As with the past few holiday seasons, virtual assistant devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home continue to be a popular gift. But with the prices for either reasonably similar, you might be confused as to which one you should pick. As a result, we thought it would be helpful to explain which platform is best for which user.
Generally, the smart assistants are the same price for similar models and functionality, so here it’s less about what’s the cheapest option and more about what you are looking to do and what devices you may already have.
If you already own other Android devices, we strongly recommend that you go with Google Home. Your Google Home device will integrate with the apps on your device (calendar, reminders, and so on), so updates on one automatically sync with the other.
This harmonious experience is quite convenient. While yes, Alexa can do this too, it doesn’t directly integrate in the same way Google Home and Android do, and it doesn’t work across all your native apps (reminders are a notable example).
If you’re already familiar with Google Assistant on your smartphone, using Google Home won’t be much different. Five thousand smart home devices from 150 companies are compatible with your Home device, and you can control any Chromecast-enabled device too.
Yes, Google Home can control most of the popular smart home devices out there. However, Amazon’s Alexa platform has the most expansive compatibility list of any virtual assistant platform. The reason for this is its considerable head start; the first Echo devices appeared years before the first Google Home devices. These days, it’s rare to find a smart home device that doesn’t work with the platform.
Setup is fairly easy. While some devices will be automatically detected and configured for use with your Echo device, you’ll just need to add the Alexa skill for the device you want to use. In our experience, we’ve found few devices that require much more than a login to your smart device’s online account to get them working with Alexa.
If you’re partial to Apple products, but don’t have the cash to plunk down on the expensive HomePod, we think an Echo device would make the most sense. Apple not too long ago penned a deal that brought Apple Music to the platform, and more recently, Apple podcasts. You can also ask Alexa to add items to your calendar, although you’ll need help from a service like If This Then That to connect other parts of your device to Alexa.
It’s not the perfect situation, but it costs hundreds less. And we’re not altogether sold on HomePods anyway, so we’d push you toward Echo devices as the platform is much more robust, and works better in our opinion. Also, if your household has both iPhones and Androids, we recommend an Echo there as well.
We can hear the Alexa faithful voicing their protest already, but it’s true. Google Assistant is better at handling natural-language queries. Alexa is picky about how you phrase things. Google Assistant also has the weight of the world’s biggest search engine behind it, whereas Alexa often leans on Wikipedia to answer your queries. You also can have a conversation of sorts with it, where most Alexa queries need to be separate.
One area that Google Home still struggles in is Skills. Alexa still has far more, but the gap is closing fast. But from a virtual assistant standpoint, it’s a much more fluid experience and is the one we recommend at the moment if you like the absolute best.
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