So, you’re in the market for a smart speaker, but what’s it going to be? Alexa or Google Home? Here’s exactly what you need to know before you decide. First, let’s answer the question as directly as possible.
So, what is the difference between Google Home and Alexa?
The most literal answer to this question is that Google Home is a smart speaker powered by Google Assistant while Alexa is the virtual smart assistant behind Amazon’s Echo smart speaker. Generally speaking, the average person is using the term “Google Home” and “Alexa” to both describe the respective smart speakers themselves.
- Google Home is a smart home hub made by Google that integrates well with other Google-powered devices like Chromecast, Nest Thermostats and Nest Cams. This hub can carry contextual conversations and give you seamless responses to multiple commands.
- Alexa is a software created by Amazon that is integrated into the hub, Amazon Echo. Alexa acts as a virtual assistant that can be taught new commands and is constantly being updated to become more “human-like”. Alexa is more compatible with a home that uses Amazon Fire Stick, Ring Cams and Doorbells or maybe the ecobee smart thermostat.
There are plenty of differences when it comes to the devices, mainly when it comes to capabilities, but essentially they are both Smart Home Hubs that connect to smart devices in your home to make living life a little bit easier.
Alexa’s name is often used interchangeably with the Amazon Echo. There are several “Echo” models to choose from with different features. Google Home also has a number of models to choose from, not all of them actually referred to as “Google Home”.
For a first time user, this can be really confusing! By the end of this article, you should be able to make an informed decision and be a bit of an expert on the topic.
My personal preference is Alexa supported products because they are more supportive of third-party integrations.
Things Alexa Can Do That Google Home Can’t
Google is always trying to get the top spot with whatever space it enters, but when it comes to smart home controllers and home assistants, Amazon has knocked it out of the park with Alexa and the Amazon Echo.
Though Google has announced it will be launching new actions for its smart assistant really soon, Alexa has many more capabilities already. They have a ways to go to catch up with Amazon in this department.
I like Google Assistant, and I use it quite often to ask for directions, set reminders and add calendar events to my phone. All that being said, my home is not going consist of exclusively Google smart products. This is the main hang-up for me.
Because of that, I use Amazon Echo with Alexa for my smart home speakers. While I own more than I have deployed, currently I have them in 3 areas of the house.
Here are some capabilities of Alexa that Google Home doesn’t feature. These capabilities are what make this device and software stand out when it comes to choosing between the two.
1. Custom Skills
The first , and one of my favorite features of the Amazon Echo is that you can program custom skills into it. This means, you can create different skills that will be personal to your Alexa alone, and it can function exactly how you want it to; how cool is that?
These skills can be set to a template that is already present on your device. Use the templates to teach your Alexa new stories and greetings, or how to play a new game! Whether useful or just for fun, the possibilities are endless.
When it comes to having a little extra security in the home, your Alexa has got your back. Actually, Alexa works great as a house-sitter while you are out of town or out for the night. You can switch on Alexa Guard on your device and the smart home controller will become your own little look out.
Once Alexa Guard is on, the device starts monitoring any suspicious activity like movement or sounds. Any glass breaking or alarms going off will trigger Alexa to start listening in. Another great feature you can use on this device for security is, programming it to switch on your lights at intervals to make it look like someone is home. Again, endless possibilities.
3. Package Tracking
Of course, being a product of Amazon, this device can help you track your packages when you shop on the site. Not only does Alexa know exactly when your package will be delivered, she can tell you what stage of the delivery it is at as well.
Once you have made your purchase, just ask Alexa “Alexa, where is my package?” and she will be able to give you an exact update of where it is! Plus, you can set up Domino’s delivery service with your Alexa too, so you can track the status of your pizza!
4. Whisper Capability
Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night and tried to quietly sneak out of the room only to end up bumping into something in the dark. Well, now you can enable whisper mode for Alexa and you can quietly ask her to turn a specific light on.
Amazon’s “Whisper Mode” for Alexa is a setting that will allow you to whisper commands to your Echo device. Not only will Alexa hear you, but she will whisper back to you as to not disturb anyone else in your house.
