Imagine coming home from a long day at work. You walk through the door, turn on your lights, play relaxing music, and get updated on today’s news and tomorrow’s weather forecast without lifting a finger and using only your voice.
Amazon Echo hit the market first and it was wildly successful. According to David Priest at CNET, 5.1 million units of Amazon Echo have been sold since it was first launched in the latter part of 2014. People are buying and more people now know what a smart home is or what connected devices are. It is not surprising that competitors are looking to get a piece of the pie. One of these competitors is no less than Google, with its Home product, backed by its search capabilities, directly competing with Amazon Echo.
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- Compatibility and Versatility: Amazon came out with Amazon Echo, which gave users a glimpse of the smart home in the future. The number of compatible devices and services that you could activate or operate using Echo has been steadily growing. The company has also come out with the Echo Dot, which is like a smaller version of the Echo but with better speech processor and better far-field speech recognition.
- Common Queries: You can talk to Amazon Echo, ask it for the headlines while you are having breakfast, or ask it to set a timer so that the pizza in the oven is perfectly cooked. It helps you do the things you have always done more easily and with lesser effort. Now, instead of tapping away on a tablet, you can just ask Echo to give you the stock quotes.
- Installation and Set-Up: Installing and using the Echo is straightforward. You just plug it in, wait for Alexa to wake up and say “hello.” The device will tell you everything you need to do to set it up. Download the Alexa app and pair it with the Amazon Echo using your Wi-Fi network. All of these should take you a minute or so.
- Logistics: You can issue commands using the wake words, “Alexa,” “Echo,” or “Amazon.” You can ask it for anything. The Echo has seven microphones that could easily pick up your voice commands. These microphones use noise-cancelling technology as well as far-field voice recognition. You can be far away or watching TV and Echo would still hear and execute your commands.
- Collaboration: The beauty of Amazon Echo is that it continues to collaborate with different services, allowing you to do more. You can now get an Uber car or listen to Spotify with Echo. It also has integrations with Amazon Prime Music, Pandora, TuneIn, and iHeartRadio, among many others.
- Audio Quality: The Echo’s audio quality is superb with its immersive omni-directional sound. You can use it to listen to a podcast on top of your favorite music and hear every word clearly. The bass does sound weak when you have the speakers on full volume, but that is a small complaint overall.
Amazon Echo Skills
Skills are simply apps for the Amazon Echo. There are more than 4,000 skills that you can download now, such as those that help you track your health with Fitbit, teaching you seven-minute exercises, manage your stock portfolio, whip up the best cocktails, and even tell jokes. No matter what you are looking for and no matter what your interests are there is a Skills for you.
However, what makes Skills more interesting is that there is a growing number of smart home devices up on there. That means that you can use Amazon Echo with these connected devices.
You can read more about the top Alexa skills here.
What Could be Better About the Echo
- Sounds Quality: If you are an audiophile, you might find the Echo’s speakers a bit lacking. The thing is, you cannot connect any external speakers to Echo, so you are pretty much stuck with its audio. Again, this is not a deal breaker because the Echo delivers outstanding audio quality as it is and only falters when you put the volume controls on full.
- Not Quite Siri: And unlike Siri, you cannot ask Echo to call somebody for you, even if it is paired with your smartphone.
The Final Say on Amazon Echo
Amazon Echo is a smart speaker that you can command to do certain things. Leaving it at that, this product does it very well. Unlike what we have painfully learned with Siri, Echo rarely gets what you say wrong. It is a good way to get things done for you just by talking and the increasing number of Skills and integrations only makes the Amazon Echo a useful and helpful product for today’s homes.
While the Amazon Echo has been around for two years with undisputable success, it was only a matter of time until somebody comes out with a competing product. It took time, but Google has finally stepped up to the challenge and introduced Google Home.
- Similar Operation and Integration: Google Home works like Amazon Echo: you command it and it does things for you. It also integrates with other Google services that you already use. For instance, it tells you if you have appointments for the day using Google Calendar or it controls your TV if you have Chromecast.
- Pricing and Set-Up: Google Home sells for $130 as of this writing (check here for the latest prices), but it has a lot of add-ons, including six months of free YouTube Red, which costs $60. You download the Google Home app and pair your smartphone with the device. You activate by saying “OK Google” or “Hey Google,” and then you state your command. You can command it to set an alarm, check your calendar, call an Uber car, give weather forecasts, give you the news, calculate, or set timers, among many others.
- Commands: And because this is from Google, be sure to be on the lookout for Easter eggs. For one, try asking, “OK Google, where is Waldo?” or ask it to make you a sandwich. These Easter eggs help make you feel less weird about talking to a machine.
