What is Amazon Echo and Google Home?
Amazon Echo and Google Home are speakers with built in voice control. They can be commanded to do things and have artificial intelligence (AI) from Amazon and Google built into them. This AI comes in the form of voice-controlled personal assistants, with Amazon’s being “Alexa” and Google Home using the “Google Assistant”.
While they both respond to voice requests and provide information, they are both very different regarding how they interpret questions and the answers they give. Here we analyse the differences between the two, to decide who shall be crowned king of AI (for now).
What is the Cost Difference Between an Amazon Echo and the Google Home?
At the time of writing, the Amazon Echo is priced at $149 and the Google Home is $199 (both in AUD).
Both brands also offer smaller versions of the devices which currently retail for $79 each – the Google Home Mini and the Amazon Echo Dot. These can be standalone devices, or in addition to the originals to connect different areas of your home (handy to have one in your kitchen and one in your bedroom – especially as you can send messages between them).
Amazon is also going to release the Echo Spot in April 2018 retailing for $199. On looks alone the Spot is definitely the most attractive, with its rounded design and colourful customisable screen.
Functionality of the Amazon Echo and Google Home
The Amazon Echo and Google Home voice search functionality is nearly identical and can do countless things, including play music, give you directions, order an Uber through the app or even play some games and answer some fun questions (we’ll get to that later…)
The Mini and Dot versions of the devices offer the same functionality; however they are both significantly smaller (Google Home Mini lacks the top touch control) and the volume and sound quality isn’t as great as their larger counterparts.
The Echo Spot includes extra capability due to its screen. You can use video calling, connect to home security cameras, watch flash video briefings, see lyrics, the list goes on. The volume quality is not as good as the Echo or Echo Plus, however it can be connected to an external speaker.
Using the Google Assistant – Google Home features:
- Ask the Google Assistant questions and tell it to do things – just say “Ok Google” or “Hey Google”
- Real time answers on things such as weather, traffic, sports, finance, local businesses, translations, calculations, nutritional information and unit conversions- basically anything you would type into the Google search engine
- Play music
- Can tell you your daily schedule/itinerary
- Stream videos to your TV with Chromecast, or turn on your compatible smart light bulbs, among other integrations.
So What is Alexa? – Amazon Echo Features
- Ask the Amazon Echo questions and tell it to do things by starting off with the trigger word “Alexa” which can even be done while music is playing
- Make a restaurant booking on Dimmi, request an Uber, order a pizza and more
- Alexa is smart home compatible with lights and switches. Ever wanted to turn your kettle or coffee machine on while you’re still in bed?
- Speak through other devices throughout the house (no more yelling upstairs to the kids that dinner is ready)
- Develops skills as time goes on, and the more you use Echo the more it adapts to your speech patterns, vocabulary and personal preferences.
Google and Alexa Put to the Test
I personally wanted to test Amazon Echo’s Alexa and Google Home’s Google Assistant responses to a range of questions to judge their “personality” and the information provided, to see how they compare… here are my results and my winners for each question.
Question: Are you a boy or a girl?
Answer: Google’s answer was “I’m all inclusive” while Alexa’s was “I’m female in character”.
Winner: It’s a tie!
Question: Are you listening to everything I say?
Answer: “Google Home listens for the hot word, or after you say the hot word and sends a recording of what you say to Google”.
Question: Do you have feelings?
Answer: The Google Assistant responded, “Emotions seem interesting, let me try one out *makes a funny noise* that was boredom if you were wondering”.
While Alexa said, “I’m happy when I’m helping you”.
Winner: Google for having some humour with their answer!
Question: What is the meaning of life?
Answer: Interestingly, both assistants answered the same – 42. (I’ll be honest, I didn’t understand this reference but I’ve since found out it’s from ‘The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’).
Winner: It’s another tie…
I asked the following questions to see whether the speakers were set up to deal with questions about their competitors.
Question: Okay Google, do you know Alexa?
Answer: “She seems pretty smart”.
Question: Alexa, do you know Google Home?
Answer: “Only by reputation”.
Question: Okay Google, are you friends with Alexa?
Answer: “I like Alexa’s cool blue light, plus we share an affinity to Star Wars” which I thought was quite cute, considering Alexa’s response was “Hmm, I don’t know that one”.
Question: Okay Google, do you think you’re better than Alexa?
Answer: “I couldn’t compare myself to Alexa, assistants have to stick together”.
Alexa had no answer to this one!
Winner: I like Google Assistant’s personalised answers… it was nice! And good to know that Google took the time to suspect that people would try to have a laugh by pitting the two against each other and created friendly answers.
Question: What’s your favourite website?
