IoT has been around for a while now and big players like Google, Apple and Amazon have been creating buzz around smart devices over past couple of years. But 2018 is seeing a particular interest in smart speakers. That’s no surprise after Amazon succeeding with Echo it was obvious that other market leaders would love to compete in this area. Speaking about competition, Google recently revealed impressive set of enhancements to their not so old Google Home at Google I/O 2018.
Like Amazon Echo, Google Home has entered the arena where users can interact with Home to play music, get personal assistance, and control their smart home. With Google being backed with their omnipresent search engine, Echo’s place of staying on top looks a little dicey. With that being said, let’s get into the crux of the discussion keeping in mind three major components:
- Personal assistant
- Smart home controller
The ideal purpose of a speaker is to entertain you with music but here your smart speaker can interact with you and play your favourite tracks. So, if you are at a moderate distance from your device all you have to do is wake the Echo with the command “Alexa” and Google Home with “Okay Google”. Don’t close your options here as both devices provide users with alternative commands such as the Echo wakes up with “Echo,” “Amazon” or “Computer” and Home with “Hey Google”. Both these devices do a fair job of hearing users as they are always listening and their built-in microphone can listen to users over moderate background disturbance.
These devices offer almost similar means of connection where your Echo can be plugged in to your existing home system while Home is capable of controlling any Google Cast-enabled speaker.
When it comes to connecting these devices to your TV, Home does the job well by partially controlling a CEC (Consumer Electronics Control) supported television. On the other hand, Echo needs to be integrated with Fire TV in order to control your TV.
With this you must have already guessed the winner but this does not end here, Google Home has a upper hand when it comes to connecting to multiple speakers to play a single song. Amazon Echo being more than a year older still misses this feature.
Considering the variety of personal services Google offers (Google calendar, GTasks, and Google Maps) you must be expecting a straight win for Home here as well. However, Echo hasn’t stayed behind in this race. Echo uses Alexa as its digital assistant whereas Home uses the Google assistant, the digital assistant that is shipped with other Google products such as Pixel, to respond to voice commands.
So, if you ask Google Home Who is Harry Potter?, you will get a definite answer from Home. You can follow that question with Which other movie is he associated with?, Home will again provide you a definite answer as it inferred the ‘he’ you referred to is actor Daniel Radcliffe. Similarly, Echo kept up with its standards when Alexa is asked about the weather. Then, when asked How about Thursday?, the response received is accurate despite the word ‘weather’ not being used in the follow-up question.
Surprisingly Google falls short when it comes to updating personal tasks. The Echo can set reminders and stack-up a to-do list which the Google Home still cannot. But it would just be a matter of time to see these features added in Google Home. When it comes to assisting a group of people, Google Home supports upto 6 multiple users and when trained is capable of recognizing family member’s voice as long as they don’t sound similar. So, if one of the family members asks for a traffic or calendar update Home will customize the response depending on which member has asked for an update. Unfortunately, Echo lacks this capability.
Google Home is still in its initial stages of enhancing its functionalities but already seems to be superior. Apart from a few, Home shares a lot of capabilities that are on Echo and in addition it supports recognizing family members and responding accordingly, so Google steals the show here as well.
Smart Home Controller
Another major functionality of a smart speaker is controlling your smart home. Both of these devices have displayed versatile functionalities but the winner in this area is a total surprise. Although Echo has a 2 year head start in this market Google Home hasn’t been that far behind in the race. Google has managed to integrate better with IFTTT (If This Then That) than that of Echo. This integration helps in crafting customizable commands. In a nutshell Home has more command options than Echo.
So if a bulb is called “desk lamp” in the Philips app, Alexa will not respond to anything other than “desk lamp”. This comes with an additional support twist where you can group all lights and command Alexa to turn on/off all lights and the job’s done. The downside here is that without this grouping you would have to control your appliances with specific names. Well, with Google Home that’s not the case. You can assign a nickname to your home appliance and it would follow your orders.
So while you must group your appliances on Echo, Google Assistant automatically groups a particular category of smart appliances helping you refer to it with your choice of command. Although Google Home has a upper hand in customizing commands, Echo is a much better device in terms of home automation control as it supports a vast variety of home appliances unlike Home. So, this time the winner is Amazon Echo.
It is kind of difficult to make a clear choice as each of these have their advantages over disadvantages. If home automation is something that matters the most to you, Amazon Echo would be an apt choice. On the other hand, if personal assistant and music is all that your looking for Google Home fits perfectly. So, what are you waiting for, say the command and get things done for you.