Google Home vs. Amazon Echo
Author: Xavier Green
Over the past couple years, bluetooth speakers have become more and more of a thing to invest in when it comes to having cool tech around your home. Depending on the brand and how much you spend, the audio is pretty impressive for such compact devices. They have the capability to move the sound through a living room space for families. But these new devices are not just bluetooth speakers. Granted, them being speakers that produce great sound quality is their major selling point, but these devices have literally eliminated many of the common tasks that we were accustomed to doing on a day-to-day basis. For example, these smart devices are capable of turn the regulating the temperature on the over. They are capable of switching the lights on or off. They can regulate the thermostat in your home. But that only names a few tasks that these amazing smart devices are capable of performing. In fact, they can certainly do a lot more. Now everyone wants one in their home!
Here’s a fact: both of these pieces of tech are pretty awesome. You can stream music from music streaming services like Amazon Music and Spotify, converse with them to an extent, play games, get news headlines, organize, place orders, and also set alarms and reminders. While both of these are some pretty cool tech to have in your home, there are some things that set these two smart home devices apart from each other. The real question is, Between the Google Home and the Amazon Echo, which one will be the most valuable to you and your home?
Although smart home tech seems brand new, Amazon’s Echo was released on November 6, 2014. It gained popularity in 2015 as the new gadget that had any answer for you. Quite the piece of entertainment for you family. Just by calling “Alexa” opens a world of unique capabilities for these smart devices. The Echo was released in October 2014, but the other two that compliment the Echo are called the Amazon Tap and the Amazon Echo Dot, and they were released much later. The Echo comes in white or black, but the black is the one that sells the most and most likely the color that is carried in retailers. It has a 360-degree speaker grille on its bottom half that makes the sound surround the room. The white version would more than likely have to be purchased directly from Amazon. When unboxing the Echo, you will notice two distinctive things in the box besides the device itself; an adapter and a remote. There is an AC adapter included in the box because the device has to plugged in at all times for it to function. In other words, it’s not completely a wireless bluetooth speaker. The remote actually has voice control beyond its basic volume, toggle, and seek features for music streaming. The volume can be adjusted by rotating the round-top portion of the Echo, but the remote and voice-activation is much more convenient. It can be activated by pressing the microphone at the top of the remote. The remote can be used on the Echo and/or the Echo Dot. Installing the Amazon Alexa app on your smartphone is a requirement to setup any of these devices.
After Alexa’s release, it could perform basic tasks a smart device should be able to do like respond to basic requests and questions like, “Who won the world series last year?” or “What is 288 x 159?” or “How far is Savannah from my location?”. It could also stream music from Amazon Music. But since then, the Echo has come much further. Now the Echo is more of a ‘personal assistant.
One of its many capabilities now includes being able to order directly from Amazon through the customer’s Amazon Prime account. Simply saying something like, “Alexa, order me some new AA batteries”, then Alexa will respond and confirm the order to you and the customer can expect direct delivery to their door step within a couple days. But it’s not just through Amazon. It can also order from other places as well, but you have to add the place you’re ordering from to your Amazon Prime account. For example, you can tell Alexa to order a medium sized pizza from Pizza Hut and it would get there asap. There is no need to make a phone call or go online to order it when you have Alexa. It can even request a ride for you on Uber. Amazon is also in the works of rolling out their drone delivery “Prime Air”, so very soon, customers will be able to tell Alexa to deliver them something via Prime Air drone. This is sometimes a downfall because several reports have come out about children ordering several products through Alexa unintentionally and their parents are the ones who pay for it. There should be a way to adjust the security or preferences so that not just anybody can order things through Alexa unless they are authorized to do so.
The Echo can also schedule appointments and adjust your calendar and it can also set reminders. Although this capability comes in handy, its not very conversational. You really have you enunciate or say exactly what you need it to do, otherwise it won’t return a result or it will misunderstand what you requested. The Echo has also added to its music streaming capability as well. It can now stream from now only Amazon Music, but also Pandora, live stations via Tunein or iHeartRadio, and audiobooks on Audible. Users can also upload their own music to My Music on Amazon where up to 250 songs can be added for free. The most notable change from its release in 2014 is its capability to communicate with other smart home devices such as lightbulbs, sockets, thermostats, ovens, and doors. The only thing users have to do is ensure the device they want to control is compatible with Alexa. Retailers carry smart lightbulbs, lamps, switches, wall outlets, fans, and thermostats. A list of all of the items that are compatible with Alexa can be found at https://www.amazon.com/b?node=13575751011.
The other Amazon smart home devices can be convenient but they are definitely not as effective as the original Echo. The most notable feature of the Tap is the wireless charging dock that comes in the box. Unlike the Echo, it can be used without being plugged into a wall once it is charged. Thus, it can be taken outside, but in order to use it, it has to be connected to a wi-fi network. Another downfall of the Tap is that it does not have hands-free activation. In order to command the device, the user needs to press the mic button on the front of the Tap, then give it a command. The sound quality is average. Probably just loud enough for bedroom or small living room. It is not as smart as the Echo either, as you may need to repeat what you say a lot or it will not be able to find exactly what you are looking for. The Tap can be purchased for $129 from Amazon or retailers like Target, but there are plenty of other bluetooth speakers that can be purchased for the same price or less that have better sound quality and bluetooth capabilities.
