Amazon Alexa – Google Home – Apple HomePod: A Comparative Analysis By Benjamin Roussey
Most people can’t think of smart living nowadays without voice-activated, Internet-connected personal assistants (well, if you want another gadget in your life!). Thus, names like Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and Apple Home Pod are feverishly doing the rounds, and these products seem to be selling like hot cakes. With lower taxes, not too surprising!
These Trojan horses transmit your commands and queries to the cloud. And by doing so, always get to learn more about you. The trend was pioneered by Amazon, which first put the Alexa assistant in its Amazon Echo, followed by the Echo Plus, Show, Tap, Dot, and Spot with 3rd party device manufacturers like Sonos also getting access.
Google Home followed suit as did Google Home Mini and Max soon after. All these feature the Google Assistant and have already made their mark in the market for voice assistants. Never to be a laggard, Apple too, has recently unveiled the HomePod – a terrific speaker no doubt – but without some of the smart efficiencies of its predecessors. Let’s now take a comparative look at them in terms of their individual designs, features, and pricing.
Looks, Utility, & Connectivity
The Amazon Echo is available in numerous shades and fabrics, resembling a short and round pillar. The Tap, on the other hand, is characterized by its rugged look, while Dot looks more like a small puck.
Video screens are found in both the Spot and Echo Show; the latter’s being rectangular in shape. The Echo Spot is round in shape and is also usable as an alarm system. The Echo Plus comes with its own smart hub.
Moreover, the ring around each Echo device’s edge light up when Alexa listens. However, you can also press the mute button on the top for privacy. Echo’s volume levels are adjustable by twisting its ring while Dot’s volume may be raised or lowered by way of conventional buttons.
The Google Home is a rather drab white-and-gray in color, featuring a touch-sensitive top, dotted with lights that come on when the device goes to work. Its curvy shape is enhanced by its modular base, allowing its user to change its default base for something that suits his living space better.
The Home’s back has its mute button with its top being touch-sensitive. This allows you to adjust volume levels by simply sliding a finger across the top.
On the flip side, the Google Home Mini resembles a round and large pebble. Three lights go on when it’s listening. The bulkier and much larger Max is either black or comes with a gray fabric covering. Place it horizontally or vertically, any way you want.
Apple’s HomePod comes draped in either a white mesh or black fabric, somewhat resembling the Home, minus the slanting top. It’s a pod-shaped, seven inch-high device with a top that’s touch-responsive, two buttons for volume control and a third button to activate Siri manually.
It also emits a rainbow-like glow when active. In terms of looks and material, the Apple HomePod scores over its competitors. However, the user’s choice ultimately depends on his personal needs and the aesthetic factors involved in the device.
Sound undoubtedly is a prime feature of these devices. All Google Home and Echo devices as also the HomePod need plugging in to operate. Sonos One speakers for instance that have built-in Amazon Alexa are simply great in terms of sound clarity.
The Amazon Echo devices don’t exactly score on this issue. The same can be said for the Google Home also. It is learned that even though the Amazon Echo’s volume level may be high with full bass, it really doesn’t hit hard. The Google Home’s excessive bass sound is rather grating on the ear, feel many.
The Google Home Max, on the other hand, makes a significant difference here. Its reviews have been favorable, and it’s been called “a great speaker with a truly smart built-in assistant.” Its twin 0.7-inch tweeters and 4.5-inch woofers sure make a difference.
The true scorer here, however, is the HomePod. Its 4-inch woofer, 7 beam-forming tweeters, and A8 chip are its top attributes. The chip enables the device to adjusts to the room conditions and direct the sound accordingly.
With Echo and Home devices, other speakers are utilizable also through Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. This, of course, doesn’t apply to the HomePod, which doesn’t connect through Bluetooth. The Echo also syncs with some Alexa-enabled devices and makes way for greater portability and flexibility when you set up your home’s audio system.
The good news is that numerous 3rd party speaker makers have recently launched devices that are Amazon Alexa and/or Google Assistant-integrated (but they will not do anything for Star Wars The Last Jedi or Guardians of the Galaxy II – those movies are weak no matter what). This eliminates your requirement to buy a Google Home or Echo device.
