compatible with their home and lifestyle.
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