Amazon Echo has been a great success — a smart speaker that responds to your voice commands, plays music, and controls your smart home. Does Google Home tries to match it and move a step ahead ? With the backing of the company’s ubiquitous search engine, the Echo’s place on top is no longer safe.
Google Home vs. Amazon Echo
|Google Home||Amazon Echo|
|Responds to voice commands||Yes||Yes|
|Wake word||Okay Google or Hey Google||Alexa, Echo, or Amazon|
|Music streaming options||Google Play Music, YouTube Music, Spotify, Pandora, TuneIn||Amazon Prime Music, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, others|
|Smart home partnerships||Nest, SmartThings, Philips Hue, Belkin WeMo, Honeywell, IFTTT||Nest, Ecobee, Honeywell, SmartThings, Wink, Insteon, Belkin WeMo, Philips Hue, Lifx, Big Ass Fans, IFTTT, Control4, Crestron, other devices via skills|
|Output to stereo system||Yes, via Chromecast||No (yes with Amazon Dot)|
|Synced audio playback to multiple devices||Yes, to any Google Cast device||No|
|Personal assistant highlights||Search Google, get a personalized daily briefing, check traffic, check your calendar, make a shopping list, check flight status, track a package||Add items to calendar, make a shopping list, make a to do list, check flight status, track a package|
|Other features||Cast to your TV with Chromecast, launch and control YouTube or Netflix via Chromecast||Order a pizza, play a game, arrange an Uber pickup. Echo has an ever-growing list of thousands of skills and counting|
Listening to music
Amazon Echo supports several free and paid music services including Amazon Music, Prime Music, Amazon Music Unlimited, Spotify Premium, Pandora, TuneIn, iHeartRadio and Audible. Amazon Music is enabled by default and you will need to enable other services in order to access them from Echo.
Google Home also supports a wide range of free and paid music services including YouTube (free and Red), Spotify, Pandora, Tunein and Google Music.
YouTube is the undisputed leader in music, it has a massive collection of online content that Amazon can’t beat. Amazon doesn’t offer YouTube integration with Alexa, so you simply cannot access those songs. Initially I thought Amazon would match YouTube, but I was wrong.
Things were worse on the Alexa side when I wanted to play Indian music. Alexa just failed to either understand the question or find the song. Interestingly, Amazon Music has all those songs, but Alexa is not smart enough to understand and process the information.
It’s not just music from different languages, it can’t even perform basic searches. When I asked Alexa to play the Celine Dion song from the movie Titanic, it started playing the soundtrack instead of playing her song. It seemed Alexa just picked the keywords and really didn’t understand the natural language. On the contrary, Google Home immediately started playing ‘My heart will go on”…
Google makes things really exciting for music lovers. It can play songs that you don’t even know. At the SUSECon 16 party, we were talking about their parody of the Maroon 5 song and my friend told me about a song Peter Levine sang for a new movie. I had forgotten the name of the movie and the name of the song, all I knew was that Maroon 5 performed in a movie recently. And that’s exactly what I asked Google: “Hey Google, can you play the song Maroon 5 played in that movie.” It was a vague question, but Google Home surprised me and started playing “Lost Stars” by Peter Levine. That’s the song I was looking for. Amazing. Alexa, as you know by now cannot do that.
Usefulness and connectivity
The Echo and the Home are more than just pretty speakers. They are meant to be proto-AIs, helping users control smart home devices and process tasks hands-free. The Echo can integrate with your Amazon Prime account, granting you access to all the music, movies, and apps you normally have access to. The Home, meanwhile, taps into Google’s suite of apps, including Google Play. Of course, the latter will also integrate with Google’s Nest appliances, allowing you to, for example, set the temperature to 70 degrees Fahrenheit in specific rooms in your home. The Echo already works with many smart-home devices, and is fairly agnostic when it comes to different brands.
Winner is Amazon Echo
From a purely aesthetic perspective, the Home is by far the superior device. The elegant design begs to be showcased in any room, whereas the Amazon Echo has the of overall aesthetic of an LED-equipped dumbbell. Nonetheless, the Echo is certainly one of the most intriguing devices we’ve seen in the last year or two, one that offers a lot of functionality with minimal effort.
The Home is a worthy competitor on many fronts, though. It’s a more intelligent helper, one that can respond to increasingly complex demands.
Currently, the Echo has far more skills — an almost overwhelming number. Google may lack the quantity, but the Home has been out for less than six months, and it can already order you a pizza from Domino’s. Give it another few months, and we’ll see how things have changed. If Google lands some additional smart-home partnerships and increases the number of services available through the Home, we could be crowning a new winner.