In the technology world, both Amazon and Google are true heavyweights. For the most part, however, the two companies have never really stepped on each other’s toes all that much. Amazon was happy to stay one of the world’s largest online shopping destinations, while Google rules the roost in global internet searches.
Today things are very different. Each company has grown to intersect in several areas and one of the biggest fights is for a spot in your home for their AI assistants. Alexa and the Google Assistant can both be bought as inhabitants of their own smart speakers, but which one should you buy?
It’s hard to clearly say that one product is superior to the other but, depending on your needs, the differences between them can be important.
To make that decision a little easier let’s compare the very popular Echo Dot model to Google’s Home speaker and see how they stack up to each other.
The 2nd generation Echo Dot is an absolute steal at only $50. The Google Home will run you double that amount, which means if you’re on a budget we already have a strong showing from Amazon.
It may seem unfair to compare the Echo Dot to the Google Home when there are more expensive Echo devices, but that also means both devices are at the entry-level. So as far as I am concerned you need to start with the Dot.
In terms of functionality the Dot pretty much does everything it’s bigger brother does. The main difference is that the speaker is smaller, not as loud and comparatively lacking in punch. Although it’s not as if the bigger Echo (or the Home) have great sound either. Which is why I recommend connecting it to something like the Sonos speakers. If Sonos speakers are too pricey, I’ve also looked at a few other options.
With the Dot, you can control any smart home device that is compatible with the Alexa Ecosystem. Obviously, it’s also fully-integrated with the Amazon store, so you can order milk or movies or anything else really just by asking Alexa to do it.
It can make calls, send messages and thanks to special microphones it can hear you from just about anywhere in the room, even if it’s a bit noisy. Thanks to the popularity of the Echo Dot and Echo speakers as a whole, there are also more and more third-party “skills” being added all the time. The most useful new one that comes to mind is the ability of Alexa to call an Uber, which is genuinely neat.
So to summarize all of this, with a Dot you can:
- Play music from various sources
- Voice control your home through compatible thermostats, lights, switches, etc.
- Search the web
- Access skills like Uber or Dominos Pizza delivery (where possible)
That’s a lot for such a tiny little device, but apart from bigger sound, there’s nothing the big Echo can do that the Dot can’t. If you buy three in one go, you’ll even get a $20 discount.
It also comes with some great accessories that can expand what it does a lot if and when you have the additional budget for it.
The Google Home speaker is a relative latecomer to the game, launching quite some time after Amazon showed the world that they both wanted and needed an always-on AI assistant living in a weird tube speaker thing.
That’s both a curse and a blessing since Google had Amazon’s established brand to go up against in this segment, but they also knew exactly what they were competing with. Obviously then the Google Home speaker was designed to be the Echo killer.
At $129 it’s not off to a good start against the Echo Dot, although it compares in price to the bigger Echo, which I suspect is what Google had in mind when designing the Home.
Since the Big Echo and the Dot both do the same things though, that may have been a miscalculation. Nonetheless, the Google Home has more than a few tricks up its sleeve and Google itself has formidable software service backing up their AI assistant, who simply goes by “the Google Assistant”.
Whether the Home looks better than the Dot is a matter of taste, but it does come with a variety of color options thanks to the changeable bases. Not to be outdone, you can also buy a range of covers for the Echo Dot. So it’s a point in favor of both brands.
The speakers in the home are much better than those in the Dot, so if you care about sound quality that’s a big point in Google’s camp. Some even say it’s better than the big Echo too, so if the idea of buying another external speaker does not appeal to you the Home may be the better all-in-one audio solution.
Tight integration with other Google products is also a major draw. For example, if you’ve bought the excellent Chromecast it almost makes the Google Home a shoo-in, since getting it to work with Alexa takes a bit of light hacking and you still won’t have an elegant fit. You can also cast to a Google Home speaker from your phone, which is another thing Alexa won’t do yet.
Are you hooked into Google Music? Tough luck, that also needs the Google Home. The Home also arguably has a better AI agent when it comes to natural speech, multi-user voice recognition, and overall technical advancement.
For example, a 2016 update of the Home allows it to automatically recognize the voice of the person speaking and give them the correct person info, such as calendar appointments.
The Big Decision
Ultimately which speaker you choose to go with is going to depend on whose ecosystem you have the most investment. If you’re already making heavy use of Google apps and hardware the Echo will hardly be a good fit in your home. The converse is also true for people who own their music and movies on the Amazon store.
From a home automation perspective, it also depends on whose system your hardware supports, but it’s pretty common now for third-party smart home devices to either support both companies (and Apple) or to just do their own independent thing.
So, there you have it. Both are great products, but for some people, the better fit will be an obvious choice.