Google Home vs Amazon Echo: What’s the difference?


Google Home or Amazon Echo, which is the best smart home assistant for you? We’ve fully compared these two smart speakers to see which has the best features and is the most use around your home.

The future of voice controlled homes is well and truly upon us. Google Home and Amazon Echo are leading us into the sci-fi lifestyle we’ve always dreamed about.

Amazon was first to introduce the voice controlled home hub in its smart connected Echo speaker. It’s become really popular and now works with plenty of other devices allowing users to show off in front of house guests by telling the speaker to turn up the heating, play a song and more. Google wasn’t going to let that slide and has since launched its version, Home.

So has Google’s mind-boggling amount of voice recognition data, compiled from its search engine, got more to offer than Amazon or is the Echo off to a winning head start? Here’s everything you need to know about the differences between Google Home and Amazon Echo.

Google Home vs Amazon Echo: Built to hear and be heard

Both Google Home and Amazon Echo are, at their most basic, speaker systems which can be plugged in at home to play music. Where it gets more complicated is the microphones – yes, plural. Both speakers offer “far-field voice recognition” to recognise vocal controls from anywhere in the room that they’re situated, totally hands-free.

Amazon’s Echo has a seven microphone array that can listen in 360-degrees allowing anyone to talk to it from anywhere in the room, even over loud music. Its dual down-firing speakers offer 360-degree audio with “dynamic bass response and fine-tuned crisp vocals”.

By comparison, Google has only equipped it’s Home with two microphones for stereo pick-up which it sees as enough to do the job. The Home uses a “high-excursion speaker” which Google says offers “crystal-clear highs and rich bass”. On the design front Home also offers various bases that can be swapped out with six different colour options while Echo only comes in black or white.

Google Home vs Amazon Echo: Smart assistants

Both smart speaker hubs use virtual assistants to get things done. Amazon has its Alexa while Google uses its Google Assistant.

Amazon’s Alexa can be summoned to attention by saying its name followed by a question or command. You’ll then get a verbal response – either to confirm an action before carrying it out, to ask for more details or to say it can’t help. Natural language commands like “Alexa, quieter” or “turn the music down” and the like will work, so it’s smart enough to allow you to speak normally. But it’s still lacking for quick information – while it can help in the kitchen to convert things like grams to millilitres hands-free, other information from the web is less accessible. That said, you can be informed of news, weather, sports, commute times and more. That’s where apps come into play but more on that below.

The Google Assistant uses the company’s search database to offer similar information to Alexa on things like news, weather, commute times, sports and more. We imagine that in the long run, Google will be able to offer some pretty in-depth services all built within the Home, where Alexa is more app reliant – not that’ll you see much difference on the front end.

Google Home vs Amazon Echo: Chatty apps

When it comes to apps, dubbed Skills by Amazon, Alexa has a head-start on Google with over 3,000 on offer at time of publishing. Already available for the Echo are things like National Rail so you can check trains just by asking, Jamie Oliver so you can ask for a recipe to go with what you have left in the fridge and Meow that lets you meow to hear a cat meow back – useful stuff at a dinner party. Then of course, there are apps like TuneIn Radio and Spotify for playback of any music you ask for. You can even order a Domino’s pizza or Uber with your voice alone using Alexa.

Google doesn’t have as much on offer yet but uses your data, if you permit it access, to tell you your day ahead. For example, it can tell you the time and weather where you are with a mention of a meeting you have lined up first thing. It’ll even offer instant translation of other languages – although at home we’d imagine this is a pretty specific need that’s not used much outside of homework time.

Using If This Then That (IFTTT) multiple actions can be strung together so when you tell Alexa or Home to turn off the lights it could also stop music players, shut down heating and secure smart locks in one command. This is very exciting for simplified future home automation.

Google Home vs Amazon Echo: Smarthome voice control

One of the more exciting ways these devices show us a potentially voice-controlled future is in their ability to connect to smarthome devices.

Both the Echo and Home connect to the home Wi-Fi network to control other devices like Nest, for example. That means you can say: “Alexa [or OK, Google], set downstairs to eighteen degrees,” to have the heating kick-in via your Nest.

This also works with smart lights, like Philips Hue, allowing you to tell the smart assistant to dim the lights without touching a switch. Asking for a Barry White song and manually opening a bottle of wine is all it takes to turn yourself into a Lothario of the future.

The exciting part here is that smarthome gadget companies will all be eager to get onboard with these big manufacturers so expect lots more areas of the home to be controlled by voice alone in the near future.

Google Home vs Amazon Echo: Multi-room smarts

It’s all well and good using your voice to control your home when you’re in the kitchen with the speaker. But once you go to another room it’s time to get your digits back to work controlling everything by hand – how old fashioned. Both Amazon and Google offer a solution, but it’s not cheap.

Amazon offers its Echo Dot device which is a mini version of the Alexa speaker and microphone array that can be placed in another room. Pop one in every room and you have voice control of your smarthome wherever you are. Of course at £50 each that’s a luxury plenty can’t afford.

Google’s Home is cheaper than Echo but you’ll have to pay full price for another if you want this in more than one room. That does also mean you get those speakers in every room and they work as a multi-room system so you can have the same music as you move about the house. Again it’s not cheap but the solution is there if you can afford it.

Google Home vs Amazon Echo: Which is better?

Amazon Echo is £150 while Google Home is $130. Amazon’s Echo is not only pricier, suggesting greater quality, but also has been around longer and offers more apps.

The fact that Amazon runs a large chunk of the world’s servers means it has enough computing power for Alexa to learn and adapt fast. Of course, Google has plenty of power and the algorithms to back it up too.

So the reality is that right now these smart speakers are very similar with Amazon Echo offering slightly more. But as the two AIs grow rapidly it’ll be interesting to see just how long it stays that way.

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