Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could turn up the lights, cook your dinner or check how much traffic you’re going to have on your way to work, all without getting up, with merely asking aloud for this information? This isn’t just a futuristic fantasy, a smart speaker can do all this and more for you.
When the Amazon Echo launched in June 2015, it was hailed as a giant leap forward. Since then, it has grown to a user base of over 10 million as of May ‘17, and a whopping 2 million of those have jumped onto the Echo bandwagon since the start of the year. Not one to be left behind, Google launched it’s own smart speaker, Google Home, in November 2016.
Amazon Echo and Google Home are similar, and each has a loyal fan following. Both are smart speakers, which act not only as wireless speakers, but also as digital assistants responding to voice commands and as controllers for smart devices. While Amazon Echo pioneered the market, Google Home has its loyal fan following too.
Confused about choosing between the two? Here are the crucial differences that will help you decide.
So how do both perform, and what does one offer that the other doesn’t ?
While the two boast very similar specifications and functionalities, there are fine differences. Knowing these will help you decide the perfect speaker for you.
Both function quite well as speakers, although neither shines brilliantly. Both offer output to another stereo system; with Google Home that is done via Chromecast and the Amazon Echo does that via Bluetooth and Echo Dot. However, Google offers a handy option to sync playback to connected Google Cast devices (which is something the Echo can’t) so you can listen to the same music across rooms and devices.
The real difference, however, comes in with how they interact with your other smart devices.
Using a Smart speaker as a Smart home controller
This is probably the coolest thing about a smart speaker. Both Amazon Echo and Google Home act as controllers for your smart devices. What that means is without getting up, you can control your lights, thermostat, locks and more. That really translates into a lot more comfort at work or play. The last thing you want to do while battling a deadline is to get up to turn up the lights, right?
Both connect to most smart devices such as Nest Thermostats, Philips Hue Lights, and all the common ones, but the Amazon Echo also works with Ecobee, Big Ass Fans, Control 4 and Creston, all of which the Google Home can’t.
If you’re looking for a smart speaker that primarily functions as a smart home controller, Echo is a better bet because it connects to most smart home devices. Google Home has had comparatively less time to form these partnerships, but it has been perfecting the AI across devices for years, so it supports a more natural, conversational tone.
A Digital Assistant
A voice-controlled Speaker also functions as a digital assistant. Both speakers are always listening for their wake word. In the case of Google Home, that’s “Hey Google” or “OK Google”. The Amazon Echo responds to “Alexa”, but you can change that to “Amazon”, “Echo” or “Computer”.
The Google Home wins here because it was made to mesh into Google’s other services. That means searching the web, getting a daily briefing based on what you’ve entered in your Google Calendar, checking traffic or making a shopping list, track a flight or track a package. The Alexa-based Echo is adept at making a shopping list, and tracking packages, as you would expect from an Amazon product, but it also gladly adds to your to-do list (which the Google Home surprisingly can’t!), and tracks flights. Both interface well, but the Google Home assistant shows a slightly better ability to grasp the context.
The really big difference here is that Google Home has the ability to recognize upto six voices and accents and customise its answers on that basis, so you won’t wind up getting updates on a traffic snarl waiting for your partner on their commute to work.
Compatibility across streaming services
While both Smart Speakers stream music via Spotify, Pandora and Tune-in, the Amazon Echo obviously is a great way to stream Amazon Prime Music and iHeartRadio, both of which Google Home can’t. What it does offer you is the ability to stream Google Play Music and YouTube Music, which is handy.
So what’s the right speaker for you?
That really depends on what your needs are. Google Home is great for getting real-time traffic updates, some pretty accurate search results, carrying on a more natural conversation with a digital assistant, and when there are multiple users in the home. This makes it ideal for families.
On the other hand, the Echo is good at making lists and can connect with more smart devices. It’s quite an efficient digital assistant and smart home controller, and it works beautifully for professionals who work from home and are juggling rather full lives.
Both these smart speakers have been around for a decent amount of time and have managed to iron out the wrinkles a bit since they launched, but they certainly aren’t the only options out there. Amazon Echo’s other variant, the Amazon Echo Dot, comes with disadvantages, but a very attractive price point. Among the smart speakers with comparable features and functionalities, the Apple Homepod and Bixby by Samsung are expected to launch soon, while Harman Kardon’s Invoke speakers are powered by Microsoft’s Cortana AI. Alibaba’s Tmall Genie is now available too, and Xiaomi has recently announced a game changer in the form of the soon-to-be-launched $44 Mi AI Speaker.
Amazon Echo has a headstart, but the market is just getting heated up.
But one thing is for sure: This handy little smart accessory is here to stay. Over time, these AIs will evolve steadily and integrate more effortlessly with our devices and our lives. Buy a smart speaker and experience how easy it is to control your smart devices and organize your day with a simple voice command.