Google Home vs Amazon Echo

Category: Gadgets

Google Home, the search giant’s voice-activated “smart speaker,” began shipping November 4, 2016. It competes head to head with Amazon Echo, which debuted almost exactly two years earlier. Other “digital assistants” are awaiting their incarnations as speakers or other objects; Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, and an unnamed AI service that Samsung plans to bake into its Galaxy 8 smartphone. But for now, let’s see how Google Home and Amazon Echo compare…

Google and Amazon Competing For Your Voice Commands

A digital assistant must answer its master’s questions. Google Home has an advantage over Amazon Echo there because the former can tap Google’s unimaginably huge and sophisticated knowledge base. Want to know what movies Bill Murray stars in? How to build a bee trap? Is Pluto a planet? Google Home has answers (and knows you don’t mean the Disney dog), but Amazon Echo does not.

Overall, Home is better educated than Echo. But how often do you need to know how to make a bee trap? More common and repetitive tasks, such as adding and retrieving items in calendars and to-do lists, are well within the abilities of both digital assistants. Echo even supports Google Calendar.

Google Home responds to the spoken phrase, “OK, Google. Good morning,” with a briefing that includes your calendar, your commute time forecast, the weather report, and a news snapshot. With Echo, you need to request each of those items separately.

google home compared to amazon echo

Controlling entertainment is another key function. Here again, you won’t find much practical difference between the two devices. Google Home supports Google Play Music, YouTube Music, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, and others. Amazon Echo supports Amazon Prime Music, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, and others. You won’t run out of music with either choice.

But Echo lacks any output to sound systems, while Home can stream music to Chromecast. Indeed, Home can sync audio playback to multiple devices via Chromecast, so your music can follow you through rooms or out to your car.

Google Home with Chromecast has the built-in ability to manage Netflix and YouTube, plus project photos from your Android phone onto your TV screen. The same cannot be done on Amazon Echo without cobbling together “skills” using Chromecast and IFTTT, a third-party "if this, then that" service that does something if some action occurs, or criteria is met. And well, the point of a digital assistant is that it assists you, rather than you assisting it. Point for Google.

Home Automation is a Key Feature

Home automation is another big function of a digital assistant. Amazon Echo partners with home automation systems and products made by Nest, Ecobee, SmartThings, Wink, Insteon, Belkin WeMo, Philips Hue, Lifx, and others. Google Home supports Nest, SmartThings, and Philips Hue. Both devices can be spliced to other home automation products using IFTTT, if you have the time and inclination.

Amazon Echo looks like a light-saber in the "off" position, and has an API that has allowed developers to create over 900 “skills,” or additional tasks, that Echo can do upon verbal command. Google Home is fresh out of the starting gate, but it too will see a substantial ecosystem of third-party apps.

Google Home is priced at $129, while Amazon Echo costs $180. (While supplies last, you can get a refurbished Echo for $119.99) That’s not a big enough difference to matter when talking about all the functions that both devices can perform.

In the long run, I expect Google Home to overtake Amazon Echo in capabilities and market share. And that's not just because it looks like an air freshener. Google has a very broad portfolio of services that people use regularly, all of which can help make Google Home more useful.

Will Home find a home as a digital assistant in your home? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Google Home vs Amazon Echo"

Posted by:

09 Nov 2016

I have actually been considering starting off with the Amazon Dot; much more reasonably priced (and I would connect it to my stereo's speakers). It's $50, and they have a buy 5 get 1 free special at the moment. However, I am now concerned about some of its clunkiness compared to what you describe Google Home can currently do...

Posted by:

09 Nov 2016

Got along this far without an assistant so I guess we'll pass on either one.

Posted by:

09 Nov 2016

Can anyone confirm that this is not just another appliance with possible spying capabilities?

Posted by:

09 Nov 2016

Roxanne, from what I've been able to investigate, it can definitely keep track of what you are asking and (in theory) Amazon and Google can be subpoenaed by the government (as can your computer). Security-wise it should be as safe as your WiFi connection; if you connect it to 'things' (smart appliances) they can in theory be hacked if your network is hacked. I'm not a geek, I'm a user, so if anyone else would like to chime in and correct me, feel free.

Posted by:

09 Nov 2016

I've managed all my life without one of these things and I'll get along without one just fine for the rest of it. I don't need Big Brother watching me.

Posted by:

10 Nov 2016

Amazon invited me to pre-order my echo. I did. It's seen heavy use from my family in our "great" room for two years. We like it so well I'm considering picking up a second one for our master bedroom. Best Buy published very attractive black Friday preview prices for Echo & Dot. Echo's built-in 360 degree sound is pretty awesome even in a large room but if you want to pipe into an entertainment center, buy the much less expensive echo dot. Overall I'm very happy with Alexa voice capabilities. They are also available on FireTV and FireTV stick controlling the Amazon instant video ecosystem. I personally don't like stinky air fresheners sitting around the house so I'm not a big fan of Google's choice of form factor.

Posted by:

Echo or Home
15 Nov 2016

Big brother is watching you already. Do you really think that not owning any of these devices make your footprint smaller, you own a cellphone right?!? Have internet and use browsers. Remember the days when people were afraid in the early 90's when surveillance cameras were being placed outside by law enforcement agencies. Now they are a godsend, one simple instances...Boston Marathon bombing and the list goes on.

Posted by:

15 Nov 2016

Your article states: "Want to know what movies Bill Murray stars in? How to build a bee trap? Is Pluto a planet? Google Home has answers (and knows you don’t mean the Disney dog), but Amazon Echo does not."
The above statement appears to not be entirely true! I just tested it on my Echo, and was given an in-depth response to all these requests.

Posted by:

Govind Dheda
21 Nov 2016

Google Home For Just $99 On Best Buy Black Friday Deal Offers..

Posted by:

Pat Doyle
10 Mar 2017

No positive comments on here. I got a Google Home for Christmas and really enjoy using it. My son in law set it up and then bought a second one. We use them for raising and lowering blinds, turning lights on and off, the TV's and door lock ( the last now disabled since anyone could break in!) It has enormous possibilities we have only scratched the surface so far. we use IFTTT so far but I'm playing around with Autovoice, natural language commands to make it easier to communicate with GH

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