Illustration by Jason Reed

Amazon Echo vs. Google Home: Which one should you buy?

Which smart home is the smartest?

Dot Recs

Published Mar 2, 2017   Updated May 24, 2021, 9:58 pm CDT

In the dystopian future, when robotic overlords rule the planet, we will look back fondly on the days when our personal assistants merely helped us with our music choices or keeping our homes warm. Amazon Echo and Google Home are vying to be that helper.

Both have adapted their technology to offer more choices for simpler living. But which is the right choice for you? Here, we break down the basics to help you decide.

Amazon Echo

Google Home

Echo and Home arrived within months of each other and quickly integrated themselves into consumers’ everyday events. These static devices respond to commands, order food, play music, schedule and remind you of events, and check the weather. Basically, they make your life a little easier.

Communication skills

A phrase activates the device. Echo responds to the name Alexa, while Home answers to OK, Google.  Talking to Alexa feels more natural than talking to Home. The Echo has seven microphones with far-field technology to pick up commands from any location. Home has two microphones and also uses far-field technology to hear voices.

Both do a great job, but they can get tricked by too many extraneous sounds, like from a television or conversation between two people.

Search results

The devices continue to learn as they are used, and that knowledge expands as partners choose to integrate their services along the way. Home is backed by the power of Google and taps into that vast resource of information to answer questions better than Echo. It also has a bank of Google-based applications to handle tasks and events. It has access to Google Play Music too.

Echo draws from Amazon’s information as well as several third-party partners to provide information or even place orders through the shipping warehouse. It also uses Skills, which can personalize what the device can do and be tailored specifically for tasks desired by the user.

Of the two devices, Amazon drew the most attention at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. LG, General Electric, Ford and others introduced gadgets, home appliances and cars that can connect to Alexa.

App connections

Currently, Echo and Home utilize different companies to help people manage their home lights, thermostats or control some smart devices.

Both home devices were originally billed as a voice-command speaker and deliver on that promise successfully. With connections to music apps like Spotify, tunein and others, Home and Echo can fire up any genre or specific playlist on command. According to a survey by BI Intelligence, 82 percent of users have asked their devices to play a song.

However, having access to hands free information, like how many teaspoons in a tablespoon while your hands are elbow deep in dough, or dimming the lights for a romantic evening without leaving the couch has a great appeal for people who are looking for more conveniences in their homes.

Looks

Amazon Echo vs Google Home

Visually, the differences between the two devices is striking.

Home looks more like an air freshener, stands about 5 ½ inches tall and appears more in line with many room aesthetics. Echo, at more than 9 inches in height, is an intimidating black cylinder, like the obelisk from “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

Amazon also has two companion devices that can utilize the Alexa technology. The Tap is Bluetooth-enabled, wireless mobile speaker than can provide Alexa coverage wherever you are connected to Wi-Fi. The Dot lacks the full-sized speaker found in Echo but allows for either a wired or Bluetooth connected speaker to pump out the music for it.

Price

The Google Home retails for $129, which is slightly cheaper than the Amazon Echo at $180. The Amazon Echo Dot is $50 through the Amazon store, and the Tap is $130 through the Amazon store.

Google and Amazon are continuing to add features and content providers to their line of devices. More people are seeing the value in having some things available with a simple voice command.

TL;DR

For those who want the power of music or purchases in response to their voice, the Amazon Echo is the perfect choice with its connections to music apps and its room-filling omni-directional speaker.

If information is more your jam, the Google Home is back by the knowledge of Google’s vast data banks for answers to a variety of questions, even if you do need to say, “OK, Google,” every time.

But for the money, the Amazon Dot is an inexpensive device to provide home convenience for questions without the need for a glorified speaker. The Amazon Tap is perfect for those who want encyclopedia and musical portability in a wireless device.

Your home helper awaits. Which will you choose?

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*First Published: Mar 2, 2017, 3:40 pm CST