Amazon Alexa vs. Google Assistant for Smart Home Control | Digitized House

Amazon Alexa vs. Google Assistant for Smart Home Control

Amazon Alexa vs. Google Assistant for Smart Home Control
Amazon Echo vs. Google Home Mini Speakers. Image: Digitized House Media.
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The soaring popularity of virtual assistants has set the stage for competition. With contributions from Amazon and Google, consumers across the country have to choose between two of the tech industry’s leading brands. Neck and neck, Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant and each deliver value with their own unique selling points.

If you’ve found yourself torn between Alexa and Google Assistant, you’re not alone. The tech marketplace is increasingly complicated and difficult to navigate, full of products that are “bigger and better” and “next-gen.” To sort through the claims, you’ll need to know where Alexa and Google Assistant differ in skills and actions.

By “skills” and “actions,” we’re referencing the abilities of these products. When you assess their functionality, you’ll have a clear idea of where these virtual assistants fit within the context of your day-to-day life. Of course, your evaluation shouldn’t end there, and it’s best to begin with an overview of both systems.

Amazon Alexa

Alexa runs on the entire Amazon Echo speaker line, including these products (left to right): Echo (1st generation), Echo (2nd generation), Echo Dot (3rd generation), and Echo Dot (2nd generation). Image: Digitized House Media.
Alexa runs on the entire Amazon Echo speaker line, including these products (left to right): Echo (1st generation), Echo (2nd generation), Echo Dot (3rd generation), and Echo Dot (2nd generation). Image: Digitized House Media.

While Google Assistant has its appeal, Alexa is just as attractive to consumers searching to integrate their smart home products. Since Amazon’s first smart Echo speaker, they’ve continued to improve upon themselves and expand the functionality of their virtual assistant. Here are several categories to consider.

[1] Wake Words

Alexa has numerous wake word options, which include “Alexa,” “Amazon,” “Echo” and “Computer.” Even with this larger repertoire, Alexa is often inflexible with wording and word sequences. While it’s strong with shopping-related queries, it relies a bit too much on Wikipedia for knowledge-related queries.

[2] Abilities

In terms of basic functionality, Alexa has many of the abilities of its competitor. It allows the user to combine smart home devices into rooms, supports Routines and links to streaming sticks. At the same time, Amazon has struggled with YouTube integration due to its tensions with Google.

[3] Third-Party Skills

Amazon’s virtual assistant shines with its third-party skills, boasting an enormous number of abilities. The Echo can also receive calls from other Echos and take calls from the home phone line with the addition of an Echo Connect box. In terms of multi-user capabilities, the user has to say a command to switch accounts.

Google Assistant

The Google Home speaker runs the Google Assistant. Image: Digitized House Media.
The Google Home speaker runs the Google Assistant. Image: Digitized House Media.

The value of a virtual assistant is easy to assess in three simple categories. In looking at voice control, smart home integration and abilities, you can determine whether Google Assistant has a place in your home or if Alexa is the superior choice. Let’s start with Google Assistant’s proficiency with voice activation. Google Assistant is available as an app, and also runs on all Google Home speakers.

[1] Wake Word

Google Assistant has two “wake word” options, which are essentially the phrases which activates it. You’ll have to say, “Hey Google” or “OK Google” anytime you want to use the device. At the same time, it’s excellent at handling free-form, web-based queries and has a conversational tone with an understanding of multiple languages.

[2] Routines

Google Home connects to anything with Chromecast, though several brands like Blink, Carrier, and Haiku are still inaccessible. It allows the user to combine smart home devices into rooms for convenience and supports “Routines.” These Routines enable multiple actions in one command for quick, effortless control.

[3] Third-Party Actions

Google’s virtual assistant has a variety of third-party “actions” which let you communicate with companies like Uber or Domino’s. It can make outbound voice calls, but can’t receive them. Still, its multi-user functionality is impressive, recognizing up to six separate voices to switch seamlessly between accounts.

Comparing Alexa and Google Assistant

In terms of voice control, Google Assistant is more intelligent and flexible with wording. Alexa has more wake word options, but that’s a meager advantage that doesn’t contribute much to its overall value. 

As for smart home integration, Google Assistant and Alexa are capable of the primary functions you would expect from a virtual assistant. They each enable the grouping of smart devices, as well as Routines—though, as we mentioned earlier, Amazon has had a difficult time securing YouTube integration.

Concerning functionality, Alexa has a greater breadth of abilities, numbering in the tens of thousands. Google Assistant has far fewer “actions,” which might sway a potential buyer toward Amazon. Even with their limitations, Google is catching up, though it might take them a while. 

An Educated Decision

Ultimately, the right choice depends on your personal situation. If you’re searching for functionality, you might prefer Alexa, but if you’re searching for easy voice control, Google Assistant might be a better pick. You’ll also have to consider where Alexa and Google Assistant differ in skills and actions.

When deciding on your next virtual assistant for smart home control, look at more than their capacity for integration. Take a holistic approach as you weigh your options, and when you finally choose, you’ll feel confident you made an educated decision.

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Kayla Matthews

Kayla Matthews is a technology journalist and productivity blogger. She is a senior writer for MakeUseOf and the owner and editor of her tech productivity blog, Productivity Bytes. You can read more by Kayla at Inc.com, VentureBeat, DMN, and more.
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