The Echo Dot is a miniature version of the Echo; pretty much just the top quarter of the Echo. It has all the capabilities as the Echo except of course the speakers don’t get as loud. But customers can make up for the low sound from the Echo Dot speakers because there is an auxiliary jack on the Dot to plug into any other speaker to amplify the sound. Once that is done, The Echo Dot can just be used as a personal assistant. It can connect to all of the smart devices in your home also. The bedroom is the perfect placement for this device. Most people can keep it plugged up to a nightstand, a desk, or even in the bathroom. It’s always listening so it’s very convenient. Just saying “Alexa” wakes it up and it will respond to any command just as the Echo does. It is half the cost of the Echo at $90 and the Echo costs $180 in stores and on Amazon. If you are looking for a decent bluetooth speaker for your room that acts as a personal assistant, this is the perfect device for your buck.
The Google Home bluetooth speaker and personal assistant was released in October 2016, exactly 2 years after the release of the Amazon Echo. This gave Google sort of an advantage because they had a bit more time to research how to set apart the Home from the Echo. The Google Home is a compact speaker with a white top and a colored mesh base covering the speakers. It has hi-fi bass speakers that can surround a room. In the box comes the device itself and an AC adapter. In the quick start guide, it will require the Google Home app to be installed on a smartphone as well to set up the device and connect it to a home wi-fi network. Once the setup is complete, the Google Home device can be waken by saying “Okay Google” or “Hey Google”.
One of the most notable things that sets the Google Home apart from the Amazon Echo is its appearance. Most say that it looks like an air freshener or candle holder; some decorative item you would but in your bathroom or living room table. This makes it so that it can be placed in any room and it doesn’t stand it. It mingles in with the environment and it doesn’t appear to be an expensive tech product. It is also very compact and can easily be carried around because of its size and light weight. Unlike the Echo, the Home does not come with a remote so if you need to adjust the volume of your tunes, you would either need to instruct it to do so or adjust the volume manually via the touch base by simply rotating your
Google Home’s Capabilities
The Home is Google’s second device that has Google Assistant installed. The only other device with Google Assistant is the phone released around the same time of year as the Google Home, the first phone ever manufactured by Google, the Google Pixel (iPhone 7 vs. Google Pixel comparison article here).
The best thing about the Google Home is its use of Google search. Google search is the most used search engine on the internet, therefore search results are more relevant and accurate. If you ask the Home how far away is the nearest Pizza Hut, it will not only provide you with the distance, but it’s specific location. You can also get more specific with such a basic request like asking how much is a large one topping pizza there and it will provide you with the exact price. But you wouldn’t be able to order that pizza as of yet. Google Home is very conversational. Although you have to say “Okay Google” or “Hey Google” each time you are requesting something, it remembers the last thing you said to it so some things won’t need to be repeated. For example, if you ask it to give you some information about Dwight Howard, it will give you a background of who he is or how he is best known. Then you want to know where he is from, you won’t have to say, “Okay Google… where is Dwight Howard from” because it remembers that you just asked about him so you can just say “Where is he from?”. Google Home is capable of streaming music from Google Play Music, YouTube Music, Pandora, TuneIn and Spotify. It can also be connected to other smart home devices such as lights, speakers, and thermostats.
The thing that sets the Home apart is its ability to stream video. The Google Home can stream video from YouTube, Netflix, and Hulu after being synced to a Google Chromecast or a smart tv with wi-fi. It streams to that device though a wi-fi network. The streaming device will need to be synced to the Google Home in the Google Home app. Once that is complete, the Chromecast can be connected to a tv or computer and the Google Home can be commanded to stream videos by saying, “Ok Google… play/stream a video by GreenBox Tek from YouTube on my tv”. If it is synced to a Chromecast it will respond with, “Ok. Playing a video by GreenBox Tek from on YouTube on Chromecast.” If you want to stream your video from Netflix or Hulu, then you will need to add your account info to the Google Home app for Netflix and/or Hulu and instruct the Home to play the video you want from Netflix or Hulu.
One major downfall of the Google Home that it does not allow users to switch profiles. It stays under one Google account for the entire household unless you log out of your Google Account through the Google Home app. This is a downfall because you cannot add tasks or schedule appointments or adjust your Google Calendar. Most thought that by you being required to sign in using your Google account that would be something it does, but since it is more of a household device, it does not allow personal changes. You should be able to sing in according to who is using the device.
Your investment will come down to what matters to you most. If you’re looking for the cheapest of the two, that would be the Google Home. It’s price tag is $130 while the Amazon Echo is $50 more expensive at $180. If you’re looking for the one with the best sound quality, that would be the Amazon Echo, as it has a full 360-degree speaker design. When it comes to the most entertaining, that would be the Google Home, as it is more conversational, makes jokes, and plays games, and it can stream videos. The most task driven device would be the Amazon Echo because it has the capability of adjusting a calendar, setting reminders, and placing orders. It serves as more of an assistant than Google. As far as information goes, hands down Google Home simply because of its access to Google search and other Google services. The Echo uses Bing, and it is not as previse as Google. If you are looking for something now, then Alexa may just be the best thing for you, especially since you can get the Echo and the Echo Dot for additional rooms and both of them have Alexa as a personal assistant even though the Echo Dot is a miniature version. Long term, Google may just be the best choice because Google is still in the works of making the Home a better experience so whatever the Home is not capable of doing now, it will definitely be able to do that plus a lot more a year from now.
Let us know what you think. Have you purchased one of these smart home devices? What has your experience been like? What are some things that you like or dislike?