Amazon Echo is a voice controlled speaker that features the personal assistant called Alexa, who will perform various tasks on your behalf. Launched a few years back, the device proved to be extremely popular with consumers, so it’s no wonder we’ve starting to see alternatives appear on the market.
At CES 2017, Lenovo unveiled an Amazon Echo surrogate also powered by Alexa and LG also seems to be heading down this path. But most importantly, Google also made an entry in the market with an offering of its own, complete with Google Assistant onboard – it’s called the Google Home.
While the Lenovo Smart Assistant is yet to make it into retail and the LG alternative is probably still in development, the battle for supremacy the intelligent speaker ecosystem is currently unfolding between the Amazon Echo and Google Home – the two arch rivals.
Google released the Google Home on November 2016, while the Amazon Echo saw the light of day in November, 2014. Now Alexa’s been around for longer, so the Amazon assistant has a few aces up its sleeve. But we expect Google to catch and we even have a few suggestions on how the search giant could make that happen faster.
For instance, the Google should open it up to more developers. Back in December 2016, the search giant announced it was ready to let developers create “conversation actions” – little bots that users will interact with while using the Google Home. But the company was mum about fully opening up the platforms (Home and the Google Assistant) to third-party developers.
As we told you before, Alexa has a two-year head start, so for the time being you will find you’ll be able to be more productive with the Echo. For example, you can browse Alexa’s third party apps (called Skills) via this convenient website. Through skills users can add skills like call an Uber (Google can do that out of the box), order pizza or ask Fitbit about today’s stats. By contrast, the Google Home does not have a comparable add-on store. Yet!
However, there’s a workaround to this situation – it’s called the IFTTT channel, which both Echo and Google Home support (via their Alexa and Google Assistant channels). Through the IFTTT users can create custom automated recipes (applets) that run when a voice command is initiated. Given that IFTTT connects to hundreds of devices, it can be considered a viable alternative to Google Home supporting third-party apps. But a fully fledged add-on store from Google should be coming soon.
In our review of the two speakers we found that despite the lack of first-party support, Google Home is just as good as echo at smart home controls. Furthermore, the Chromecast integration is a very strong point for Home and as the platform evolves, might become quite a compelling reason for choosing it over the Echo.
If Google wants to beat Alexa in the home, it also needs to provide cheaper alternatives like the Amazon Dot. Sure, at $130 the Google Home is already more affordable than the Amazon Echo which sells for $180. But the second-gen Echo Dot can be yours only for $49.99.
The Echo Dot is awesome because it offers a few interesting features like a 3.5mm audio output jack that facilitates connectivity to any speaker and turns into an Alexa-enabled device and we’d really like to see Google replicate that (and add something extra).
On top of that, the Dot’s lighter, smaller size increases its portability within the home. Pair it up with the Amazon Tap and you can take it outside the home.
Last but not least, you’d be surprised to know that both Google Home and Amazon lack a seemingly basic feature – you can’t use either of them to make notes via dictation or store voice memos.
Imagine cleaning the living room, when suddenly a glorious idea strikes. Wouldn’t you be nice if you could quickly make a note by dictating it to Alexa or the Google Assistant? Well at the moment this feature is unavailable. Which is strange given that the Keep shopping list app has been integrated within the Assistant.
This means that the functionality is there and it wouldn’t be too difficult for Google to implemented with Home. it’s puzzling why Google wouldn’t grab the opportunity to offer a feature that the Echo lacks especially when it’s right within its grasp, but we expect that to change soon.