Which Is Better? Amazon Echo or Google Home Voice-Activated Personal Assistant?
The latest technology that is creating a buzz are voice-activated personal digital assistants, such as the Amazon Echo and the Google Home. The era of “The Jetsons” has finally arrived, as anyone can beckon a personal digital assistant using their voice to take care of a number of functions around a home, as well as many other useful tasks that make life a little bit easier.
Just what can these voice-activated assistants do on voice command? In addition to a many other useful tasks, they are currently primarily used to:
Control Smart Home Devices, Such As Smart Thermostats
Maintain a Personal Calendar
Search The Internet
Arrange a Ride
This is just a sampling of tasks that these computerized assistants can perform by simply speaking to them. They can also perform a variety of other tasks, depending upon which third-party applications have been installed.
One of their more useful functions is their ability to be programed to perform useful routine tasks to save you time and aggravation. For example, if your bedtime routine is to spend five minutes roaming around your house shutting off lights and ensuring that doors are locked, you can save yourself the time by customizing your digital assistant to do it all for you on one voice command, such as “bedtime lights.”
The Amazon Echo and the Google Home each have strengths and weaknesses concerning what they can do and how well they can provide what a user asks for, which we will explore further.
Amazon Echo Versus Google Home
A Brief History of Voice Activated Personal Digital Assistants
Amazon was first to market with this new wave of helpful technology, as their first generation Echo was released during the fall of 2014. Google, never wanting to be left behind when it comes to technological innovation, introduced their first Home voice activated digital assistant in the fall of 2016. Each device has certain features that make it unique, and in some cases better than the other device. Which one best suits you comes down to what you need your digital assistant to do for you. Before delving in and buying one these neat and useful little computer assistants, it is important to understand what each one offers and which one is better aligned with your lifestyle and preferences.
The Amazon Echo Was First To Market, Which Gives It Important Advantages
The Echo has some important advantages over the Google Home, in part because it has been around for two more years than the Home and has a large amount of third-party apps available to expand and customize its capabilities. These apps, which are known as “skills” in Echo parlance, allow a user customize their Echo voice-activated assistant to provide a wide variety of features that aren’t available on the Home. The Home will eventually catch up in this regard, but for now, if you really want to push the limits of what you can do with a voice-activated assistant, the Echo is the way to go.
The Echo utilizes the Alexa Voice Service to interact with users, which is an intelligent voice interface that has been refined over the years and is quite adept at responding to voice commands.
While both the Echo and the Home can hear voice commands from across a room, even while music is playing, the Echo has microphones on seven sides (versus two for the Home), so the Echo can be placed just about anywhere in a room and hear commands from any direction. With the Home, the placement is much more crucial to maximize its listening abilities.
The Echo was in part created to make it easier for Amazon customers to order products from the company, which is a feature that it excels in and is very useful to active Amazon customers. Ran out of paper towels? There’s no need to access your phone or login to Amazon via a computer, just tell the Echo what you need to order, and consider it done. However, you do need an Amazon Prime membership in place to order items using the Echo, which incurs an annual fee.
Just keep in mind that the Echo comes in three models at three price points. The least expensive model, the Echo Dot ($50), does not have the same great speakers for playing music that the more expensive models have, but it can be integrated into a home’s sound system via a speaker cord or Bluetooth. One advantage the less expensive Echo Dot offers is that users can purchase several of them at a reasonable cost and place them in many parts of their home.
The Strengths and Weaknesses of The Amazon Echo
Google Home Has Features That Appeal to Certain Users and Bests The Echo In Some Respects
Google Home has some advantages over Amazon’s Echo voice-activated assistant offerings. First off is price. The comparable model of the Home is about $50 cheaper than the mid-range Echo. However, the Home’s primary advantage over the Echo is its integration with the powerful search capabilities that Google offers. Testing has shown the the Home can answer more detailed questions than the Echo in a more conversational way of speaking. So, if you are looking for a smart voice-activated digital assistant that can provide a vast amount of knowledge and engage you in a conversation, the Home is a better choice.
If you use Google’s Chromecast to watch television programs and movies, then the Home is what you will want to have to program, manage and watch your Chromecast. While the Echo can do many things that the Home cannot do, it cannot interface with Chromecast. The Home can also access Google’s massive collection of videos and music on YouTube, which the Echo cannot do.
Home is quickly catching up to Echo in regards to facilitating voice-command shopping via Google’s Retail Express. Users can order many products through the Home from major retailers, such as Target and Costco. The main drawback to using Home is its lack of third-party apps to expand and customize its user interface. However, it will only be a matter of time before Google starts making inroads and closes the app gap with the Echo.
Google Home Is Amazon Echo's Primary Competitor
Will Apple Introduce Its Own Voice-Activated Personal Assistant?
Given the wild popularity of Apple’s Siri voice-activated application on its i-phones and i-pads, it is surprising that a company like Apple that is known for its innovative products wasn’t the first to introduce a voice-activated personal assistant to people’s homes. Instead of leading with cutting-edge technology, Apple is playing catch up in this hot and growing space.
The company has been researching and field testing its own version of a computerized assistant that responds to voice commands. Apparently Apple’s angle is to outdo the competition as far as listening capabilities, speakers for playing music, voice-response logic and by use of other technologies such as facial recognition technology. The speculation is that the Apple device will be able to adjust its response to the facial expressions expressed by an person.
Apple really missing the boat on this one for failing to lead the way on this new technology front. The potential is there for voice-activated personal assistants to become a central part of 21st Century households in the not too distant future. The company that dominates this market space will have a leg up on its competitors in many wide-ranging aspects of life, from retail sales to music to online banking.
Of course, when Apple does eventually enter this space, it can only be a good thing for consumers, as competition not only tends to bring prices down, but it also spurs innovations and will likely propel these computerized assistants far beyond their current capabilities.
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© 2017 John Coviello