I tested the Amazon Echo Dot and the Google Home for two weeks to see which was better.
AMAZON ECHO VS AMAZON ECHO DOT – THE ONLY DIFFERENCE IS THE SPEAKER
The Amazon website is rather hopeless at spelling out the difference between the Amazon Echo and the Amazon Echo Dot, so here it is:
Amazon Echo – larger speaker, louder sound; can connect to external speakers using Bluetooth, but does not have a 3.5mm jack.
Amazon Echo Dot – exactly the same but much smaller in size, largely because it has a much tinier speaker. But it has a 3.5mm jack so you can, if you choose, physically connect it to your own speakers, unlike the big Echo. Both can connect to your speakers via Bluetooth.
The Echo Dot is also a lot smaller, roughly the size of a hockey puck, so it’s great for tight spaces. Plus, it’s 1/3 of the price. And you do not need the Echo for the Echo Dot to function. It works as a standalone device.
FROM HERE ONWARDS, I’M JUST GOING TO CALL IT THE AMAZON ECHO because apart from that small difference in speaker size and the Dot’s 3.5mm jack, the Echo and Echo Dot perform exactly the same.
GOOGLE HOME SPEAKER
Unlike both the Echo and the Dot, you cannot connect Google Home to your own separate speakers via Bluetooth, nor is there a 3.5mm jack for a physical connection. The only way to do it is a cack-handed method that means you must buy Google Orb, or go via Chromecast if you want to use TV speakers.
To sum up – Google Home speakers sound OK on their own, but in most cases, you can’t connect to your own with a lot of faff, so if this is important to you (i.e. you want to connect to an expensive or extensive home speaker system), then don’t bother with Google Home.
You need to say a word or phrase to get your device ready to receive instructions.
For Google Home, it’s ‘OK Google’ or ‘Hey Google’, and those are your only options.
For Amazon Echo, the ‘wake word’ is ‘Alexa’. This makes Alexa seem more humanoid, which is why I often call it ‘Alexa’ rather than Amazon Echo. You can change the name from Alexa to the dull ‘Amazon’, ‘Echo’ or ‘Computer’, in case of name clashes (i.e. if your name is Alex or your cat’s name is Alexander François – the pretentious name I gave my cat when I was 12).
What do you DO with these ‘smart speakers’, everyone asks.
For now, here’s what I’ve been using them for, and how they compare.
MUSIC & RADIO
Amazon Echo and Google Home both work with Spotify, which is what I use, so there’s not much difference here.
Google Play Music only works with Google Home.
Amazon Music only works with Amazon Echo.
Apple Music and iTunes work with neither, although for the super-techies, there are always work-arounds, but seriously, who can be bothered? The Apple HomePod will solve this problem when it’s released in December, but until then, forgeddaboutit.
For radio, Amazon Echo and Google Home both picked up the BBC and main radio stations using the simple request, ‘OK Google’ or ‘Alexa’ then ‘Play BBC Radio 4’, for example.
Both play popular podcasts, but Google Home can play more niche podcasts than the Amazon Echo can. However, chances are, your preferred podcast will be available on the Echo.
WINNER: Google Home, but by a small margin
Amazon Echo: This is my primary use for the Amazon Echo. It works pretty seamlessly with Audible, so you can listen on the bus on the way home on your headphones, then tell Alexa (aka Amazon Echo) to ‘Play Audible’, and it’ll go straight to the last place you listened. Even better, if you’re using it while cooking, for example, and you don’t want to have to touch anything, just say ‘Alexa Pause’, and it’ll pause while you turn on the noisy kettle, then ‘Alexa Resume’, and it picks up right where it left off.
Google Home: Bafflingly, it can’t read audiobooks, not even those you’ve purchased through Google Play Store. >shrug<
And yes, before techies get on here, there are tedious workarounds with casting it from your phone (i.e. go to your phone, choose to cast it, etc), but that rather negates the entire point of a ‘smart speaker’ that you can just give commands to.
WINNER: Amazon Echo, by a mile
Google Home will work with Chromecast, but it’s not as easy as you’d think.
Amazon Echo will soon work with the Amazon Fire Stick, but again, not as straightforward as just saying, ‘Turn on Netflix.’ You have to turn on the TV, get it to the right channel, then connect to Netflix or Prime, and then it find shows for you, but only with specific equipment. And it won’t currently operate your ordinary Sky, BT, freeview or Virgin Media boxes.