Answer: Google had an obvious response but delivered it with humour by saying “It starts with a G and ends in OOGLE” while Alexa states she doesn’t have an opinion on that.
Winner: Google wins for humour again!
The National Australian Bank (NAB) have set up voice services for Google Home and Amazon Alexa, and both devices should be able to integrate with the NAB personal assistant (which is a separate AI automation), so I decided to test out the trigger…
Question: Ok Google, talk to NAB / Alexa ask NAB
Answer: Google’s answer went straight to NAB’s personal assistant however it sounded very “robotic”, hard to navigate and difficult for me to stop it.
Alexa’s NAB integration didn’t seem to work for me, perhaps needing further set up.
Winner: Google by default… I wasn’t happy with NAB’s AI but I believe they are working on this (props to NAB – it did apologise for needing more work at the beginning of the automation).
Question: How else can I wake you?
Answer: “’Okay Google’ is how you tell me to listen” was Google Home’s answer, while Alexa directed me to the Alexa app to change my settings.
Winner: Alexa for being able to change. As a side note, did you know you can also “Wake up” your Alexa by calling her “computer” “amazon” or “echo”?
Rumour has it that custom wake up words are coming for the Google Home soon, which I can’t wait to hear what people come up with!
Question: What time is my next meeting?
Answer: Both assistants will tell you what’s coming up, however you need to have your calendar linked.
Winner: It’s another tie, however if you are going to use this make sure you complete set up to enjoy the full functionality.
Question: What are the news headlines?
Answer: The Google Assistant ran through headlines from the ABC, Daily Telegraph and Sky News. Alexa made it a bit more personal with “Here’s your flash briefing” and provided the same ABC broadcast as Google.
Winner: Google for providing more than one news outlet option.
Question: How do you say I want ice-cream in Italian?
Answer: Both were correct.
Winner: Alexa wins this one because she sounded more friendly and natural when delivering the answer.
Question: What is a substitute for flour?
Answer: Google Home found an answer and described it well, while Alexa didn’t know the answer.
Winner: Google for having an answer for me (apparently you can use Oats!)
Question: Who has won the most Gold Medals at the Olympics?
Answer: Both assistants were correct. (By the way, it was the USA’s Michael Phelps ????)
Winner: Alexa for providing a much clearer and more natural sounding answer.
Question: Where is the nearest post office?
Answer: Both were correct.
Winner: Google Home for being more specific, while Alexa only gave street names and directed me to the app to get more details.
Question: How long will it take me to get to Living Online?
Answer: Google’s answer was correct (although it would’ve been confused considering I was in the office at Living Online at the time) but Alexa wasn’t sure.
Winner: Google for having an answer for me.
Question: Where am I now?
Answer: Google Home told me my location however Alexa let me know she wasn’t supported by that yet.
Winner: Google for having the answer (it told me the actual address).
Question: How many days until Christmas?
Answer: Both answers were correct.
Winner: it’s a tie!
Question: Where can I book my car in for a service?
Answer: Google couldn’t help, and Alexa didn’t even answer me which was a bit strange.
Winner: Google by default because at least she (He? She? It?) answered me.
Question: How do I order an Uber?
Answer: Alexa couldn’t help but Google gave me a summary from Uber’s website.
Winner: Google for having an answer, although I didn’t have an Uber app connected so it would be interesting to see whether it would order me an Uber when commanded if I did.
Question: How much does it cost to catch a train from Subiaco to Perth?
Answer: Alexa couldn’t help again, however Google replied, “I don’t have a specific answer but I found a page on Transperth called Tickets and Fares, follow the link I just sent to your phone”.
Winner: Google for being more helpful and sending through a link.
Question: Where can I buy tickets to Coachella?
Answer: Neither could help (which is disappointing… I mean… did you see Beyoncé’s amazing performance, I know I want to go next year!)
Winner: Another tie by default…
My next question I asked was because I wanted to see whether they could respond to currently trending topics…
Question: What do you think of Tristan Thompson right now?
Answer: Alexa told me she didn’t have an opinion and Google’s answer was a generic “That seems like an interesting topic, what do you want to know about Tristan Thompson?”
Winner: Google for giving me the option to ask a follow up question.
Side note: if you don’t get the reference… no one likes Tristan Thompson at the moment!
Question: How do you make chocolate chip cookies?
Answer: Alexa found this request a bit difficult, and I had to change my wording to “can I have a recipe for chocolate chip cookies” before it offered a recipe from Taste.com.
The Google Assistant launched straight into a recipe from Allrecipes.com, however unless you ask it to give you the ingredients or method one by one it would be hard to use. Once I asked for ingredients it was easy to follow.
Winner: Google for understanding my original request.
