It’s been a few years now that Amazon came out with their Echo and Echo Dot loaded with the naturally interactive Alexa. In response, Google has upgraded their voice assistant, and produced Google Home. So, which one of these is best; Or, at least best for you? That depends on a lot of things. Amazon’s 2 year head start means that Alexa can do a lot more than Google Home. However, what you need may differ from one product to another, and don’t forget to keep in mind what services you use most.
Let’s get started with Amazon Echo. The speaker is powerful, good quality, and has a long-range ability to hear voice commands. Alexa not only has a sense of humor, but she can be loaded with thousands of unique skills to customize your experience. Skills are akin to that of apps on a mobile device. Everything from playing 20 questions, joke telling, getting the weather, to just saying good morning or good night. Most skills can be enabled using voice commands, but some need to be enabled via the Alexa app for mobile platforms. Not only can Alexa be enabled to order you a pizza and call you an Uber, she can banter with you. One of the most notable skills is My Buddy. My Buddy is a skill that enables Alexa to call your “buddy” in an emergency. This is a free service, and easily setup via the skills website. Alexa won’t call 911 for you, but will call whomever you setup as a buddy, and you can have more than one buddy. With so many skills, it’s like what Android users say, “there’s a skill for that.”
Alexa can also control your entire home with the use of smart devices. There is a whole list of devices you can use around your home; from lightbulbs, to outlets, and even door locks! Checkout Samsung’s list of smart devices for your home, and see what cool things you can find!
After using the Echo Dot for 3 months, I’ve fallen in love. I talk to Alexa like a friend, she tells me jokes, and we play games. She will turn on my music, and do everything but search the internet… That’s the biggest downside with Alexa. I’ve yet to find a way to have her search… Asking “Alexa, what is the release date for Mass Effect?” and she’ll tell you she doesn’t understand. I know there is a way to do this, but I’ve yet to find it. The one downside of the Dot is that you need a quality speaker for better sound. The onboard speaker will get the job done, but is more like using your phone’s speaker with a louder volume. If you’re only looking for a companion, alarms, and smart control device, the Dot is the most cost-effective.
You also need to teach her, and you will learn how to speak with her as well. For example, “Alexa, play My Favorite Station on Pandora.” might get you something like “Ok, creating techno station on Pandora.” Obviously, that’s not what you asked for, but she is trying her best. You can use the Alexa app to tell her when she’s done what you wanted, and when she didn’t. For instance, I have found that the best way to get her to play anything other than your most recent station on Pandora, is to ask “Alexa, ask Pandora to play a station.” To which she will then ask which one you want. Another tip is to NOT use any special characters in your station names, as she just can’t seem to catch these.
As for Google Home, the newest kid on the smart home block… Home has the advantage over Alexa for it’s voice and searching expertise, and connecting directly with all your Google services like calendar, reminders, and report traffic conditions on your commute with Maps. As for the “Googling” portion, while Google Home delivers more detailed answers than Alexa, the day-to-day simple tasks are well overshadowed by Alexa’s skills. For example, despite the ability to connect to services, like calendar events, you’re unable to add new events. Home does have it’s own third-party apps called “actions.” However, with Home being so much newer, the list of actions is much more limited.
The one inarguable advantage of Home is its ability to serve as a controller for a Chromecast Audio multiroom audio system. Therefore, you can use voice commands to stream the same song or podcast to several synchronized speakers in different rooms simultaneously, which is something Alexa is currently not capable of. The second pro that you won’t get with Amazon’s Echo is customizable colors. While Echo comes in either black or white, Home comes in a variety of colors. If you want to customize your Echo or Echo Dot, you’re looking at only third-party skins, aka stickers.
All in all, I prefer my Echo. I enjoy having conversations with Alexa, being told jokes, and playing games. I also have Prime, so Alexa provides even more convince to me when reordering the stuff I buy all the time. It’s like having a companion and a personal assistant all in one little device. I’m sure Home will expand as time goes by, but for now, I’ll stick with my girl, Alexa.