Which is better, Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant? It’s the age-old question, isn’t it? Well, not really, Alexa has only been around since 2013, while Google Assistant is even younger, being introduced in 2016. Still, it is a very good question and one which warrants examining.
As of the time of writing this article, Amazon and Alphabet Inc. (that’s Google’s parent company for those who haven’t visited Investopedia in a while) are, respectively, the fifth and fourth biggest companies in the world by market capitalisation, making this contest something of a heavyweight title fight, albeit one where there probably won’t be a decisive winner; the small but important concept known as subjectivity playing a bit of a role in this “fight”.
But you’re not here to learn about the comparative standing of the wealthiest conglomerates in the world, you’re here for some practical advice on which smart home assistant you should consider buying and putting in charge of your daily soundtrack, how dark it needs to be before the lights come on automatically and who wins that heated yet ultimately trivial argument between you and your partner.
In this article, we will attempt to compare and contrast the two leading virtual assistants in a way that (a) is accessible for those not particularly ofay with the latest tech jargon and (b) accurately assesses the strengths and weaknesses of each “fighter”.
But where to start?
Wait, here’s an idea, why don’t we just ask Alexa or Google straight up?
“Hey, Alexa, who is better, you or Google?”
No, you’re right, we probably want a less biased opinion, how about:
“Hey, Siri, which is better Alexa or Google Assistant?”
If only things were that easy.
In all seriousness, both competitors in this game have strengths and weaknesses as well as features that will be essential to what you are looking to achieve with your virtual assistant, as well as others that you consider luxuries you can live without. Let’s explore all these and more with some good old Q & A.
What are the core differences between Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant?
Nice one! The core differences are a great place to start because that’s probably what is going to influence your decision the most. Well, maybe some combination of these differences and some of the other things we will compare a little bit later. Some of these differences will be relatively superficial while others will be dealbreakers for some people. Of course, there are a lot of core features on offer from these platforms, so we will try and keep our assessment of each as concise as possible here.
The first difference that stands out is with regards to responsiveness – how well does the assistant understand what you’re asking it to do and how well does it execute the task. Generally speaking, Alexa needs you to be pretty specific when given instructions, whereas Google Assistant is better at contextualising your words and working out what you want to happen. The difference between the two isn’t otherworldly, their both A.I. at the end of the day, but it does give Google the slight edge and a 1 – 0 advantage on the scoreboard.
Speaking of commands, the ability to understand and execute more than one of these at a time, multi-tasking if you will, is something any good assistant worth their salt can handle without too much stress. Google once again has an edge here with a superior ability to combine two requests and save you that little bit of extra time. Alexa can achieve something similar with her “Follow-Up” feature, though this needs to be activated and even still, isn’t as intuitive as what Google Assistant can do for you. Google 2; Alexa 0.
Next up we have the question of how much do these assistants know? And no, we’re not talking about whether they’ve been spying on you as you go about your day-to-day, we’re referring to how well they answer your questions. Alexa is really good at answering fact-based and current event-style questions you might see pop up in the early rounds of pub trivia, but there are some gaps in her knowledge. Google Assistant, on the other hand, utilises Google Search, so it has an answer to pretty much any question you can think of, even if that answer is very occasionally wrong. Still, that makes it 3 – 0 in Google’s favour by our count.
Moving right along, the number of services that can be accessed through Alexa or Google Assistant will be an important consideration for potential purchasers and one that is pretty darn close. They also vary from region to region, which is definitely something of which you will want to be aware. As far as third-party services go, both platforms integrate with the big guns such as Spotify and Netflix, so that’s a W each way, and both have some impressive first-party services that make it almost too hard to call on this subject. Amazon gives you Amazon Prime along with Prime Music and Prime Video, whereas Google Assistant is the home of YouTube and YouTube Music, so it’s almost a wash. Let’s give them each a point in this round with the understanding that this decision could come down to personal preference. Google 4; Alexa 1.
Staying in touch via your device is an interesting feature and one where Amazon finally has a distinctive edge. Amazon Alexa devices (which we will look at properly a little bit later) such as the Echo Show allow you to make free audio calls to mobile phones or landlines in your country of residence, something Google Assistant also allows via Google Nest, but also lets you make free video calls between compatible devices and even facilitates group calls on Amazon’s smart displays. Google doesn’t offer such robust communication as yet and their smart displays don’t feature in-built cameras so video calls are a one-way mirror as such at this junction. That makes it Google 4; Alexa 2.
We might finish this section with a quick assessment of languages. More specifically, the languages available to each of these platforms. Google Assistant does get the nod here, once again, which is somewhat unfortunate for those who like a nice close contest. Both platforms have several languages available, Google has a couple more options, with the specific languages dictated by territory, but Google’s dual language mode – this is how well it understands those who flip back and forth between languages during speech – is superior as is it’s in-built interpreter and/or translator. Uh oh, Google 5; Alexa 2.
Okay, so that scoreboard is looking a little lopsided in favour of Google Assistant at this stage, but we can assure you that this contest is tighter than those numbers suggest. Let’s continue this scorecard into the next section to see if we don’t end up with a head-to-head count a little bit more representative of the closeness of the competition.
Which has the better smart speakers and smart devices?
Finally, a category in which Amazon has a clear advantage.
