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Filed Under: Smart Home, The Gadget Lover

 

Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home are two of the most well-known and popular digital assistants. Alexa was the first smart speaker, launched in 2014, and had a pretty solid head start by the time Google introduced its range two years later. Since then, Google has closed the gap with some key upgrades including voice recognition and the two have been battling it out ever since. So, which is better?


In case you need a quick catch-up, digital assistants are AI-powered software that you can talk to and they can understand natural voice commands and can complete tasks for the user.

Modern variations, like Alexa and Google Home, are voice-enabled. You can ask them to do anything, from searching the web and playing music to setting a timer and controlling your smart home appliances. They’re permanently connected to the internet so in theory, their abilities are practically limitless. Both Alexa and Google can be used on third-party speakers and smart home products, but they’re best used with their own products.

So, which one should you buy? Here’s how the two digital assistants fare against each other, plus a quick-fire comparison of Amazon Echo’s line against Google Home’s.

Which is the Smartest?

Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant are both becoming smarter and easier to talk to. But, Google seems to be slightly easier and more natural to interact with, while Alexa is fussy about certain word phrasings.

You can holler various query combos at Google and you’re likely to still get a useful answer. Google is also much better for web-based queries, which makes sense as Google is the search engine of choice. In contrast, Alexa doesn’t know quite as much and the “Sorry, I don’t know that one” response can quickly shatter the illusion that you’re talking to an intelligent being. You’ll have to learn Alexa’s phrases if you want a fluid conversation and helpful answers.

On the other hand, Alexa’s wake word, which is what you say to make digital assistants start listening, is much easier to say than Google.  So, although Google is smarter and can be used more seamlessly, “Alexa” is less of a mouthful than “OK, Google”.

Which Does More?

Alexa and Google both offer a wide range of abilities. Called “skills” for Alexa and “actions” for Google, they’re basically apps for your digital assistant that allow you to do more with the device than it originally can out of the box.

Alexa has far more, at over 30,000 compared to Google’s 1,830. You can do anything, from manage your media (such as asking Alexa to play a film or tell you what’s next on your songs playlist) to control your robot vacuum. You can even connect her to your smart home devices and ask her to turn your lights on and off, adjust your central heating and more.

While you probably won’t use all of them, it’s great to be given the choice. Alexa has the widest breadth of capabilities, allowing you to interact with far more devices, apps and gadgets so you can get more with her compared to what you’d get with Google.

Which is Better for Exclusive Features?

Amazon and Google have their exclusive products: the Firestick and Chromecast. When used alongside Alexa and Google Assistant, you can turn your home into a smart, technologically advanced environment. Alexa and the Firestick are arguably the better option, offering a wider range of films, TV shows, games and other entertainment activities than Google.

In contrast, Google Assistant and Chromecast doesn’t have a full interface of its own. It’s a low-cost dongle that plugs into your TV’s HDMI port so you can fire media from your phone or other device to your TV screen. While still pretty handy for transforming your old, non-smart entertainment setup, it’s more like the middleman that bridges old tech with the new than an independent system like Alexa and the Firestick.

Which Has a Better Design?

The two devices are quite similar in design so it depends on your specific taste.

The latest Amazon Echo comes in a minimalistic, aesthetically pleasing design. A squat cylinder that’s nearly six inches tall, the Echo comes with various removable fabric and wood covers so you can change its “clothing” to fit in with your home decor. At the top, there’s a volume ring that lights up when Alexa is activated. There are also two neat buttons: one to turn the microphone off and one that’s a multipurpose Action button.

Google Home is a similar size and at first glance, looks as though it’s been inspired by wine glasses. Half of it is hard plastic with a smooth surface that lights up in different colours whenever the device is listening. The device comes in white but it comes with seven different fabric and metal bases which you can change according to taste. Google Home also comes with a touch interface so you can play music, mute or activate the Assistant.

Which Has Better Sound?

Google Home offers much better sound quality than the Echo. Although it’s not as loud, the sounds are certainly richer and more well-rounded. However, the Echo makes up for its weaker sound quality with a 3.5mm jack so you can connect it to a more powerful speaker. Google Home does not offer this option. But both devices support Bluetooth and multi-room audio.

