It didn't take long for a tech company to copy Amazon Echo.
Amazon's voice-activated speaker is a critical success, and so it wasn't too surprising when Google introduced at Google I/O in May that it developed its own speaker called Google Home. Then, at the Made by Google event in October, Google announced some key features for Home, as well as how much it costs and when you can get it. Now you just have to decide which speaker you want.
To help make that process a little easier for you, we've looked through all the specs and details and explained the primary differences between Amazon Echo and Google Home. Let us know in the comments which one you think you'll buy.
Google Home vs Amazon Echo: Design
Google Home's design was inspired by wine glasses and candles, Google said. Its bottom casing can be swapped out for different shells to match your furniture (there are six shells in fabric or metal). It has a sloped top, with a touch-capacitive display and four LEDs to provide visual feedback. There is only one physical mute button at the back, which you can press to prevent Google from listening to "hot words".
Amazon actually offers a few different versions of Echo, but we'll focus on the original, canister-shaped model for this comparison. Echo is a 9.25-inch-tall cylinder speaker with a seven-piece micr array. The outside has perforation for the speaker grille, while the top of Echo has a ring of light that you can turn to adjust volume and buttons for mute and activation. The speaker only comes in black or white colours.
Keep in mind Amazon's Echo lineup offers tiered-speaker heights that remind us of Starbucks coffee sizes (grande, venti, and trenta). Alongside Echo, Amazon offers two sibling speakers that debuted in March 2016 in the US, called Amazon Tap and Echo Dot, each of which are available at different price points. To learn more about the different models, check out Pocket-lint's comparison.
Google Home vs Amazon Echo: Voice assistant
Google Home will let you ask Google anything, thanks to its Google Assistant AI. You will have access to Google's 17 years of search experience, which allows you to ask specific questions such as "How much fat is in an avocado?" or "What is Draymond Green's jersey number?" Those types of questions would stump Amazon Echo, but not Google. You can even ask for weather or check Wikipedia.
Because Google Home has Google Assistant, you can be conversational and ask follow-up questions like "Where did he go to college?" Google Home will be able to connect the "he" pronoun to your previous question about, say, Draymond Green (or whoever) in order to serve up an accurate answer. You can also ask complex stuff like "What was the US population when NASA was established?"
Google said Google Home will give you immediate answers each time. Also, Google Home can read the relevant part of webpages back to you. Google Assistant on Google Home is the same as your Assistant on the phone. Data is shared across your Google stuff on both devices. To learn more about Google Assistant, check out Pocket-lint's in-depth look at the virtual AI assistant.
Similar to Google Assistant, Amazon Echo is another type of Assistant. It is capable of understanding simple commands, or even a series of simple commands, but they're fairly basic and can't understand conversations. And the default search engine is Bing. Still, Alexa will play music, provide information, deliver news and sports scores, tell you weather, and control devices.
It will even allow Prime members to order products they've ordered before. Alexa updates through the cloud automatically and learns all the time. The more you use Echo, the more Alexa adapts to your speech patterns, vocabulary, and personal preferences. To learn more about Amazon Alexa, check out Pocket-lint's in-depth look at the digital assistant.
Google Home vs Amazon Echo: Smarthome
Google Home can be a control centre for your entire home, because it has access to Google Assistant. Not only will let you do the basics like set alarms and timers and manage to-do lists and shopping lists, but it will also connect your smarthome devices and includes support for popular network systems. That means you will be able to control smart lights, switches, doors, and more.
At launch, Google Home works with Nest, SmartThings, Philips Hue, and IFTTT. Google Home also acts as a Chromecast receiver. So, with just your voice, you'll be able to ask Google Assistant to adjust your Nest Thermostat or turn off your Philips Hue lights or fling content via Chromecast to your TV. Google plans to work with more partners so you can control more things in the home.