Amazon, being Amazon, not only has a sizeable range of branded smart home devices and Wi-Fi network systems that come with Alexa pre-installed but also has working relationships with several third-party brands who have designed their technology to be Alexa compatible.
Then again, Google is Google, so they too have not only their own technology, including the recently launched Google Pixel 7 range of smartphones but also compatibility with other leading brands across a variety of tech.
The best place to start with Amazon Alexa is with their Echo devices, which now cover multiple generations of Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Show, and Echo Studio. These devices are predominantly speakers, with the more expensive models – the Echo Show range – also featuring screens for video calls, streaming, and tuning into Alexa-compatible security cameras. There is a model of Echo to suit just about any budget so it’s simply a matter of deciding how important is the quality of your audio and what else are you going to be doing on this device.
Amazon also has a slight edge as far as third-party speakers are concerned, but it is their compatibility with third-party smart home devices such as smart lights, thermostats, security cameras, and doorbells where they really streak ahead in this department. We’ve got a section on managing your smart home devices coming up, so we won’t delve into that area further here.
Over on the Google side of things, the best place to start is with their phones, an area of the technology market in which Amazon is yet to get involved. As a matter of fact, the integration with carriables and wearables is the one true advantage Google holds when it comes to devices at this stage, though they are also making inroads in terms of the quantity of compatible third-party devices, beginning with the big names in lighting and security and expanding from there.
To be fair, Google’s first-party devices are quite impressive in their own right, with products such as Nest Audio, Nest WiFi, and Nest Hub all offering comparable (sometimes even superior) features to their Amazon equivalents, with the issues being that (a) you’re most likely paying a little or a lot more for the Google devices and (b) there are as many options right now.
As mentioned at the beginning of this section, Amazon Alexa does get the nod here, reducing that scoreboard deficit and making the final couple of comparisons all the more interesting. Google 5; Alexa 3.
Which is the better smart home assistant?
We’re not sure if this question is the heart of the contest, but we think it might be. After all, both platforms are marketed on the idea that they make your life easier, whether that means smartifying (that’s the word, right?) your home, playing that motivating tune when you need it most, or helping you answer that question that’s been rolling around in your head since lunchtime.
As discussed above, both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant can work with a large number of first- and third-party devices that will allow you to control a surprisingly large number of tasks in your home with just your voice or set routines that mean you don’t even need to use your voice. We really are living in the world of tomorrow!
We’ll start here by looking at music (and to a lesser extent, video), because what’s life without music, right? Besides, asking your assistant to play a certain artist, playlist or song is the simplest and most accessible way to use the software. With both assistants able to access Spotify as well as their own music streaming services – Amazon Music and YouTube Music respectively – this sub-category is as close as it gets. Both give you the ability to set up multi-room audio systems if have more than one smart speaker in your house, and while Google Assistant can transfer that music from speaker to speaker as you move throughout your home, Alexa can sync her Echo speakers an Amazon Fire TV devices, which makes for a much better homes theatre experience. In terms of audio quality though, Amazon Alexa’s first-party devices are slightly superior to those offered by Google, giving Alexa the point. Google 5; Alexa 4.
As far as your home’s lighting, heating, and home security go, Amazon Alexa again outshines its rival. Both platforms have multiple options in all these areas, as well as smart doorbells (which can be a lot of fun) and smart plugs (not so fun, but extremely functional), and both allow you to set up automations and routines through their respective apps. Where Alexa pulls ahead is in the customisation of these routines, with or without linking additional services, and through the intuitive Amazon Hunches feature which can automate your smart home devices for you, based on previous behaviour. Finally, the skills library available to Amazon and the ease of use of its app mean that if you want your smart home to be as smart and as intuitive as possible, you’re probably going with Alexa at this stage.
The only caveat here is that owners of Android phones might be better off with Google Assistant given the flexibility that gives them in terms of accessing their devices when not at home. Still, Google 5; Alexa 5.
Who is the winner?
Be honest, you kind of expected it to end up like this didn’t you? Look, they are both great and only getting better. They are also different enough that you should be able to make your decision based on what you really want out of an assistant. Although, those differences are disappearing every day with the two tech giants consistently striving to match the other’s innovations.
If you already have an Android phone or you plan on speaking to and asking questions of your new assistant often, then Google Assistant is probably the way to go. If you’re starting from scratch and you’re really looking to get the full smart home experience, then Amazon Alexa will be the way to go.
What are the alternatives to Alexa and Google Home?
Of course, these two brand behemoths aren’t the only tech companies to have developed virtual assistants. You’re probably well aware of Apple’s version, Siri, who is wonderful and all but is only available with Apple products and is the only option you have if Apple products are what you own.
Apple Homekit which includes the Apple HomePod range is shaping up to be a serious competitor in this space, already offering a range of compatible devices, and is one to keep an eye on, but a deep exploration of its capabilities is probably best left to its own article.
Elsewhere, Microsoft and Samsung, two of the other leading brands in the world of tech and IT, have their own assistants – that would be Cortana and Bing, respectively, though if we’re being honest, neither has approached the levels of Alexa or Google Assistant as yet and neither is unlikely to do so in the near future.
Do you need help choosing and/or installing an Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant compatible device in your home?
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