Which Supports Music Playing Better?

This depends on what you’re after when streaming music. Both devices support Spotify, iHeartRadio, Pandora and TuneIn. Echo supports Amazon Music and Google Home supports YouTube Red and Google Play Music. Neither support Apple Music, but you can connect them via Bluetooth to your phone or other device and play your music that way (or use the echo’s 3.5mm jack).

Google also lets you upload your own music library to its cloud. Amazon used to have a similar service but it’s being phased out and existing users will be cut off in 2019. This makes Google Home a better option for people with more obscure music tastes that aren’t available on major streaming services.

Which is Better for Making or Receiving Calls?

Both the Echo and Google Home let you make outbound calls to regular phones. But, only the Echo can receive calls from other Echos while Google Home can’t receive calls at all. If you want to receive calls on your home line through your Echo, you’ll need an Echo Connect box.

Which is Better for Mobile?

And of course, we can never forget about the mobile phone side of things. After all, it is 2018 and the more mobile-friendly something is, the better.

Google arguably offers you better control and a more inclusive interface for mobile than Alexa. This is because Google Assistant is widely available for iPhones and Androids - particularly the latter. It can be connected to your Google Home devices and it turns your mobile into an easy-to-use interface so you can use it just like you would with your smart speaker.

In contrast, Amazon Echo’s app doesn’t give you the full Alexa experience. Amazon were pretty slow to bring their digital assistant to mobile compared to Google. You can access a number of functionalities on select Android devices, including Huawei and Motorola and voice control was only introduced to iOS in June 2018, which makes Alexa far less mobile friendly than Google.

Which Has a Better Product Line?

Amazon Echo offers a wider product line, with seven different versions of the Echo. These are:

  • The Echo Dot which is the smallest.
  • The Echo Plus which is the biggest.
  • The regular Echo.

These three all have Google Home alternatives.

But there’s more. Amazon Echo’s range also have:

  • The Echo Show (Alexa shows you things like videos)
  • The Echo Spot (a smaller version of the Show)
  • The Echo Look (Alexa gives you fashion advice)
  • The Amazon Tap (a portable battery-operated version of the Dot)

Google hasn’t released alternatives for these just yet, which makes the Echo range the most extensive.

Amazon Echo Dot vs Google Home Mini

These two hockey-puck-sized devices do the exact same thing and cost the same. They exist to extend the functionality of their retrospective digital assistants, so really, it’s best to buy the one you already own.

One thing to note is Google Home Mini’s broadcast feature. This allows you to make announcements to your other Google Home devices and they’ll broadcast it to the rest of your household.

So, say you’re waiting in the hallway for your kids to come downstairs. If you’ve got a Google Home Mini nearby, you can say, “If you’re not downstairs in two minutes, you’re grounded” and this will broadcast the message to all the other Google Home Devices set up in your house. Your kids will hear this and rush downstairs (hopefully). And this is all without having to shout upstairs anymore!

Amazon Echo Plus vs Google Home Max

These two are on the same tier when it comes to their retrospective product line-ups, but they actually aren’t that comparable as they were intended for different purposes. The Echo Plus is designed to be the main hub for your smart home while the Home Max is designed to be the main hub of your music life.

Another major difference is the price. The Echo Plus retails at £94.99 while the Home Max isn’t currently available in the UK yet, but sells in the US for $400. Experts have predicted Google will release the Home Max to the UK market around the end of this year.

So, Which is Better?

Ultimately, this depends on what you’re looking for in a digital assistant. The two are incredibly similar. But we’d recommend Amazon Echo because of its greater functionalities, potential and better experience.

For starters, it’s much easier to say “Alexa” rather than “OK, Google” every time you want to engage with your digital assistant. And although Alexa’s pretty fussy about the way you word things, it offers far more capabilities (AKA skills) than Google so you can get the most out of your digital assistant and truly integrate it into your modern home.


Want to Extend the Reach of Alexa’s Capabilities?

We’ve got a handy guide of 101 things Alexa can do. Interested in finding out what they are and how they can make your home smarter? Download it below.

 

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