Ever since I got my first Echo Dot, I’ve been hooked on having smart speakers in my home. I started with Alexa, but being a heavy user of Google services, I quickly made the change to Google Assistant with the first Google Home speaker.
It took a little time for Assistant to catch up with Alexa, but it did, and I’ve never regretted the switch in digital assistants. At least in terms of AI smarts and capabilities. I can’t say the same for the hardware.
While there are plenty of devices to choose from on both sides, I’ve always been a little disappointed with the lack of innovation from Google’s Assistant-enabled hardware.
Since the first Echo speaker, we’ve seen Amazon launch product after product featuring Alexa, each experimenting with different designs and ways to get Alexa into our lives. Google, on the other hand, only offers up a handful of hero products for Assistant.
A perfect example would be the Echo Show, Amazon’s first smart display launched back in 2017. It would take over a year from the release of the Echo Show for Google and its partners to release a Google Assistant-enabled smart display.
Amazon hasn’t stopped there though, since the release of the Echo Show, it has gone onto release several more innovative Alexa products. For example, there is an Echo Sub to add more bass to your Echo speakers, or the Echo Input that allows you to add Alexa capabilities to your existing audio setup.
Think of as sort of a Chromecast Audio before Google discontinued it, except there is a mic, and it reacts to Alexa commands. That’s a product I’d love for my current home audio equipment.
Then, at Amazon’s annual hardware event in 2019, it unveiled even more innovative ways to use Alexa while on the go. First, there are the Echo Frames, a pair of prescription glasses with Alexa built-in. Next, was the Echo Loop, which is a smart ring with Alexa built-in, it looks somewhat weird when in use, but it’s still pretty ingenious.
One could argue, that these are both niche products and neither are essential. And while that is certainly true, it doesn’t change the fact that both are far more innovative than anything Google is doing with its Assistant hardware. I’d love to see more experimentation from Google, finding new fun ways to work Assistant into our lives.
Beyond the more out-there concepts, Amazon also showed off some more practical Echo products. Starting with the Echo Flex that will add Alexa to any outlet along with a USB charging port. There are even accessories for the Echo Flex, including a nightlight and motion sensor attachment.
Finally, Amazon introduced a new Echo Dot with a clock built-in. I’m not gonna lie, I’ve been wanting something exactly like this since the first Echo Dot launched. Sony released something similar with the S50G using Google Assistant previously, but it is quite pricey. There was also one from Insignia, but it has since been discontinued and I never cared for the style of that one.
All I want is a cheap, attractive alarm clock replacement with a visible clock. If Google made a similar product with a built-in clock, I’d have it on pre-order as soon as it popped up. In the meantime, I’ve had to make do with a smart display, which works great, but is also a bit overkill for a beside alarm clock.
No matter how you look at it, Amazon is straight-up killing it with Echo products. It releases far more options, and many more innovative products feature Alexa than Google’s Assistant.
Next to Amazon’s offerings, Google Assistant looks boring. Seeing as how I’m so invested and committed to Assistant products, I just wish we could see some more experimentation on Google’s behalf with its hardware.