So you've decided to take the plunge and grab your first smart speaker or display (believe us, you'll love it). But here is the big question: should you choose one that responds to Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant?
That's the choice you'll come across if you choose between Amazon Echo speakers and screens, home to the ubiquitous Amazon Alexa, or Google Nest devices (formerly Home), powered by Google Assistant.
What is the best way to choose between Echo and Nest? Well, that depends on various factors. Do you want to be on the platform that is compatible with the smartest gadgets, or with an assistant who can answer the most diverse questions? Do you prefer the platform with the most third-party apps, or perhaps the one who is the most skilled at setting up daily routines?
Now if someone would ask me to choose the best smart speaker / display ecosystem without any other context, I should go with Amazon Echo.
Thanks to Alexa, Echo devices have the largest number of smart integrations, the smartest routines (or programmable actions triggered by different circumstances), the most third-party skills (or at least the easiest) to discover) and the widest variety of hardware. But again, it's hard to beat a Nest Assistant powered by Google Assistant when answering general questions, and Google has a number of smart home security features for Nest speakers that can help the scales to their advantage.
Let's break it down, starting with …
Best compatibility with smart home
One of the best things you can do with your new Echo or Nest device is to use it as a command center for all other smart devices in your house. Just ask Alexa or Google, and they can turn your lights on and off, check your security cameras, turn on your TV, light up your sunglasses, and even brew beer.
all smart devices work with any platform, and although there are many gadgets that work with both Alexa and Google Assistant, you will often find that they choose one or the other.
Now if there is a specific smart device that you are absolutely set to use and it only works with Alexa or Assistant, well, your decision may have already been made. But if you are just starting out in the smart home world and you don't have specific gadgets in mind, choosing the platform with the widest support for third-party smart gadgets is a good starting point.
Alexa, for its part, is compatible with a staggering number of brands ranging from Arlo and August to Zentec and Zulux, and Amazon claims that more than 85,000 smart gadgets from more than 7,500 brands work with Alexa. Enter the smart start section of your local Best Buy and you'll see the Alexa logo everywhere. In my experience, if a smart product works with a smart platform at all, Alexa is almost always one of them.
Google Nest, which is powered by Google Assistant, is almost as common as Alexa when it comes to smart home integration, but it is still lagging behind with a fairly decent margin. The last we heard, around 30,000 products from more than 3,500 brands work with Google Assistant, including major smart home players such as Arlo, August, Belken, Philips Hue, Kasa, Logitech, LIFX and more from Signify.
Of course, the large number of gadgets with which a smart home platform is compatible does not mean that it is squat if it does not work with the smart devices that are most important to you. But if we are only talking about numbers …
Winner: Amazon Echo
The best at answering random questions
Strictly speaking, the ability of a digital assistant to answer general questions ("Who was George Washington? ") Not in itself is not a smart home function, but because choosing one of these two large smart speaker platforms means that you spend quality time with Alexa or Google Assistant, we thought it was worth dealing with .
Amazon has spent years and untold bazillions that refine Alexa's ability to parse your senses, anticipate likely follow-ups, and otherwise tease the meaning of our daily questions. But while it's unparalleled when it comes to understanding your questions, Alexa sometimes sniffs when it comes to answering them, particularly general questions such as, "What are the Canterbury Tales about?"
Alexa & # 39; s problem is that she is not Google – or, to be more specific, she cannot take advantage of Google's terrifying amount of knowledge about anything and everything. Amazon has indeed recently announced a program called Alexa Answers to help crowdsource answers to questions that Google dump. Not a bad idea, but Alexa is not going to get Google out of Google soon.
Winner: Google Nest
You wouldn't invite a roommate without a few levels of confidence, right? The same applies to digital assistant-driven smart platforms such as Alexa and Google Nest. Together with Apple & # 39; s Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant were entangled in a privacy scandal last summer when it was revealed that Apple, Amazon and Google had authorized external contractors to listen to voice recordings from their respective digital assistants to measure their accuracy. Talk about a violation of privacy, not to mention trust.
Since then, Apple, Amazon and Google have bent over to make it right, with all three companies rolling out new privacy controls and policies explaining what they are listening to, why they do it and how you you can unsubscribe if you want.
Both Alexa and Google Assistant (and also Siri) now let you see everything they've heard from you, for example, and you can easily delete their listening history. You can also opt out of "manual review" of your voice recordings, and set both Alexa and Google Assistant to automatically delete your assistant activity after a set period of time. That said, we are still paranoid about our smart speakers and displays listening to every word.
Winner: Tie (and we're not happy to call someone a & # 39; winner & # 39; here)
With both Alexa and Google Assistant you can & # 39; routines & # 39; Set up. These are actions (or a series of actions) that are triggered by a specific event. For example, you can set Alexa or Google Assistant to turn on your lights, tell you the weather, and then read the news when you say "Good morning", or dim the lights, close your curtains, and lower the thermostat when you say : "I am going to bed."
But although both digital assistants have a wide range of actions for a particular routine, Alexa gets the nod for the most diverse group of triggers. Although the triggers of Google Assistant are almost limited to voice commands, Alexa & # 39; s routines can be triggered by your location (for example when you leave work or come home), an alarm that is rejected, the time of day (a specific time) or sunrise) or sunset), or the press of an Echo button.
