IoT in the Home: Amazon Echo vs. Google Home
IoT, which is an acronym for the semi-awkward buzz phrase “the Internet of Things”, is a quickly growing tech trend that is rife with possibilities. From smart ice cubes that monitor how fast you’re drinking to plant sensors that provide continuous stats on the plant’s health (which I don’t really need—I know mine aren’t doing well), IoT is making life just a little bit easier in a variety of ways.
See also: Staying Safe on the “Internet of Things”
At the top of the IoT-trending pyramid is the concept of “smart homes”: the idea that many of the devices in your home (lights, thermostat, fridge, etc.) can be controlled via wifi from your phone or some other centralized hub. So far, the Amazon Echo has really taken the lead on that front. Take a look at Amazon Echo’s introduction video below for a better look:
Pretty cool right? The commercial does a great job in showing how Echo (and its personal assistant, Alexa) could ostensibly become a super-smart member of the family, rather than just another device. Besides being able to book an Uber cab for you or plan a date night, the Echo can also play games with you including Bingo,Tic Tac Toe, and Rock Scissors Paper Lizard Spock (ya, you heard me).
Until now, smart home devices weren’t all that popular. The Amazon Echo changed all that and they have the numbers to back it up (Amazon has sold at least 3 million of the smart speakers so far). So obviously, other companies are seeing the benefit and latching on to the idea. Oh, hey Google!
Google announced the Google Home in May but it was at their recent launch event this month that they showed off all the deets. Get a load of it below:
Also pretty cool. Like the Echo, you can make appointments, ask it questions, playback entertainment, and more. But what’s the difference? Let’s break it down.
Price – Google Wins
There’s no getting around this one—Google’s is cheaper. Google Home is selling at $130 (US), while Amazon Echo is at $180 (US). That being said, you can’t buy the Google Home in Canada yet, and there’s no set date for when it will be sold here, but we should expect it sometime in 2017. So if you’re thinking about getting it for someone as a Christmas gift, think again.
Personality – Google Wins
One thing that’s always kind of bothered me about Google’s assistant on my Android is the lack of personality. For some reason I find it a little more fun to talk to a device using a name like Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa. “OK Google” just seems a little dull and utilitarian. That being said, Google sort of makes up for the namelessness by being conversational. You can ask a question like “Who scored the most goals in the NHL last year?” and after the answer, a follow up question like “What team is he on this year?” It will understand the “he” pronoun as being connected to the last question. Google is also more personal in the aesthetic sense. That is, you can change the colour of the sleek-looking device to fit your décor.
Smart Home Partnerships – Amazon Wins, For Now
Amazon Echo has definitely benefited from being the first one out of the gate with this product. They have a wide variety of product-partnerships which include Nest, Ecobee, SmartThings, Wink, Insteon, Belkin WeMo, Philips Hue, Lifx, Big Ass Fans, and IFTTT, all allowing you to link up and control all sorts of smart home products, and more are being added all the time. So far, Google only has Nest, SmartThings, Philips Hue and IFTTT. Of course, we are bound to expect more in the future. They’ve promised they will match Amazon on this front, and realistically, who wouldn’t want to partner up with Google? It’s Google.
Audio – Google Wins
As a big music listener, this is a huge factor for me. The various Amazon Echo devices don’t sync with eachother, which means you can’t have them all playing the same song and blasting beats throughout your house at your next party. Google Home, on the other hand, is able to command any Google Cast-enabled speaker, any speaker with a Chromecast Audio streamer plugged in and even your TV if you have a Chromecast video streamer.
Personal Assistant Highlights – Google Wins
I’m not sure I would use all of these features, but it seems Google Home does have more of them than the Echo. With the Echo, you can add items to calendar, make a shopping list, make a to do list, check a flight status, and track a package. With Google Home, you can do all that, plus get personalized daily briefings of your day and check traffic, which I think are two very useful features.
Other Features – Draw?
There are plenty of other features these devices can do, and which skills are most important are up to you. Via Chromecast, Google Home can launch and control Netflix, YouTube and photo libraries. Amazon Echo can order an Uber for you, play a game, and do about 900 other skills via its app, and is learning more skills all the time. Once again, we can assume Google will be learning more skills too.
In the end, it seems likely that Google will come out on top on this one. There’s just no beating the price, the personal assistant features, and the audio capabilities. Personally, I’m not sure yet that’s it’s a necessity in my life, but I could see it becoming a necessity in the future when I start installing more smart home devices. Until then, I’ll stick with my phone and a Bluetooth speaker.
Candice Irvine, Blogger, Marketing Specialist, Graphic Designer
I'm addicted to games of all kinds: boardgames, video games, card games, mind games... nah, just kidding about that last one. Or am I?