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Battle of the smart home: Google Home vs Amazon Echo

5 minute read
A man in a kitchen holding an iPad

If you’re toying with the idea of purchasing a voice-activated smart speaker, the biggest names in the space are definitely Google Home and Amazon Echo. From “OK, Google” to “Hey, Alexa”, we take a look at what these two smart speakers can do and how they differ.

What’s the appeal of smart speakers?

Research from Think Google in 2017 found some interesting insights into how and why we use smart speakers; like that 72% of people use smart speakers as part of their daily routine, while 41% said they felt like they were speaking to a friend or another person when using them.

It also found that the top four reasons people have smart speakers are: it makes their daily routines easier; empowers them to get answers and information instantly; to do things faster than other devices; and to multitask more easily.

So, what can Google Home and Amazon Echo do?

Google Home and Amazon Echo offer many of the same features. These include being able to:

  • Answer your questions – from translations and spelling to locating businesses nearby and from nutritional info to unit conversions
  • Find and read you healthy recipes, step-by-step
  • Play your favourite music, cooking podcasts, or radio stations
  • Read you audiobooks or the news
  • Set your alarm, manage your calendar, add items into your schedule and remind you of other to-dos. For example, compile a shopping list, remind you about your physio appointment, tell you the weather or what local traffic is like
  • Control compatible smart home devices, like lights, locks, and appliances
  • Entertain you with games and jokes

Benefits of Google Home

Credit: Google Australia

Google currently has two smart speaker options – Google Home Mini and Google Home. The Google Home Max is due for release in Australia soon too.

The Google Home Mini is smaller in size, price ($79 RRP) and features than Google Home, but still has plenty of appeal. Available in coral, charcoal and chalk, the Mini is a lightweight 173 grams, uses a micro USB port and has a 360-sound speaker with a 40 mm driver. The Mini also has a few touch controls, for example, you tap its sides to adjust the volume or stop/start an alarm.

One of the main differences between the Home and the Mini is sound, as the Home has a more powerful high-excursion speaker. Priced at $199 RRP, the Home weighs 477 grams, is hands-free and has dual microphones. The Home comes in white or slate but can be customised to match your home with fabric or metal magnetic bases in coral, copper and carbon.

Setting up your Google Home or Mini is pretty straightforward – as is using it. You just need Wi-Fi and the Google Home app. Then, with the help of Google Assistant, you’re ready to go. Google Home integrates with a range of music, audio and entertainment apps and connected devices, like YouTube, Spotify, Netflix, Stan, Sony, Google Calendar and more. Up to six people (with Google accounts) can use the Home or Mini in the same household and both come with a two-year warranty.

Benefits of Amazon Echo

Credit: Amazon Australia

There was a lot of hype around the arrival of Amazon Echo to Australia in February. The Echo is Amazon’s hands-free, voice-activated smart speaker, which is supported by Alexa, Amazon’s voice service. A perk of Alexa is that it’s always learning, so it becomes more personalised with time and use.

The Echo range includes:

  • The Echo Dot is a good pick entry-level assistant, or for use in other rooms for those with an Echo or Echo Plus. The second generation Dot weighs 163 grams, has a 0.6-inch tweeter speaker, comes in black or white and retails at $79 RRP.
  • Priced at $149 RRP, the second generation Echo comes in heather grey, charcoal or sandstone fabric and weighs 821 grams. It has 2.5 downward-firing woofer and 0.6-inch tweeter speakers with enough sound to fill a room.
  • The Echo Plus has all the features of the Echo and more, including a built-in smart home hub. The hub makes setting up compatible smart home devices easy. The biggest of the Echo range, the Plus weighs 954 grams and costs $229 RRP.
  • The newest addition to the Echo range, the Spot costs $199 RRP. As the only Echo with a screen, you can use it to watch videos, look at your calendar and make video calls to other Echo and Alexa users.

The Echo range also has 360-degree audio and an impressive seven microphones (which will hear your requests even with music playing). Set up is fairly easy, requiring Wi-Fi and the Alexa app. Echo is compatible with a range of apps and services, like Amazon Music Unlimited, Spotify and Google Calendar and smart home devices.

You can also make audio calls or send messages to anyone with an Echo device or the Alexa app. Echo products have a one-year warranty.

Two women dancing in a kitchen

Google or Amazon: What’s better?

When it comes to choosing between Google Home and Amazon Echo (and which size device) much of it will depend on your personal preferences. They offer a lot of the same functionality, but small differences may steer you towards one over the other.

Consider things like what’s most compatible with the apps, services and smart devices you use? How many people will be using it? How big is the space? Do you want a screen? What features do you value most? What’s your budget? Both have their pros and cons, so a little research will help you choose the one best for you.

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