Google Home, Google’s long-awaited answer to Amazon’s popular voice assistant, Amazon Echo, has been released in the United States on November 4, 2016 for US$129, and we are excited to put the two against each other to see which one is more useful.
What Is Amazon Echo?
Amazon Echo has been available since 2014, so it’s only polite to start with it. “Amazon Echo is a hands-free speaker you control with your voice. Echo connects to the Alexa Voice Service to play music, provide information, news, sports scores, weather, and more—instantly. All you have to do is ask,” describes Amazon their voice-controlled speaker on its official website.
When the company first released Echo, nobody imagined that it would sell over 3 million units in less than 2 years. The product enabled people to play music, control other gadgets, ask questions, and more in a new, intuitive way that appeals to tech enthusiasts and casual users alike. Take a look at Echo’s product reviews and you’ll see how it helps elderly and people with disabilities manage daily tasks and have fun.
This is possible thanks to Alexa, an intelligent personal assistant developed by Amazon.com’s Lab126. Alexa can do all sorts of useful things, including voice interaction, music playback, making to-do lists, setting alarms, streaming podcasts, playing audiobooks, and providing weather, traffic, and other real-time information. She can also control smart devices, acting as a home automation hub.
To active Echo’s voice recognition, all you have to do is say “Alexa,” and the device responds instantly with a sound prompt and an attractive, blue LED ring situated at the top of the unit. Under the ring is an array of seven microphones with beam-forming technology and enhanced noise cancellation for 360° voice recognition. You can stand across the room and even have music playing and Echo will still understand you without any problems.
Amazon Echo remembers your previous commands and questions, adapting to your speech patterns, vocabulary, and personal preferences. This means that the more you use it, the smarter and more accurate it will become. But if you don’t want to wait for Echo to learn new tricks all by itself, you can enhance its capabilities with Skills. There are currently thousands of different skills, such as ordering a pizza from Domino’s, requesting a ride from Uber, opening your garage with Garageio, and more.
Amazon has also developed a complementary app for Android, iOS, and desktop browsers, which acts as a companion to your Alexa device for setup, remote control, and enhanced features. The app mirrors your interactions with Alexa, giving you more information and control.
What Is Google Home?
Google describes Google Home as “a voice-activated speaker powered by the Google Assistant.” The executive behind the project, Mario Queiroz, was the man who has launched Chromecast, the only truly successful living room product Google has ever launched. As such, Google Home is sort of an extension of Chromecast, designed to directly compete with Amazon Echo.
In terms of build and design, Home is a small, sleek speaker with far-field microphones and surround sound speakers. To trigger the voice recognition feature, simply say “Ok Google” followed by a number of different questions and commands. You can trigger Home to play music, podcasts, or radio from services like Google Play Music, Spotify, YouTube Music, Pandora, and TuneIn, get real-time answers including the latest on weather, traffic, finance, sports, local businesses, and more.
Google’s extensive experience with search and information retrieval helps Google Home give accurate contextual answers that never fail to surprise with their accuracy. You can customize your Google Home voice-activated speaker using seven colorful bases and make it fit your home decor.
As of now, Google Home doesn’t support simultaneous connection to multiple Google accounts, nor does Google provide public APIs for third-party developers, like Amazon does with Echo. The company says that both features will come in time, but we have to wait to see just how long it will take.
Comparison of Amazon Echo and Google Home
Perhaps because Google Home is a younger product, its functionality is still somewhat limited, compared to Amazon Echo. For example, Google Home can’t set reminders, give you directions how to get somewhere, or add events to your Google Calendar. Amazon Echo has no problem with any of the tasks, and it even supports Google Calendar, Google’s own calendar.
For regular Amazon shoppers, Echo does a fantastic job of ensuring that your shopping card is never empty for too long. You can search for items and add them with just your voice. In case there are several options to choose from, Amazon will prompt you the next time you log into your shopping card on their site.
Google Home has an edge over Echo when it comes to answering questions. At times, Echo gives rather obscure answers, whereas Google Home is almost always eerily accurate, as if Google had a large database filled with your browsing history, previous search queries, purchases, and other personal information (which they, of course, do have).
Similar to Google Now’s cards, Google Home has the My Day feature, which provides weather and traffic information, an overview of your calendar events, and a brief summary of current news by saying “good morning.” It’s a fun, informative way how to start a day, and it makes you feel like your Google Home assistant was made just for you.
Both devices are equally good at picking up your voice commands from across the room even with music playing in the background. Google Home has only two microphones, while Alexa has seven, but it doesn’t seem to matter in practice. However, the same doesn’t apply for listening to music. There, Amazon Echo is clearly superior, delivering much fuller sound even at higher volume levels. Google Home holds up reasonably well until you increase the volume too much, which causes the small speakers inside to crackle.
Amazon Echo easily wins when it comes to the sheer number of supported third-party gadgets and services. Google has yet to release developer APIs for its assistant, making its usage as an IoT hub somewhat limited. The only exception is its superb support for Chromecast. You can tell it which show or movie you would like to watch and control the playback with your voice.
The race is on, and only time will tell which company will be able to entice more customers with its intelligent voice assistant. Right now, Amazon benefits from its maturity and much better third-party support. Google, on the other hand, is doing whatever they can to leverage the power of their search engine to its maximum potential, giving people highly accurate answers to their questions.
At the end of the day, what matters the most is which ecosystem you use more. We believe that regular Amazon customers and Prime subscribers should go with Amazon Echo, despite its higher price tag. Devoted Google users can grab Google Home now or wait a year or two until Google extends their third-party support.