To enable Whisper Mode for Alexa, you can simply say “Alexa, turn on Whisper Mode”.
You can also use your Alexa App to enable Whisper Mode:
Go to Settings > Voice Responses > (Click to toggle) Whisper Mode
Editor’s note: under this screen, you can also turn on “Brief Mode“. Alexa’s Brief Mode minimizes vocal responses from Alexa and will oftentimes play a discreet sound instead. Of course, if you ask Alexa a question that requires a vocal response, she will still speak to you.
For a little flavor you can also enable Samuel L Jackson’s Celebrity Voice Responses on Alexa. You may (or may not) want to toggle on “Explicit Content” under the following settings screen (click Celebrity Voice) for the full experience.
Samuel L Jackson’s Celebrity Voice Response will allow you to have him tell you a joke, give you the weather, tell you about himself and even sing you happy birthday!
5. Frustration Detection
Another human-like feature Amazon has added to Alexa is Frustration Detection. This gives Alexa the capability to detect irritation or frustration in your tone of voice. Why this is important is, it will allow your smart home controller to adjust its results and behavior just by the tone of your voice without you having to change the command.
People naturally want a digital assistant to be… well, more natural. As Alexa continues to update, this feature will improve giving you a lot better results with a lot less effort.
6. Assistant On-the-Go
Did you know you can take your Echo with you on your car rides by simply plugging it in through a USB into your car? Or you can get the Amazon Echo Auto (found here on Amazon) which is made specifically for your car. Just speak to Alexa as you would at home, and she’ll become your assistant on-the-go. This could make your journey a lot more productive.
7. Location Triggers
When you set up Alexa’s location triggers, your smart home controller can be set up to have your home ready for you before you arrive. Alexa will track your location from your smartphone and will get everything ready for you; this includes switching on the lights, getting your smart HVAC system ready, and whatever else you program her to do. This is not just a great convenience, but can also help you save money when it comes to energy and utility bills since you won’t have to leave anything running while you’re out.
Unlike the Google Home, Alexa has quite a few different music streaming services under her belt. Pandora and Spotify are shared by both smart home controllers, but if you’re trying to see which one has more range, Alexa is the clear winner. Apart from the obvious Amazon Prime Music, Alexa can also play music from Apple Music which Google Home cannot. Other music streaming services on Alexa include Deezer, Gimme, iHeartRadio, SiriusXM, Spotify Premium, Tidal, TuneIn, and Vevo.
Things Google Home Can Do That Alexa Can’t
Though I have been pretty clear on which device is my favorite, it doesn’t mean that Google Home is not a worthy competitor when it comes to being a great Smart home controller. After all, this device is made by one of the biggest tech companies out there, and they’ll be damned if they don’t give it their all to make it the best that it can be.
That slightly heavier price tag comes with the power of Google behind it, which is not something small. Of course, the single best thing about Google Home is that it is powered by Google and all the knowledge held within; which means you’ll get the most in depth and accurate answers possible to your queries. Here are a few more things Google Home can do that Alexa can’t:
1. Music Streaming
Like I mentioned above, Alexa has a few more music streaming services than Google, but that doesn’t mean that Google doesn’t have it’s exclusive streaming services either. First, of course just like Amazon Prime Music, Google has its own version called Google Play Music that you will find on Google Home. Next, Google Home is also compatible with YouTube Music which Alexa is not.
But, if you have Chromecast, you can technically use any streaming service you desire and cast it onto your Google Home and use it as the speaker!
While we are on the subject of Chromecast, it is safe to say that this is the single biggest selling point of getting Google Home vs. Amazon Echo. Your Google Home is integrated with Chromecast, so any of your devices that have Chromecast become automatically integrated with Google Home as well. You can use your smart home hub to control these devices easily and seamlessly through voice control.
