Google Home vs Amazon Echo Dot
Last week, my wife and I decided to pick up a Google Home. We’ve had our Amazon Echo Dot for about 3 months now and really like it, but were still pretty curious about Google Home.
I’ve written several times about how we use Alexa. If I were to make a Top 3 list, it’d be Home Automation, Music, and Timers. Nothing super fancy there. We had tried to ask the Echo Dot questions several times hoping it’d be able to do a search for us, but it never really worked out. We’d seen the commercials and heard stories from friends about how they used their Google Home and it sounded like it’d work better for us.
So I grabbed one. From Target. While we were getting groceries.
I love the future.
Unboxing it was fun. Google doesn’t bundle much with it. We plugged it in, loaded up the Home app on my phone and were up and running in 5 minutes or so.
It’s a very non-intrusive device. Whereas my Echo Dot has Amazon’s logo directly on the front, Google Home is very plain. It has a simple g on the back.
It blends into our living room, just a part of the fog of things in our house.
“Ok Google, play whale noises.”
I mean, we’d seen the commercials so many times that we just had to try it for ourselves. Sure enough, it worked.
“Hey Google, what time is it in Philadelphia?”
We started off with some really simple searches. Then things got more and more complicated and each time, Google Home responded back. It already felt like a win, but we had a lot more to find out.
A quick setup got SmartThings integrated with it and I was off controlling my home with yet another device. The interface to SmartThings is just as straight forward as my Echo Dot. Google does seem to handle rooms a lot better than Alexa does. I have a few lights in my front hallway. Whenever I ask Alexa to “turn the hallway lights on”, I get a response back telling me that there is no group called all lights. Google Home didn’t have any issue with this.
When Google does turn things off, it likes to tell me how many lights it has handled. It almost seems like it’s showing off a little bit.
“Hey Google, turn off the sunroom lights.”
“Got it, turning off 4 lights.”
I also really like how it goes back and forth between several phrases. So far, I’ve gotten “Ok“, “Got It“, and “No Problem.”
While I think both Google Home and Alexa seem to do a pretty good job of controlling my SmartThing devices, Google Home has significantly better voice recognition and it makes interactions much more natural and easier.
Google Home also sounds a lot less robotic than Alexa. My daughter was very unsure of Alexa for a while, but she was trying to interact with Google Home (or googo as she calls it) by day 2. This could also be because Alexa broke the ice there.
Both devices hook up to my Spotify Premium account and both can play music from it. That being said, Google can do so much more with Spotify. I can ask Google to repeat the last song. Google is much better at recognizing when I want to play a custom playlist. It’s not fair to compare the Google Home speaker with my Echo Dot, but it is a very nice upgrade.
Alexa does have the advantage of Amazon’s Free Prime music. I believe Google Home has something similar, but I’ve only been using Spotify.
At first, we went back and forth between Alexa and Google Home when it came to music. We had songs on Amazon Prime Music that we were enjoying and couldn’t get on Spotify. At this point, though, it’s almost always Google.
I did find out that I need to switch to a Spotify Family account instead of my personal one. Granted, I could’ve stuck with my single account, but playing on Google Home meant that I couldn’t play music while at work. I found this out when I played a song on my work laptop and got nothing back. When I looked at the app, it said it was playing on my Google Home. I had interrupted my daughters “If you’re happy and you know it” with some NOFX. Oops.
After converting to a family account, I moved my Google Home over to its own account. Another perk is that my wife can also now have an account and we can throw an account on my daughter’s iPhone. It only cost me an additional $5, so it’s not a bad deal at all. No more “If you’re happy and you BEER BONG“.
There is truly no comparison here. Google Home, far and away, takes the prize.
First off, Google Home is a lot better at natural language processing. It understands what I’m asking it even if I’m not phrasing it correctly. It regularly returns good results and I like that it tells me where it got its results from.
I mentioned my top 3 uses of our Echo Dot earlier. They were Home Automation, Music, and Timers. With Google Home, it’s now Home Automation, Music, and Searches. We still use timers, but not nearly as much as searches.
I also didn’t realize how often we were curious about things. We are regularly asking Google questions and it is regularly providing good information.
I think Amazon’s biggest issue is its use of Bing. Microsoft has a decent search engine, but it doesn’t really compare to Google’s just yet. Google also does a great job of parsing the results, whereas Alexa, when it does manage to find something, reads things off like a generic screen-reader.
I’ve already talked a good amount about the home automation part, but there is one feature I haven’t mentioned. I love the fact that the Google Assistant on my phone hooks into my Google Home and can now control my SmartThings devices.
When I was taking out the trash on Thursday and it was super dark out, I simply asked the phone in my pocket to turn my outside lights on. They came on, all hands free. This is awesome.
This is a feature that I didn’t know came with Google Home and that I believe is a game changer. Sure, I always had the SmartThings app on my phone and could do it like that too. To be able to do it hands free, though, makes things a lot easier.
Since I have Garadget integrated into SmartThings, I can also say “Ok Google, open the left garage door” and it opens it.
Google has native Belkin WeMo support. If I wanted, I could hook my devices into it directly in the same manner as I could as my Echo Dot. I decided to stick with going through SmartThings instead, though. It’s the same decision I made with my Echo Dot.
I honestly don’t have a lot of bad things to say about the device itself. For what we use it for, it really is doing a great job. I do have something that I don’t like though and I have no idea how to resolve it.
How the heck can I get my phone to stop responding?
It drives me crazy. If my phone is in the area and I say “Ok Google”, both my phone and Google Home light up. My phone will sometimes display an alert saying “Responding from another device”, but more often it’ll tell me that if I said something, it didn’t hear it. I almost catch myself whispering or leaving my phone out of our living room.
I really hope Google fixes this soon as it’s very annoying. I wish they’d just name their device to something that the phones don’t pick up.
Like, Walter. “Hey Walter, set a timer for 5 minutes.” “Hey Walter, dim the living room lights to 10%.” Anything would be better than what I have going on now.
The only other complaint I have about the device is the notification lights. I love, love, love Alexa’s LED ring. It looks futuristic. It’s bright. If I say Alexa from across the room, I can very quickly see if it’s listening.
Google’s are very classy, but the device is not flat at the top. It’s got a 30ish degree tilt and if you’re facing away from it, you can’t really see if it’s listening. The lights also aren’t nearly as bright as Alexa.
I have been extremely happy with my Google Home to the point where I really don’t have a need for the Echo Dot anymore. My wife has asked if I want to get rid of it, but I think I’ll keep it for now. We might put it in the garage or somewhere that I can’t reach my Google Home (even though I can technically always reach it through my phone). I never ordered anything off my Echo Dot, so I really don’t have any features that I’m missing out on with Google Home.
It’s only been a week now so I might still be in the honeymoon phase with it, but as long as it keeps performing as-is I don’t see myself returning to my Echo Dot. In the battle of Google Home vs Amazon Echo Dot, this judge declares Google Home as the winner.
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