Amazon Echo vs. Google Home: Which works best with Philips Hue

There are a lot of fantastic things you can do with smart lighting, from subtle adjustments to mood and awareness to crazy color raves when you want to freak the dog out. It's a convenience for most, but it's becoming less expensive to set up in your home every day and well-worth checking out if you can.

A big part of that smarter experience can be control with your voice, and while Google Home and Amazon Echo both support the ability to control lights with your voice, the details are very different. Here's what you need to know!

Set up

Amazon Echo

Philips Hue bulbs, which are my favorite of the connected bulbs, offer an API for just about any app to reach in and give commands to your lights once you've given approval. As a result, both Google Home and Amazon Echo offer similar initial connection steps. You use the app on your phone to connect to the Hue bridge, which involves tapping the little button on the box near your router, and moments later you can control individual Hue lights through these services.

Once you've made that connection, things are wildly different. Amazon has its own system in the Alexa app for organizing smart home hardware into individual rooms, so you can say things like "turn off the bedroom lights" and have everything assigned to that room turn off. This isn't a huge deal, unless you have a lot of Hue lights and have already organized your bulbs by room in the Hue app. None of that information is imported by Alexa, so you have to basically set all of your lights up a second time.

Google Home, on the other hand, imports your room selections from the Hue app and adds them to the Home app. It also offers a simple tool from within the app for quickly moving lights to other rooms, instead of just a set of register/unregister check boxes. It's a great deal more user-friendly, especially if you've already spent a lot of time setting up your lights and exploring how you want those lights to work in your home.

Using your voice

Google Home

Google and Amazon both earn high marks for performance when it comes to actually controlling the lights. There's no performance drop when compared to using the Hue app, and voice recognition on both Echo and Home is exceptional, so misfires are rare. That having been said, it's clear Google Home is a great deal more integrated with Hue than Echo is right now.

If you want to control whole rooms for brightness and darkness, the experiences between these two connected speakers is essentially identical. If you want to control individual bulbs and you've assigned personal names to those bulbs, you'll find Google Home is much better at finding the right single bulb and adjusting it as you see fit. The same goes for color changing; Google Home will quickly turn your lights whichever color you ask, where as Amazon Echo is really only built for on and off and dimming right now.

Neither connected speaker can replicate every single feature in the Philips Hue app, but through IFTTT, Google Home gets a great deal closer. The IFTTT channel for Google Home lets you create multiple phrases for individual commands, so you can be very flexible and occasionally downright silly with the things you want to do with these speakers.

On Google Home, I can say "OK Google, get those kids out of bed!" and have IFTTT start a multicolor light show in their rooms. With an Echo, I'd have to say "Alexa, trigger get those kids out of bed!" to accomplish the same. One is clearly not as natural as the other.

Which is better? Google Home

Google Home

Google Home

If your goal is to add natural language commands to your Philips Hue bulbs with as little compromise as possible on features, it couldn't be more clear Google Home is what you want right now. It's just plain better for multiple users in a house full of Hue bulbs right now.

See at Best Buy (opens in new tab)

Amazon Echo

That having been said, if you're new to smart lighting or you only really want to control rooms with your voice, Alexa gets the job done. Amazon has also demonstrated an ability to rapidly improve Alexa when necessary, so it's possible these issues won't be around for very long.

See at Amazon (opens in new tab)

Russell is a Contributing Editor at Android Central. He's a former server admin who has been using Android since the HTC G1, and quite literally wrote the book on Android tablets. You can usually find him chasing the next tech trend, much to the pain of his wallet. Find him on Facebook and Twitter

  • Good to know. Have bought a few smart bulbs by another company that do not have home connectivity at the moment. Was looking into the Philips Hue, just wish they didn't need that extra connection, wish it were so in the bulb. That portable light is what has my interest piqued.
  • Where can I get that Android Dark Side of the Moon box!?!?
  • I'd like to know also
  • Has anyone found a way to add the same light to 2 separate groups/rooms in Google Home. Ex. "Bedroom Nightstand" in "Second Floor" group and "Master Bedroom" group. I like to be able to adjust my Bedroom Nightstand individually but also turn off all the lights in the bedroom when I leave as well as turn off all the lights on the Second Floor when I go downstairs. This is the only thing the Amazon experience does better than Google.
  • Not sure what the problem is. I have my "family room" set up in Hue and have both bulbs individually set up with "fireplace" and "recliner" (the location closest to those lamps). I can control each one individually with Home or turn on/off the whole room. You probably just have it set up wrong.
  • Try placing your recliner in two different locations/rooms in Google Home. You can't. It only allows you to place it in one room. If you are using rooms in Google Home to designate different floors of your house, you can't place a specific item in 2 separate locations. Google forces you to remove the item from one room before you can add it to another room. The Amazon Echo allows you to set up multiple groups and add the same item to different groups.
  • Amazingly when I walk in a room the light switch is just there....mind blown.
  • But is it dimmable, and does it change any color you can imagine. Can you set it to automatically change to your teams colors during a game, and flash when they score. It's about the ambiance, not the effort of flipping a light switch.
  • Or more importantly; turn on lights as I'm about to come into the house after sunset. Turn on randomly while I'm not home to make it look like I am. Turn on automatically in the mornings to help me wake up with my alarm. Change colors and alert you for movement in your Nest cams? Change to red in smoke since it's easier to see through? Heh...yep mind blown indeed.
  • Have fun fumbling for that switch whilst carrying 40 pounds of groceries.
  • Google seems to be having issues lately. You can say turn on the lamp lights 20 times and then one other person says it and they come on. Was flawless at first but over time it seems like it has more and more issues. Also, and I'm not sure if this is it, but it seems like my 2.4 ghz is slower with the Bridge on it. I've seen other people mention it as well but I haven't seen it verified. I still need to run some speed tests with everything off and then everything completely disconnected. Switched what I could over to 5.
  • I found the same to be true of my echo and echo dots until I switched to Google Wifi. I was sceptical of Google Wifi but gave it a shot and can't say enough good things about it. My Asus AC-1900 had better range but the mesh network is a pleasure to work with and rock solid. Although, I have to admit, I spent 30 minutes on the phone with Comcast scratching my head trying to figure out why my wifi was down during the whole Google Wifi reboot issue. Smooth sailing since that hiccup.
  • Also purchased a Google wifi. Replaced our Airports and very happy with the Google wifi. My youngest daughter could not stream on her TV and forgot about it. Purchased the GW and now works perfectly not even buffering. Now i am a hero!
  • I used to have similar problems with my Echo Dots and a TON of problems with my 6 Sonos components, but then i found out my Sonos speakers have the ability to use their own mesh network, and the hardware is built into each device already (called "SonosNet"). i enabled SonosNet, and now everything - Alexa, Sonos, streaming 4k TV - is working great! (turns out it was just the demands of Sonos and now that all those components are basically on their own network, it cleared up congestion for the other 15 or so devices on my network!)
  • I like how Google Home handles multiple lights. All my Hue bulbs and smart switches are in the kitchen, dining, and living rooms. So when I'm walking to the bedroom, I tell Google to turn off/on all the lights. It just does it. The Echo had to be told a specific room or group that you previously setup.
  • That is not entirely true. When you search for smart devices with the Alexa app it imports that all hue lights command automatically. Admittedly you have to say turn off all hue lights and it will. So there is the extra "hue" you have to say. But if you don't like that then you can easily set up a group for all lights.