A couple of weeks ago I decided to purchase a Google Home since I lost my Amazon Echo in my divorce. I could have easily replaced the Echo but I wanted to go with the Home since I’m a very heavy Google user (all of my mobile devices are Android and I use my Google accounts for almost everything I do). I also liked the $50 savings over a new Echo (granted I could have gotten a Dot but I don’t want one of those, explanation coming).
So far I think the Home is a solid device but it’s still behind the Echo in a lot of areas. Google Assistant is a great tool for providing information, such as reading from your Google calendar or doing a general web search (it is Google after all). The Echo doesn’t come close when searching for information, however its ability to connect to your different calendars puts it on the same level, if not a little above, the Home. Both devices will tell you jokes and play games, however I have found MadLibs on the Home to be better than any game I played with the Echo.
Each device is activated using a key word. “Alexa” activates the Echo while “OK Google” or “Hey Google” activates the Home. I would like to see Google allow a different key word be allowed since “OK Google” and “Hey Google” could activate 3 devices for me (Home, phone, tablet) but it seems the Home will take priority over the other 2.
The main use for these devices seem to be smart home connected devices, like Philips Hue lights or Nest thermostats. Since I don’t have any of those (yet) my main use for both has been as a remote speaker. The Echo utilizes a Bluetooth connection while the Home uses a Google Cast connection. While Bluetooth provides more flexibility among devices you still have to be within a relatively short distance so that the signal can be picked up. Casting, while limited to Android devices, works as long as your device is on the same Wifi signal as your Home. So I could have a device located in my basement holding all of my music and it could play to any Home inside my house that is on the same wireless network (I’m also a geek that would do something like that).
Speaking of music one area that the Echo is head and shoulders above Home is streaming music. The Home will connect to Google Music but that’s about it right now. The Echo has a plethora of music options, from TuneIn to iHeartRadio to Pandora to Amazon Music among others. Sure I could stream a radio broadcast on my phone or tablet and cast it but why waste the device’s battery when the Home could stream it for me? This is one area I’d love to see Google step up their game (it would be even better if they integrate SiriusXM support).
The Echo also has a lot of “skills” that can be enabled via the Alexa app. Home doesn’t have anything like that quite yet. The Echo has been on the market for quite some time and Amazon has been able to provide updated abilities, maybe Google will be doing something similar if they determine the Home is something to keep supporting.
I think once Google puts some more effort into providing more skills and abilities the Home could be better than the Echo but right now I’d say the Echo is a little better just because of the flexibility of being able to use multiple types of devices with it and being able to order things from Amazon via voice (dangerous), where Home seems to be mainly Google (which is understandable). It will also be interesting to see what the market does once Apple releases a similar device.
So until I start loading up on smart home stuff I’ll just sit here and cast my music and play MadLibs, and I’ll be watching this video (thanks to a couple of my co-workers for sending this my way):