The Google Home and Amazon Echo have been facing off since late last year. When the Home first hit the market, it was clear it had a long way to go, particularly with third-party app support, to catch up to Alexa. Nearly a year later, the situation has evened out in many respects, but the two smart speakers still hold advantages over one another.
With a wild card soon to come in the form of Apple’s HomePod, we wanted to take a look at the original smart speakers and see how they stack up to each other, now that Google has had the better part of a year to gain some ground on Amazon. Yesterday, we looked at five things Google Home does better than the Echo and today we’re turning the tables.
Here are five things the Amazon Echo does better than Google Home:
This one is a simple numbers game. The Echo has seven microphones, five more than its counterpart from Google. Thus, it’s no surprise the Echo is much, much better at hearing users in a variety of situations. It also helps that the keyword is far simpler; it’s easier to say “Alexa” than “Okay Google” or “Hey Google.” The Echo is better at hearing me from far distances, through walls/other obstacles and when there is a good amount of surrounding noise, from fans, the TV, etc. The Google Home, in comparison, often struggles to hear me unless I’m speaking directly to it. Even if I’m only a few feet away, say on the other side of the couch from where my Home sits, I often have to repeat the wakeup phrase multiple times before the Home springs to action.
The built-in ecosystem of Kindle and Audible give the Echo an immense edge when it comes to audiobooks. If you’re a lover of listening to novels, there is no easier way to do it than with an Audible account and the Echo. As long as you keep everything synced, which is pretty easy to do in today’s world, you can simply ask Alexa to continue reading your book and she picks up wherever you left off. She can also read certain Kindle books that you’ve purchased or borrowed, even if it’s not the audiobook version.
An Echo for Everyone
Amazon’s biggest lead over the competition in the smart speaker race is its variety of Echo devices, targeting every kind of user and budget imaginable. As was smartly pointed out by David Pierce of Wired yesterday, companies shouldn’t be copying the Echo, they should be copying the Dot. With so many ways to break into the Echo ecosystem, Amazon has a huge advantage over Google, and Apple, once it hits the scene. If you’re interested in smart speakers, or virtual assistants, there is no better entry than the Echo Dot.
The big question when Google first brought its smart speaker to market was whether it could catch up to Amazon in terms of support. Google has made strides in the Home’s first year, consistently adding new partners and, at this point, it has a lot of the major smart home manufacturers plus a decently robust list of services, what Google now calls “Assistant apps,” but the lead still belongs to Amazon. Not only does Alexa have support for all the major smart home manufacturers, but seemingly every manufacturer you could want, even a smaller company like Sengled. On top of that, there are thousands upon thousands of Skills users can employ to help make Alexa useful to them.
Neither the Echo nor Google Home offer enough in the audio department to be the designated go-to speaker in your home, but there is no denying the convenience of telling Alexa or the Google Assistant to play a song and have it just start playing, without the need to dig out your phone and tussle with Spotify’s counterintuitive UI. For that reason, I imagine lots of people are listening to music on their smart speakers. I believe it’s one of the reasons Apple focused so much on audio quality with its forthcoming HomePod. Until that device hits shelves and we have a chance to see how it sounds, the champion of audio quality in the smart speaker race is the full-sized Echo. It offers a fuller, more well-rounded sound when compared to Google Home, which emits more muddied tunes. By audio industry standards, the Echo is nothing to get excited about, but if you just want to listen to a few jams while doing the dishes, Alexa can deliver.