Over the past few years, Google and Amazon have rounded out their product lines, improved their software, and removed the mess that smart home devices left in toddlerhood. The Amazon Echo Dot and Google-Home-Rebranded-as-Nest-Mini introduced the smart home category into their youth, giving the industry an unprecedented scale and ambition. Yes, these smart speakers are growing along with the entire smart home market. The Google Assistant and Alexa will soon receive college brochures in the mail asking you to rent the car.
However, as the use of each platform increases, the assessment becomes more complicated. What platform is really the best when you consider hardware, software, privacy, and everything in between? It’s time for a deep dive – and we’ll begin our comparison with a look at the smart entry-level speakers in each camp.
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Siri may have been the first popular voice assistant, but the Amazon Echo was the first popular smart speaker. Today, the often-discounted $ 50 Echo Dot (it’s only $ 30 now) is the standard bearer for the industry. It shares an editor’s choice with the Nest Mini and is characterized by top-notch design and intelligence. Pay a few extra dollars and you can get one with a built-in dial.
For Amazon users, the Echo offers the bonus of connecting to Amazon Prime. That means it is very easy to order things and check the order status. Add that to the thousands of smart home devices that work with Alexa and you have a pretty solid smart speaker on your countertop. Read our Echo Dot (3rd Generation) review.
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Google’s $ 50 second generation smart speaker is a great buy, especially when it’s on sale (often just $ 29 or free with another Google product purchase). The Nest Mini is Google’s smallest speaker and has better sound quality than the Echo Dot and the first Google Home Mini.
Google Assistant is built in, making commands for a Google-led smart home a breeze. While there is no clock display like the Echo Dot with clock, this generation offers better sound, a wall mount option, LEDs with presence detection, more microphones, and an environmentally friendly fabric. All of this technology for just $ 50 won an Editors’ Choice Award. Read our Google Nest Mini review.
When it comes to hardware, Amazon has the most complete line of products on the market and caters to customers, and Options for speakers and displays. And while some of the new devices feel like smaller iterations on previous products (like the ), others are really good supplements that will drive Google’s direct competitors out of the water. For example the premium sound received a much higher rating from us than last year and it also costs less.
While Google doesn’t have the range of Alexa products, the smart speakers and displays on offer are impressive. Last year we got a new design (and it sounds better), a second generation of its mesh router system, and a new one Smart display. Each of these devices is a solid piece of equipment that we heartily recommended. This gives Google Assistant users a choice between two large Google Smart Displays, not to mention Lenovo’s Google Assistant-enabled options like that .
Amazon seems more interested in pushing hardware innovation to the limit and delivered that, , , and more just last year. Sure, Amazon’s Alexa avalanche of every shape and size of smart thing may be too complicated for some consumers, but for most, it just means more personalization in the products they buy.
Last year, Google tried itShut down the Works with Nest program and turn on Works with Google Assistant. . Users who made the irreversible change were not pleased to see that they were no longer able to connect to popular third-party services like IFTTT, so Google tried to clean up the mess.
That decision speaks to Google’s willingness to break the foundations for a better future smart home platform in Works with Assistant. While this ambition is often frustrating for users, Google has such impressive software for its various products. Alexa is improving, but cannot bridge the gap with Google Assistant. Google’s superior user experience is also evident in the intuitive design of the Nest Hubs ($ 90 at Crutchfield) Smart display that is miles ahead of the Echo Show ($ 230 on Amazon).
Apart from the inclusion of ZigBee support in theand the Amazon isn’t doing much to support the growing smart home device market. With Alexa’s open API – the application programming interface that almost any hardware vendor can use to create Alexa-compatible products – businesses can work better with their ecosystem than Google’s more restrictive approach. However, the success of smart homes is about preparing for the future. Given the plethora of popular tools the company has to offer (Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Search, Nest, YouTube), Google seems poised to come up with a more holistic vision for the smart home.
There are thousands of devices that work with each of these brands, but Google is building a future-oriented platform and carefully improving it with every update and integration. Google recently added features like integrating the ad-supported free version of(There is still no sign of hope for YouTube on Amazon devices). Other functions like So you don’t have to keep saying “Hey, Google” and “Hey” (Hello Issa Rae) were Google premieres, . Google continues to set the standard for user expectations, and Amazon is following suit. When you think of those little details, Google leads the way when it comes to the daily enjoyment of life in a smart home.
When it comes to privacy, neither Google nor Amazon are great examples. Where Apple and GoogleHowever, by default, Amazon is the only major voice assistant developer that continues to allow employees to listen to your voice recordings by default (i.e. ).
We definitely see these companies across the boardright now, whether that’s the case or not. For example, the Nest Hub Max will show a green light every time it takes audio, video, or photos. Amazon went a step further to implement a physical camera shutter and Smart displays. Of course, Amazon also owns Ring, the video doorbell brand that has come under fire and – although it has certainly started to take in the past few months.
Discussing certain devices on a smaller scale may be less helpful than looking at the bigger picture: technology giants have consistently demonstrated thisfor the sake of profit.
Amazon benefits from selling targeted ads based on users’ purchase data, and Google essentially relies on access to data – be it from companies reading your personal emails on Gmail or from. You shouldn’t trust a technology company that cares about it. Put covers on your cameras, turn off voice data collection, and read the fine print whether you’re buying Google or Amazon products.
Loser: Anyone whose data is being monetized.
The overall verdict
Which assistant is really the best? There’s a reason Google and Amazon are the two front runners in the digital assistant race: they both have some serious strengths. While Amazon has consistently released strong devices, Google’s pioneering approach to the smart home and the impressive voice assistant are by far the better investment. If we started equipping a smart home from scratch in mid-2020, Google compatible devices would be our starting point.
Winner: Google, through a nose
Editor’s note, June 10, 2020: This article originally compared Google and Amazon’s smart home strategies for 2019. It has since been updated to compare the companies’ smart home platforms. An earlier version of this article also stated that Google employees could listen to user recordings unless users log out.So users have to choose in the make their voice recordings available to employees.