In our previous article, Google Home vs Amazon Echo – Who Will Rule Your Roost And Why, we touched on a couple of the more significant aspects of a smart personal assistant – finding and sharing knowledge, and, of course, personal assisting. These are but two abilities of a good AI. In this article, we discuss how the Google Home and Amazon Echo measure up in terms of smart home automation. We cover which third-party smart home automation products are compatible with each device, including the triumphs and pitfalls of both personal assistants as they relate to the smart home.
With the popularity of music streaming steadily rising since over a decade ago, the Google Home and Amazon Echo come with a variety of ways to easily stream the music you love. Naturally, we saw fit to speak on the different services they offer. The sheer amount of music available to you by each is remarkable, but which offers more bang for your buck? And in the spirit of delivering you a well-rounded look into the Home and the Echo, we’ve included sections on the pricing and physical controls of each device. You’ll discover the biggest differences between the two, and by the end of your reading, you will be equipped with enough knowledge to decide which device rules your roost – the Amazon Echo or the Google Home.
In terms of the smart home, at this time Amazon Echo is vastly superior, but then Google Home has been shipping for about weeks now. The sheer number of smart home automation devices the Echo supports far exceeds that which is supported by Google Home (or Siri). If you’ve got a number of smart home devices from various manufacturers that you’re seeking to control with your personal assistant, Amazon Echo is definitely for you.
Turn on lights, control your thermostat, turn on your smart TV – a completely connected home is just a few steps away using Alexa. Big names that work with the Amazon Echo are Philips Hue, Lifx, Lightify (Osram/Sylvania), Nest, Ecobee, SmartThings, Wink, Insteon, Belkin WeMo, Big Ass Fans, IFTTT (“If This Then That) a DIY “programming” ability using logic), and many more. Expect this to expand drastically, while at the same time Google Home and others will be catching up.
Like the Amazon Echo, the Google Home allows you to use your voice to control connected devices that link via Wifi or Bluetooth. Currently, it works with Nest, Chromecast on TV, SmartThings, Philips Hue and a few other smart-home companies. That’s it, for now, but we expect the list to grow far longer in the next six months.
As mentioned in the previous section, Google has announced their “open developer platform” for Google Assistant, launching this month. This will allow third party developers to create voice-controlled applications that can be integrated into the Google Assistant. There is still a ways to go before Google can compete with Alexa on this mark, but perhaps that day isn’t very far off.
If you’ve invested in Chromecast, you’re in for a treat. Google Home uses “Voicecasting” to allow commands to play YouTube videos straight to your TV. Right now this only works for Google, but rumor has it that streaming partners such as Netflix will be available via this feature.
All personal assistants, whether manufactured by Amazon, Google or Apple, can play music. This voice-activated music streaming is a fun feature. In the case of the Amazon Echo, Alexa can stream music from Pandora, TuneIn, Spotify, iHeartRadio, and through the Amazon Prime Music catalogue. This catalogue has roughly two million songs in its library, ready to play at your command.
Though the speakers will be deemed less-than-worthy by audiophiles, it should be noted that the quality is respectable for a built-in speaker. The sound can reach the corners of a large room, such as a living area or master bedroom, with an acceptable amount of bass. The speakers are omni-directional, providing you with 360 degree sound output and listening capabilities.
Google Home works with YouTube music, Spotify, Pandora, TuneIn and GooglePlay, again in direct competition with the Echo. GooglePlay, however, has a far larger library of music than is available in the Prime Music catalogue, with 35 million songs and counting. An added bonus comes again in the form of Google’s knowledge and natural conversations. Like a supped-up version of Shazam, you can identify the name of an unknown song by asking about it. “Play that Alt J song from The Blacklist,” and you will have your answer.
Google Home can use Google “Cast” and Wi-Fi to connect to third party speakers, something the Echo cannot yet do. Amazon’s Dot, though, has an audio out for which you can plug in speakers or use it’s Bluetooth transmitter. I really don’t see Amazon or Google having a significant advantage when it comes to music. That said, Amazon and Sonos have announced a partnership, which, we believe will be a really good thing for Sonos. Of course a future capability with Home is likely too.
When choosing your AI device, there are two things you’re going to look at. Is it more important for you to choose one that meets your immediate needs, or one that may be more impressive down the road? Either way, the Amazon Echo and the Google Home are inexpensive – both falling in at under $200. The Amazon Echo is $179.99, while its less expensive expansion device, the Amazon Dot (no you don’t need an Echo, the $49.99 Echo Dot will work by itself. The Google Home is $129, and about half the height of the Echo, so perhaps with the Echo you’re paying for the extra plastic (but also a different sound system).
The sleek design of both the Amazon Echo and the Google Home is appropriately befitting to the complexity of their respective AI assistants. With very little visible hardware, these devices have the appearance of being on the futuristic side (or maybe mid-century modern?), adding to the allure of having an in-home personal assistant. For this reason, there is not much to say about either in terms of physical controls.
The Amazon Echo has three physical controls altogether. A mute button lives on top of the Echo, sharing real-estate with a button which activates or cancels Alexa, though you can just as easily tell Alexa to be quiet with your voice. The echo also has a spinning wheel to control volume. That’s it.
The top of the Google Home is a touchpad that requires easy-to-remember finger gestures to control it. The only button is a mute button, which is on the back. The touch pad allows for volume adjustment, activating the Home to begin listening, or playing music. Again, not much to talk about, but that is entirely the point.
When it comes to choosing a personal assistant, either choice is likely to satisfy you either immediately or in the near future. Each has a number of current “limitations,” many of which will go away as both expand capabilities. With each company investing heavily into the development of their devices’ features and expanding the smarts of their pretty clever AI/Personal Assistants, both the Amazon Echo and the Google Home are likely to delight and surprise you in the immediate future. Though the Echo has more capabilities now, Google is not far behind in advancing their personal assistant to the level of Alexa and further beyond.
So, is there a clearly better choice, if you are buying today? Only if you have some service or other, that you “must have” today, but only one provides. Otherwise, a decision is going to be tough. Darn, having to chose between excellent products, knowing only that both will be far better products in six months, a year, and several years out.
We here at Smarter Home Automation find the possibilities in the realm of the AI to be exhilarating. We expect to see many future enhancements to Google Home, Amazon Echo/Dot Alexa, Apple Siri, etc. No doubt, some of those enhancements will be down right breathtaking!