3. Multiple Commands
Unlike Alexa, Google Home has the capability of understanding multiple commands in one. This is a really great feature because it saves you time and allows you to speak a lot more naturally. “Ok Google, play Stranger Things and put the volume down”, this command would not be understood by Alexa, but your Google Home will do exactly what you asked.
4. Natural Conversations
As I mentioned in the last point, Google understands contextual speaking which makes for a lot more natural conversations. Suppose you ask your hub a question and once it answers you have a follow up question. Your Google Home will be able to fill in the blanks and understand that you are referring to the previous subject and answer you accordingly; something Alexa cannot do.
5. Play Songs in Context
Just in the same way, Google Home can also understand context when you are talking about music. During the hub’s release press event, Google shared an example of how this works. They said “Ok Google, play that Shakira song from ‘Zootopia.'” Google Home started playing the right song, ‘Try Everything’ by Shakira. When they asked Alexa to carry out the same command, she replied with a list of Shakira songs, and a list of all the songs from ‘Zootopia’. This is a pretty neat feature to have.
6. Short Commands Set Up
If you take your time to set up shortcut commands on your Google Home hub, you will notice that your life is so much simpler. Saying things like “Ok Google, play my favorite song” or “Ok Google, date night” could help you set the room exactly how you want it, from temperature to lights, music and everything with a few short words.
7. Change Voice
This might not seem like a big deal, but Alexa simply doesn’t have this feature. Google Home has two voices; male or female. Both hubs allow you to change dialects, but only Google has the choice between voices.
8. Night Mode
While I mentioned that Alexa has whispering capabilities, Google Home can be set to Night Mode. Though the hub won’t be able to tell what you’re trying to say when you whisper to it, it will still reduce the volume of the speaker and dim the lights on it as well. You can set the timer for how long you want night mode to remain on.
Can I Use Alexa and Google Home Together?
Ah, so what if you can’t decide between the two? What if you want the capabilities of both the speakers in your home? Well, the answer is simple, get both! If you’re wondering if both the hubs can work together, the answer is a little more complicated because it’s yes and no.
Yes, these speakers can work in a single home under a single network connection. These speakers will work independently to carry out the functions that are commanded of them. What you need to decide is where you want each assistant to work depending on their advantageous features.
Take some time out to see which hub you use for what capabilities. If you use Chromecast, then you probably want to keep your Google Home device in the living room near the TV and entertainment system, while leaving the Alexa in your bedroom to take care of any “assistant” duties like setting alarms and keeping track of lists etc. However, the choice of where you choose to place each speaker is completely up to you.
Now, when it comes to the “No” part of the answer, it isn’t as straightforward either. Google Home and Alexa cannot be integrated and definitely cannot speak to each other. However, if you want to use both devices to control your smart home, you can pair both of them with the other smart devices and appliances in your home and use them both to control them; albeit at different times.
Can You Make Voice Purchases on Amazon With Google Home?
Alexa has this amazing feature that allows you to shop on Amazon with simply your voice. You just have to ask Alexa to buy what you want and she’ll do it for you. Not just that, she will even go into your purchase history and suggest other items for you to buy from the category of product that you have asked her to search for.
When it comes to shopping with Google Home, of course Amazon is one of the first places you want to be able to shop from. Unfortunately, when you shop using your Google Home, you’re not going to shop from Amazon, but rather from Google Express (a much less exciting shopping experience). However, if you order groceries and other such items using Google Home, you can do that from Walmart. Plus, this hub also allows you to shop from Target, so it isn’t all that bad.
If you’ve read this far, then you know for me the clear winner is the Amazon Echo with Alexa, but that doesn’t mean Google Home doesn’t shine in the category. Google Home might be a little more expensive than Echo, but Google is also constantly updating the device and what it can do to make it better. Soon, I feel Google’s hub will catch up to Alexa, and could possibly surpass it one day too.
Of course, at the end of the day you’ll have to decide which smart speaker will work best for you. If you’re planning on using it for Nest products, I would definitely go with Google Home. But if you’re looking for something that works more seamlessly with other smart devices then Amazon Echo is the way to go.