Google Home versus Amazon Echo

February 07, 2019

In the savvy world of smart speakers, two major players rule the roost – Amazon with their Echo range and Google with the Home series.

But what are the benefits and drawbacks of each, and how do you separate the two when it comes to which smart speaker will best suit your needs?

Here’s an insight into the finer points of both brands in the battle that is Google Home versus Echo.

A quick smart speaker recap

Not to be confused with voice assistants, Google Home and Amazon Echo are smart speakers. That basically means they are the hardware you position around your home or office.

Smart speakers spring to life when you say the name of the voice assistant they access. In the case of Google, the voice assistant is known as Google Assistant, and with Amazon it’s Alexa.

Therefore, the Google Home smart speaker starts listening when you say, “Hey Google” and Amazon Echo tunes in when you say “Alexa”.

Smart speakers can do all sorts of savvy things like play your favorite tunes via voice command and record your shopping list as you say it aloud whilst wandering about the home.

They can also use their connectivity to complete tasks like dimming your smart lighting or starting a morning routine that sees other smart technology in your home activate.

So, which one is best?

Well, really that depends what you’re wanting to do, and in truth it’s also a lot about the voice assistant they use.

Amazon Echo

The Amazon Echo was the first cab off the rank in terms of mainstream smart speakers, and the range is now into its second generation.

Along the way Echo has acquired a whole range of skills – 15,000 and counting to be precise. Akin to apps on a smart phone, these skills enable you to tap into other services using voice control, meaning Echo plays nice with Uber, can read recipes to you or even order your pizza.

Where Echo has some real strengths is when you access other native Amazon services like Prime or Amazon’s incredible shopping options.

Meanwhile, because the Echo is so established a whole array of smart home products and hubs are designed to tie in with it. That means you can control much of your smart home using an Echo speaker. You can check your thermostat, turn on the lights, switch on the heating and cooling etc.

Echo comes in a range of sizes and styles, including:

The Echo Plus

Amazon Echo Plus

This is like the premium model, which features the best smart home integrations and sound quality.

The Echo Dot

Amazon Echo Dot

This affordable, sweet little number pretty much resembles a hockey puck, and is hugely popular as a start-up smart speaker option, or for extra speakers that you can position around the home.

The Echo Show

Amazon Echo Show

New to the market is the Echo Show. It’s basically an Amazon tablet with Alexa built in. The benefit of the Show is that supports video streaming and video calling and can display the weather or the recipes you seek.

The Echo Spot

Amazon Echo Spot

Akin to an upgraded Echo Dot, the Echo Spot features a tiny round screen that facilitates voice calling and displays information.

Tablet Wall Mount

Looking to deploy a tablet wall mount in your business or home?

Google Home

Google Home arrived later to the smart speaker party than Amazon, but its strength lies in some pretty major fields.

Google has long been a player in the voice and speech recognition arenas, and is, of course the world’s leading search engine.

It also offers the ability to tie your smart speaker into your multiple Google accounts, so you can easily check your calendar for the day and access your emails or even plan your route to work, using maps that offer real time information on delays and traffic.

In places like Australia, Google Home is also the leading smart speaker purely because it hit the local market first, arriving with an Australian accent long before Echo immigrated Down Under.

That said, Wirecutter recently noted Home does have some limitations.

“…the “Google” portion of the Google Home isn’t quite as capable as we’d like. It generally provides more detailed answers than Alexa, but in day-to-day use, it’s not noticeably more capable at performing simple tasks—for example, the process to add events to your Google calendar is needlessly awkward. And while it has some smart-home integrations and third-party “Actions” comparable to Alexa’s Skills, it has fewer of either than Alexa does, although it is catching up.”

And if anything was indicative of how desperate Google is to catch up and how effective they are at making ground, it was CES 2019.

Many reviewers noted Google was everywhere at the January event, and is quickly gaining ground.

Digital Trends explained currently, more than 1600 home-automation brands and more than 10,000 devices work with Google Assistant, “but those numbers are just the beginning”.

So what about their speaker range?

Google Home

Google Home

Google Home looks a little like a sleek vase, with four flashing lights at the top to indicate its listening and a touch panel at the top.

Google Home Mini

The Mini is much like the Echo Dot, offering a small, cheap speaker option that can be easily positioned around the home.

Google Home Max

Google Home Max

The Google Max resembles a standard rectangular speaker, and is designed to offer better sound quality.

Google Home Hub

Google Home Hub

Launched late last year, the Google Home Hub is a smart speaker that also features a screen. It can play videos, display the weather and messages, and when idle can act as a digital photo frame. It does not have a camera, so is not built for video calling.

The final verdict

Whether Google Home or Amazon Echo is better is a really hard call to make. Wirecutter notes they prefer Echo due to its depth of capabilities, wide smart-home device support, ability to play the most popular music streaming services, and slightly superior sound quality.

Meanwhile, TechRadar favors Home due to its simplicity.

“Google Home’s abilities are, by default, accessible to all – barring pairing up third-party smart home devices with your Google Home system, if you’ve made a request that the Google ecosystem can understand, it’ll carry out the required response unprompted.”

The ultimate judgment comes down to the user, the services and products they’re looking to access and what they want their smart speaker to do.

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