Thanks to Amazon Alexa, the Echo can also respond to your voice commands and control any Alexa-enabled products, such as lights, switches, thermostats, and more. Simply ask Alexa to switch on a lamp, turn on the fan, dim the lights, or increase the temperature. Some products work directly with Alexa and other smart home ecosystems require a compatible hub.
Featured brands that work with Echo include Samsung SmartThings, Philips Hue, Wemo, Insteon, Wink, Honeywell. You can find a full list of compatible devices and shop for these devices from here on Amazon. Because Echo has been around for a couple years longer than Google Home, it got a head start and already has tonnes of partnerships lined up.
Google Home vs Amazon Echo: Integrations
Google is working with developers so you can control things beyond the home too, such as booking a car, ordering dinner, or sending flowers to a loved one. And the best part is you will be able to do this with just your voice.
At launch, Google Home works with YouTube Music, Spotify, Pandora, Google Play Music, TuneIn, and iHeart Radio. With support for these services, you can ask, "OK Google, play that Shakira song from Zootopia." Without having to name the song, Home can figure it out and play it from your favourite app. Thanks to Google Assistant and its machine-learning capabilities, Google Home knows you and your preferences.
Amazon has also been working with developers to include support for Echo, and a few of the standout apps include Pandora, Spotify, Amazon Music, TuneIn, iHeart Radio, NPR, Google Calendar, Uber, and Dominos. At the beginning of 2016, Amazon bragged that more than 130 apps supported Amazon Echo and Alexa voice commands. Again, it's had the time to grow these relationships.
Google Home vs Amazon Echo: Audio
Google Home is a Wi-Fi speaker that can stream music directly from the cloud. Google said it will deliver rich bass and clear highs - thanks to dual side-facing passive radiators - all from a compact form factor. If you prefer, you can send music from your Android or iOS device through Google Cast. That last bit is important because, with Google Cast support, you'll be able to use Google Home to control other connected speakers.
You'll even get multi-room playback, meaning you can add one or more Google Home devices to a group of speakers in order to blast tunes throughout your house. But that's not all: Google Home will let you control your video content. Let's say you want to watch the latest episode of Jimmy Fallon or some sort of cat video on YouTube. Just issue a voice command to Google Home, and the content will appear on your TV.
Amazon Echo Bluetooth speaker, so it can play music and be controlled from any device that supports Bluetooth audio streaming. It's a 1.0 channel speaker, meaning that it is a single speaker with one tweeter and one woofer. In our review of the device, we thought Amazon could've done better in the sound department. Also, Amazon Echo doesn’t currently support multiroom audio.
Google Home vs Amazon Echo: Price
Google Home is now available for pre-order though Best Buy, Walmart, and Target in the US. It costs $129 and will be available in stores from 4 November. Amazon Echo, in the original form factor, costs $179 (£149.99 in the UK), though you could always get Dot, a smaller, speaker-free, still voice-activated version of the Echo for $50 (£50 in the UK).
This is a real toss up. While Google Home beats out Amazon Echo in terms of offering different colours and finishes, you can get Amazon Echo in different models. Also, Google Home is coming out of the gate with some great partnerships (IFTTT, Nest, Spotify, etc), but Echo already works with many of these and has been building its devices/services portfolio for a couple years.
In terms of audio quality, we really need to test Google Home before we can give a definitive review. However, the fact that it offers Google Cast and multiroom audio support, whereas Amazon Echo doesn't, is really compelling. Google's take on an assistant is also compelling. That's where these speakers really differ. If you don't care about how many apps are available, and you want the ability to fling content to other speakers and TVs, Google Home is what you're looking for, and it features Google Assistant, which really outpaces Amazon Alexa.
Again, we need to review Google Home to be sure, but that Assistant feature definitely stands out. It's conversational and can tap into Google's 17 years worth of search experience, while Alexa is more simple and can only understand basic commands. Google Home is also $50 cheaper than Echo, though if you really are only interested in voice tech, you can get Echo Dot for $50.