So to sum up, these both currently suck at this. But surely – SURELY – that will soon change.
WINNER: They’re both losers here
Neither device can make calls yet, at least not in the UK. I’ve read that Amazon Echo can do this in America, but I can’t test it, so not sure. Presumably, this will come to the devices soon, and there are some BETA call and messaging apps already available in the UK, but they’re waitlisted, so you can’t try them yet.
What’s on my calendar today? Amazon Echo can tell you – and that includes if you use Gmail calendar.
Google Home CANNOT tell you, even if you use Gmail calendars. WTF Google? Get your act together. Basics.
WINNER: Amazon Echo
They’ll both give you very basic forecasts.
Amazon Echo uses forecasts from the superior AccuWeather service. For the UK, it’s still not as good as BBC Weather, if you ask me, but it’s good for rest of world, and comes a close second to BBC.
Google Home uses Weather.com – great for North America, less good for rest of world.
But neither of these is a deal-breaker. Amazon Echo wins by an edge because I live in the UK, but if you live in America or Canada, then it doesn’t much matter.
WINNER: Amazon Echo, but only by a sliver
Honestly, they both suck at this. Amazon Echo is slightly better. It has some recipe apps, so will talk you through ingredients and cooking techniques for basic recipes. Google Home, on the other hand, can do an internet search to bring you some back recipes, but it can’t seem to read ingredient lists, diving straight into the directions, and then it can’t pause and continue. You have to keep searching for the same recipe.
If you want to know how to boil an egg, they both help, but beyond that, I’m giving these both a 2/10 for cooking help.
If you just want to ask any old question and for the app to find the answer, Google Home wins because it uses Google to search.
Amazon Echo uses Bing, which is the dumbest search engine that has been devised since Ask Jeeves.
But they both still kind of suck at this, even Google Home.
They’re OK, but more often than not, you get ‘I don’t know how to help with that’ from Google Home, or ‘I don’t know that’ from Alexa.
But on the whole, Google Home wins here.
WINNER: Google Home
If you are one of the four people on the planet who has already rewired your home with smart lights, smart door locks and smart plugs, then this will be very important to you – in which case, you need to go to the respective websites Amazon Echo Smart Home Devices and Google Home Smart Home Devicesand read which works with what.
I am not one of those four people. Therefore, if you want to prepare for a smart home, choose your device, then buy the related elements that match it because, as ever, they aren’t interchangeable.
Both tell you the time, read news from an almost identical but limited number of outlets (BBC headlines, Telegraph, CNN and a few others).
You can buy stuff online with Amazon Echo, but only from the Amazon site, and obviously, you have to be very careful about this since you can’t see what you’re agreeing to buy. This works best for repeat orders from past purchase.
You can’t buy anything in real life using Google Home yet.
WINNER: Amazon Echo
Both have shopping and to-do list functions so you can just add items as you think of them – but you’ll need to use a related app to view the list while you’re out and about (unless shopping straight from Amazon, as above). Both can set alarms, timers and reminders. Both can tell you ropey jokes, give you sports scores, simple and often dubious (particularly with Alexa) car directions.
Google Home is slightly better at public transportation directions and times, but still not great.
Amazon Echo has some silly games (it reads a story, gives you choices and you tell it which to choose, for example), learning activities and more. It’s been around longer and has a much wider array of ‘extras’, although most people will not use the vast majority of these.
COMPATIBILITY WITH PHONES / TABLETS
Both have apps that work with iPhone and Androids.
Amazon also has an app for its Fire devices (as you’d expect).
WINNER: Amazon Echo, slightly
VALUE FOR MONEY
WINNER: Amazon Echo Dot by a mile
My husband has an Android phone, and I have an iPhone. We are a household technologically divided. But we are united in one conclusion. Right now, the Amazon Echo and the Amazon Echo Dot both beat Google Home hands down.
Personally, I’d buy the Amazon Echo Dot. I haven’t even connected it to larger speakers – I just use it’s inbuilt one – and it works just fine.
But I can see potential for Google Home. If you already have Chromecast and an Android phone, and are wedded to the world of Android, you’d probably want to go with Google Home for its hopeful future functionality. However, the fact it can’t even work seamlessly with Google’s own functions – particularly Gmail calendar and Gmail audio books – make me slightly worried about its dedication to this smart speaker project.
What about Apple HomePod? This could be a game-changer – or not. Nobody knows yet.