Once your Home device is fully mapped with its correlating partners, you are able to pass some specific commands through voice-command technology. It is also compatible with Chromecast devices and allows playing YouTube videos on the TV set, again by voice command.
Apple HomePods are for listening to Apple Music only and are AirPlay 2 compatible. The latter from the Apple stable of multi-room audio solutions supports a plethora of 3rd party speakers, including Bose, Bang, & Olufsen, McIntosh, Denon, and Bowers & Wilkins. It, however, doesn’t stream videos like Spotify, for example. You can stream only Apple Music.
Both Home and Echo devices utilize state-of-the-art far-field microphone technology. Google’s claim is that its devices come incorporated with thousands of audio environments that ensure that the Home is able to isolate speech in environments with additional ambient sounds even. The HomePod too comes with 6 microphones, which Apple claims, can hear you, even if the music is blasting.
It’s on this score that one can conclude that the HomePod wins on the sound factor while the Home Max scores in terms of streaming flexibility, sound, and adaptability.
The Echo integrates with an Amazon Prime account. This grants you smooth access to all associated movies (Fast 8, Sicario, Transformers 5, Horrible Bosses, The Foreigner – all amazing!), music, and apps. Meanwhile, the Home connects with the entire Google range of apps and this includes Google Play and Nest appliances.
Since HomePod connects you to Apple Music, you get access to a whopping two million performers, forty million tracks as also your personal playlists.
With Google having partnered with multiple devices, Home is more responsive to command execution. For instance, the smart lock locks when you ask it to, and smart devices are more easily connectable to Alexa. Just link your account after asking Alexa to identify them, and you’re through.
The HomePod acts like a central hub with multiple HomeKit devices around. However, remote access is possible only through the Apple TV. Apple’s stringent standards have limited the list of compatible devices.
Alexa on the other hand carries out numerous functions like playing music, adjusting volumes, skipping tracks hands-free. It answers questions, sets alarms and timers, and also makes your shopping lists.
However, Apple has also claimed that HomePod will soon be able to read the news (like if the Patriots are cheating again or if there is another terrorist attack in Europe) and report on the weather and traffic conditions while setting reminders also. Texting from an iPhone will also be possible since the speaker will use Siri as an assistant.
The Home uses Google Assistant, a sterling helper when it comes to personal tasks like playing music (Ice Cube to Taylor Swift, for instance), checking on traffic, and scanning personal calendars for specific events.
It’s USP or ultimate selling point is its ability to answer questions, making it outshine its competition as a “conversational” personal assistant. It also retains information while responding to follow-up queries. The verdict, therefore, is the Amazon Echo with Alexa since it is more useful in terms of smart-home skills and control (no, it cannot make pancakes for you) while Google Home scores well for answering questions more promptly.
The personal touch
Both Home and Echo devices have provisions for setting up multiple household profiles that allow switching between users. This is particularly useful if your family members have different musical tastes and preferences because both can differentiate between users on voice commands. However, Alexa is better when it comes to calendars, because of its ability to support G Suite calendars, while the Google device supports only personal ones.
This implies your personal events won’t actually show unless shared with your own calendar. In the sphere of language support, both devices recognize British and American English, but Alexa also recognizes the German accent. No, it does not speak Klingon as we heard in that amazing Star Trek: Into Darkness movie or Cybertronian as what was spoken by the Decepticons at the end of Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen. It is not that capable!
Here and moreover, the HomePod becomes a laggard because it can’t recognize different voice types. Moreover, you can attach a single Apple ID to your device which could be a bit of a problem where multiple users are involved. Parental control features are better in the Alexa as it enables you to disable the ability to purchase anything.
However, it’s also known to show explicit content, and you need to delete any embarrassing or awkward data manually. The Apple HomePod encrypts everything it receives and maintains privacy.
The latest Amazon Echo is going at $85. Show, Plus, and Spot, with their additional features cost more. The Dot is selling at $40, and the Google Home is currently priced at $99. The popular Mini costs $39. In the premium categories, the Google Home Max sets you back by a chunky $399, while the Apple HomePod comes at $349.
In sum, as the race for the top slot heats up, each manufacturer is going all out to beat its competition. With newer apps and features showing up almost every day, customers will now be at a loss to make a decision when it actually comes to buying a digitally controlled personal assistant.