- Initiation: Google Home uses a pair of far-field microphones to hear your commands. However, if you have a big house, you might want to purchase more units to ensure that your commands get picked up wherever you are in the house. If more than one unit hears your command, the one closest to you will perform what you need.
- Compatibility: Google Home also controls smart home devices. Right now, it is able to work with Nest, IFTTT, Smartthings, and Philips Hue.
Comparing Amazon Echo and Google Home
Google Home and Amazon Echo work well on their own and have pretty much the same features and use the same technologies. But there are some differences.
Voice Commands: For one, conversations are more natural with Google Home. For instance, if you ask, “OK Google, what are my appointments for today?” it will give you a list of your appointments. When you ask, “What about tomorrow?” it will answer with a list of your appointments for tomorrow. You no longer have to spell it out like “What are my appointments for tomorrow?” And because Google Home has access to other Google services, it can give you more information as well. For instance, you ask, “What time does the bookstore close” and you will get a correct answer from Google Home and Amazon Echo, but if you ask how far the bookstore is, Echo would not be able to give you the answer. Google Home can use information from Google Maps.
Now let’s take a look at their specs, side by side.
Price: Amazon Echo is more expensive than Google Home.
Dimensions: When it comes to looks, Google Home has a nominally wider base but Amazon Echo is taller. Google Home is also lighter than Echo.
Customization: If you are the type who wants to customize devices, then you would love the fact that Google Home comes with interchangeable bases. You can buy six different bases to match the white top for only $20 a pop. Available colors are carbon, copper, snow, mango, marine, and violet.
Both Constantly Active Listening: Both Amazon Echo and Google Home have microphones that are always listening to your conversations. And these are connected to the Internet. If that does not sit well with you and you have concerns about your privacy, both of these devices have physical buttons that you could press to turn the microphones off. However, as a bonus from Google Home, you just tell it not to listen and it will disable the microphones itself.
Both Have Smart Location Recognition: Moreover, if you own more than one Amazon Echo or more than one Google Home, the unit closest to you will be the one that responds to your voice commands.
Main Similarities: Other similar features include voice control, voice activation, touch activation, and far-field voice recognition microphones.
Echo Has the More Microphones: Amazon Echo has seven microphones, which makes it better at picking up your voice. Google Home, meanwhile, only has two. But the biggest difference right now is the number of integrations that each device has with other services.
Echo Currently Has More Integrations: Because Amazon has been in the smart speaker longer than Google, it is understandable that more third-party devices work with Amazon Echo than with Google Home. What’s more, Amazon has an SDK available that would make it easier for other companies to integrate with the Echo.
Right now, only Nest, Samsung SmartThings, Philips Hue and IFTTT work with Google Home. Amazon Echo has integrations for all these, plus a number of other smart home devices such as Wink, Insteon, Lifx and others.
Features Comparison – At a Glance
|Amazon Echo||Google Home|
|Price||Check here for latest||Check here for latest|
|Dimension (w x h x t, inches)||3.3 x 9.3 x 3.3||3.79 x 5.6s x 3.79|
|Colors||Black, White||White with 6 interchangeable base colors|
|Far-Field Voice Recognition||X||X|
|Activation Word||Alexa||Ok Google|
|Wi-Fi Capabilities||Dual band, dual antenna (MIMO)||802.11 ac (2.4 or 5 Ghz)|
|Wi-Fi Music Streaming||X||X|
|Can use mobile hotspots||X||X|
|Immersive, omni-directional music and sound quality||X||X|
|Special feature||2.5 inch bass response woofer, 2.0 inch high notes tweeter||High excursion speaker with 2 inch driver and dual passive radiators|
|Integrations with connected smart home devices|
|Big Ass Fans||X|
|Compatible music services|
|Own music services||Prime Music and Music Unlimited||YouTube Music and Google Play Music|
What should you buy?
Google Home is a much smarter robot assistant for your home. It has the potential to be the only smart speaker-slash-voice activated assistant that you will need to control smart home devices. It also makes use of the search giant’s expertise in culling and storing information and making this information easily accessible.
Google Home can tap into the company’s vast store of data to give you the right answers you are looking for. However, most of these integrations are not yet available today.
Why Go with Amazon Echo? So if you want something that works now, go for Amazon Echo, which has had a two-year headstart.
Why Go with Google Home? But if you can wait a while for Google to catch up, then Google Home may be very worth the wait. As a smart speaker that follows your spoken commands, either device is good.