At its recently concluded Oct. 4 event, Google made several exciting announcements. In addition to the Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones, Chromecast Ultra and Google Wi-Fi, among several others, the company also unveiled Google Home, which is its take on smart speakers.
Google Home is being positioned as a challenger to the Amazon Echo. The two devices share several similarities but also have notable differences. For customers thinking of buying a smart speaker for the holidays, which one is the better choice? And for those who already own the Amazon Echo, is it time to replace it with the Google Home?
Google Home and Amazon Echo: The Similarities
The basic features of the two smart speakers are very similar. With both the Google Home and Amazon Echo, users can issue voice commands to carry out different kinds of tasks, including controlling music playback, streaming podcasts and connecting smart home devices.
The devices are meant to be placed on the tabletops of living rooms or in any similar spot at home, and they are always listening to commands that will be issued by the user.
Google Assistant vs. Amazon Alexa
The backbone of all the differences between the two smart speakers is the software that powers them. The Google Home utilizes Assistant, which was first seen in the Google Allo messaging app that was released a few weeks ago, while the Amazon Echo utilizes Alexa, its own version of a digital virtual assistant.
To use the Amazon Echo, users will first have to say "Alexa" before issuing commands. Users will be able to manage the settings of the speaker and the virtual assistant through an Alexa app, which is also where they can browse and enable so-called Skills, which is Amazon's version of apps for Alexa. There are over 3,000 skills available for Alexa developed by third-party companies, allowing users to issue commands such as requesting for an Uber ride or ordering a Domino's pizza.
To use the Google Home, users will first have to say "OK, Google" or "Hey, Google" to issue the same basic commands as with Alexa. However, because Google holds more information on users from their Google accounts and apps, the Google Home will be able to perform functions such as telling users what is on their calendar for the day and how long the commute to work will take.
Google's search capabilities will also be in the spotlight with Google Home. In a demonstration of the smart speaker, a user requested to play the song by Shakira from the movie Zootopia. Google Assistant was able to play the correct song "Try Everything" through the integration of YouTube.
Google is also creating a developer kit that will mimic the skills of Alexa. To be named Actions, it will allow third-party companies to integrate their apps and services into Assistant.
Things Only Google Home Can Do
There are also certain things that the Google Home can do that the Amazon Echo can't, including accessing Google Play Music and YouTube Music, sending information to the user's smartphone and casting content to the TV through Chromecast.
The Google Home is also said to offer more natural conversations, with the smart speaker able to understand requests using the same contextual awareness found in Google Now.
One important thing that the Amazon Echo has over the Google Home, however, is the tight integration of e-commerce into its platform, with users able to place orders on Amazon's retail platform through the smart speaker.
Google's Lower Price vs. Amazon's Head Start
The Google Home will be sold starting Nov. 4 at a price tag of $130 compared to the $180 price tag of the original Amazon Echo. While Amazon has since released a $50 version, named the Amazon Echo Dot, it will be these two smart speakers going head-to-head in the market.
However, the Amazon Echo has a two-year head start on the Google Home, which means that for Google's product to gain ground on its rival, it will have to prove to not only be a capable device but also a better one. The potential is there, but it remains to be seen whether it has what it takes to take over the spot of the Amazon Echo in homes.