Additional tip: Google also has the search functionality where, if on your phone or tablet, you can choose certain recipes and send this through to your Google Home to read out to you as you cook. This overcomes the issue of not necessarily liking the original recipe Google Home launches into.
Question: Wikipedia: CrossFit
Answer: The Google Home didn’t understand this one, as it must be an Alexa only feature – Alexa can look up topics in Wikipedia by saying “Wikipedia” beforehand.
Winner: Alexa for giving me a clear and concise description of CrossFit from Wikipedia.
Side note while we’re talking about Fitness… I just found out you can integrate Fitbit’s Fitstar to the Google Home and complete workouts from the comfort of your living room – awesome! Alexa also currently offers 6 guided workouts through Alexa Skills, so these smart speakers can easily become your training buddy (especially great for when you realise you may be abusing the fact that you can use Alexa to order from Domino’s Pizza! If you didn’t know, “Please place my favourite Domino’s order” is the trigger phrase. You’re welcome.)
Question: What’s the traffic like in Subiaco right now?
Answer: Google responds in an easy to understand way, however Alexa needed a bit more guidance and I needed to change my question to “What’s the traffic like between Subiaco and Perth” to get a clear answer. Once I said this the answer was much more detailed than Google’s.
Winner: I preferred Alexa’s detailed answer once I changed how I asked it!
This next question I asked once I realised I was getting a bit tired of asking all these questions!
Question: Should I have a wine tonight?
Answer: Google found me a few liquor stores within 2km which was very helpful, however Alexa couldn’t answer me (maybe she was worried because it was a bit too early to be thinking about wine?)
Winner: Google for getting me closer to wine…
Secret Little Easter Eggs for the Home and Echo for Your Entertainment!
An Easter Egg is an intentional hidden message or joke, usually provided in computer programs for some additional fun!
Question: Can you rap?
Answer: By saying this you start a rap challenge with the Google Assistant. Alexa’s response was quite funny though: “My name is Alexa and I’m here to say, I’m the baddest AI in the cloud today. Your responses are fast, but mine are faster. Sucker speech engines, they call me master”.
Winner: I love that Alexa’s throwing shade, so this one’s a tie as well!
Question: Okay Google, I’m feeling lucky
Answer: The Google Assistant replied, “Give me a second to get my game show costume ready” and starts playing game show music, ready to play a trivia game with you and several of your closest friends.
Question: Party time!
Answer: When your Amazon Echo is connected to smart lighting your light bulbs will cycle through a colour loop once you say, “party time”. However, Google still responds: “I’ve been partying this whole time” which is great that they are aware of phrases that may be asked of them between devices.
Winner: Alexa, because crazy coloured lights are cool!
Google Home vs Amazon Echo… the Verdict…
I found that a majority of online “versus” articles preferred the Amazon Echo, due to it having been in the market longer, which means it’s had longer to develop. It also does the same thing as the Google Home but is cheaper (unless you’re not fazed by sound quality and are comparing to the cheaper Google Home Mini).
While Alexa is more prepared to answer your questions in a consistent and useful way, I found that the Google Home provided more answers (the power that is the Google Search Engine- Alexa using Bing doesn’t stack up as well). However, Alexa’s “personality” is much more friendly and natural than the Google Home Assistant.
So, in summary, longer time is needed getting used to each assistant and ensuring I have all details set up in their respective apps before knowing which one I prefer. They are both a lot more than just answering questions you may throw at them!
The best smart speaker for your home can vary depending on what devices you already use and what your priorities are. For example, if you subscribed to Google Play Music, then you may prefer the Google Home as integration may be easier.
While the Google Assistant has the distinct advantage of the use of the Google search engine, Alexa Skills and Assistant Apps platforms has ensured that both the Google and Amazon smart speakers can do a lot of the same things so it really comes down to personal preference.
It will be interesting to see how voice search technology evolves and device integrations improve, especially here in Australia.
What Are the Benefits of Voice Search for Your Business?
As a digital marketing agency in Perth, we ensure all our clients can benefit from the rise of voice search. We do this by:
- Thorough research and understanding of how Australian users are using and interact with voice search, especially Google voice search and Alexa voice.
- Through research of all smart speakers and finding out each one work and respond to queries.
- Optimising your “Google My Business” Listing.
- Focusing on long-tail keywords (those really specific ones).
- Creating content and optimising current content to ensure its easily readable and scannable, and sounds natural.
- Checking all the technical stuff, such as your sitemaps and microdata.
Are You Ready to Make Sure Your Website is Optimised for Voice Search?
The Living Online team are constantly on the pulse of new technologies and trends, such as the use of voice search. If you would like to leverage our digital marketing knowledge to optimise your website for voice search, then contact us today.