Winner: Amazon Echo
Best digital photo frame features
After warming up to your first smart speaker, you finally come to hold a smart screen – and once you do, you will you quickly notice that one of your favorite smart screen functions is the ability to use it as a digital photo frame.
Amazon & # 39; s Echo Show displays allow you to view a slideshow of your Amazon photos & Facebook snapshots, and you can choose an album with manually selected photos or an automatically generated album from friends and family, all thanks to the magic of face recognition and machine learning.
Google & # 39; s Hub and Hub Max once displays the Echo Show with their support for the Google Photo Live Albums feature, making it incredibly easy to create a continuously updated album of friends, loved ones, and even pets to make. And not only does Google seem more skilled at recognizing faces, it also works better at creating attractive photo collages that help fill the entire screen when dealing with portraits.
Winner: Google Nest
Best built-in home security
Although there is a whole range of home security devices that you can operate with Alexa and Google Assistant, both Echo and Google Nest devices are security gadgets in themselves .
Take Alexa Guard, a feature that allows your Ultrasound device to hold an ear for breaking glass and carbon monoxide or smoke detectors, and it can send you a mobile notification or send a warning to a professional security service if you have a ring alarm or a ADT uses -compatible security service. Amazon has also announced that Alexa Guard will soon be launching other & # 39; sounds of activity & # 39; can detect while you are away (such as footsteps, talking or turning the tap).
Not to be surpassed, Google Nest devices may soon hear suspicious noises, while the Google Nest Max smart screen comes with its own built-in Nest camera that turns on automatically when you leaves the house and is turned off when you return.  Not bad, but the upcoming built-in security features of Google Nest will depend on Nest Aware, a paid subscription service. By the time Nest Aware supports & # 39; suspicious noise & # 39; for Echo speakers, it costs $ 6 a month, a price that covers all of your Nest security equipment. (Currently, Nest Aware starts with $ 5 a month for a single Nest camera.) Alexa Guard, on the other hand, is free and we are big fans of free.
Winner: Amazon Echo
Largest range of devices
Both Amazon and Google offer a range of smart devices of their own brand, some large, some small, some with displays and others that are just speakers. But Amazon Echo has a clear lead in the huge variety of first-party hardware and accessories.
Google's smart ecosystem ranges from the $ 50 pint Nest Mini speaker (formerly known as the Home Mini) to the $ 230 Nest Hub Max, which features a 10-inch display and (as mentioned earlier) a built-in Nest camera. In between is the 7-inch Nest Hub display and the medium-sized Google Home speaker. There is also the high-end, $ 300 Home Max speaker, connect the new Google Wifi mesh router(from $ 170), complete with Google Assistant built into every optional Wi-Fi node. In general it is a solid, sensible line-up.
Amazon, on the other hand, has gone crazy with its Alexa-powered devices. Yes, there are some obvious similarities with Google, such as the Nest Mini-sized Echo Dot (which shares the Nest Mini's $ 50 price tag), the $ 230 10-inch Echo Show display (together with the smaller Echo Show 8and Echo Show 5), the mid-range $ 100 Echo speaker the $ 130 Echo Sub and the upcoming Dolby Atmos-compatible Echo Studio speaker for a cool $ 200.
But Amazon is not afraid to think outside the box when it comes to the Echo line. Consider the Echo Frames(basically Alexa-powered glasses), the Echo Loop (Alexa in a ring), the Echo Flex (a compact speaker with Alexa that you can connect directly to a wall socket), the Echo Glow (a groovy smart lamp aimed at children), the Echo button (a large, colorful button with which you can activate routines and play games), and the Echo input (which can become Alexa operated a standard "dumb" speaker). In short, we are talking about Echo devices here, there and everywhere and Amazon shows no signs of delay.
Winner: Amazon Echo
Most promotions and apps
In addition to their basic functions and functionality, both Alexa and Google Assistant support third-party apps that work on smart speakers and screens. Alexa calls these apps & # 39; skills & # 39 ;, while Google Assistant calls them & # 39; actions & # 39; calls. Just like the apps on your phone, Google Assistant promotions and Amazon Alexa skills enable both assistants to do things like tell jokes, call booths, order pizza, check your bank account and more.
Quantifying which smart platform has the best apps is a tricky business. We can start with how many apps each platform has, but getting meaningful numbers can be tricky. Amazon recently said that Alexa had just topped up 100,000 skills, while Google claims that Assistant has more than a million actions, although a third-party analysis earlier this year brought Google's number closer to around 4,200 – a huge difference. (Maybe Google counts each individual command as an action? Hmmm.)
In addition to the huge amount of actions and skills, there is the issue of quality, and a quick look at Amazon's # of skills directory reveals numerous offers from low quality, many of which a purchase is required to unlock their full functionality.
Yet we will give Alexa a head start based on discoverability, with the Alexa mobile app with a Skills directory that is easy to browse and search. For Google Assistant you have to go on the internet to explore the available actions in detail.
Winner: Amazon Echo