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Two platforms, one house: Choosing between Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa

I live in a multi-platform household. It's incredibly jarring at times, particularly when I find myself unable to choose between platforms. Do I stick to Google and its Assistant, because my devices are all Google-born and tied to the search engine's services? Or do I finally decide to make full use of my annual subscription to Amazon Prime? This is the conundrum I face.

I'm not just talking about connected speakers here: When you're choosing between a Google device and an Amazon product, you're choosing between two vastly different, robust ecosystems. Just as Google has its AI-driven assistant, Chromecast and Android TV platform, and a variety of integrated third-party services, so does Amazon offer its connected gadgets and library of content for anyone who is also excited by the idea of free two-day shipping. It's not just a product these companies are selling here; it's a lifestyle and the one you choose locks you into a rhythmic way of life where you rely on nothing but the services offered by your connected speaker.

I've been experiencing this myself as I recently bought an Amazon Echo Dot to accompany my two Google Home devices, just to add a bit more variety to my pitiable connected home. Granted, it's part of my job to use this stuff (especially considering Alexa is on smartphones now), but it's also helping me understand some of the core differences between Google's and Amazon's connected ecosystems.

Amazon buys you stuff

As if this wasn't clear from the beginning, the sole purpose of Amazon integrating more variety into its commerce is to sell you stuff. And it works marvelously! There's a reason the term "Daily Amazon" is a staple in some households.

I've spent months living with the Google Home and not once have I asked it to purchase anything. Conversely, the Amazon Echo Dot has become the shopping gadget; it's there when my husband and I are going crazy attempting to organize our lives by stocking up on necessities. We are that commercial you often see for Alexa.

The commercial you often see for Amazon Alexa.

It's not a bad thing; in fact, this might explain why Amazon is taking the lead. According to TechCrunch, though the Google Home sold well during last year's holiday season, it was the Amazon Echo Dot that maintained consistency throughout the first quarter the year:

Google Home also sold more units than the Echo Dot during the holidays, but just barely, accounting for 39 percent of unit sales versus Dot's 38 percent. The original Echo held a 21 percent share during this time.After the holidays, though, the Dot quickly caught up in terms of unit sales, topping Google Home with a 53 percent share compared with Home's 30 percent.

Connected speakers still aren't considered a mainstream household item, but the small sampling of data we do have shows that interest in increasing. I have no doubt the Amazon Alexa is the one that more people know about because now there are four different (opens in new tab) Amazon Echo devices to choose. That's four more chances to add Alexa into your home through a device that can also function as your main shopping portal.

Google works better with my stuff

I'm not a fan of the Alexa app. It's a tad tawdry, and when it comes to visuals and third-party integration, I find it easier to navigate the Google Home app. Perhaps it's because I'm used to the Google-fied way of life and the way that the menu structures and apps are laid out, but there's something about Alexa's gray-hued interface that feels unrefined.

I've yet to delve into the smart home components of the Alexa app, which is what The Wirecutter suggests the Echo Dot is best used for, but the Google Home remains the one best suited for my living room because it has actual Chromecast integration. I can use voice commands to stream music through Soundcloud and play podcasts through Pocketcasts; the Google Home also integrates well with my multi-room audio setup, which helps when I'm setting up the ambiance for a dinner party.

They're both still a work in progress

In a test conducted by Gigaom last month, the results showed that often, Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa don't even answer questions the same way. Some of that has to do with the fact that these are two individual artificial intelligence platforms with their algorithms processing in the background. As a result, the manner in which you ask a question will have a different implication depending on your query.

According to 360i, in a test of 3,000 questions, Google Assistant answered 72 percent, while Alexa answered only 13 percent. But when I use either product, I find that my laziness in phrasing questions the proper way will net me an unfortunate result. Google Assistant and Alexa both require a present state of mind when you're interacting with it. Otherwise, you'll find yourself consistently repeating questions.

I'm looking forward to the day where I don't have to program either device with a service like IFTTT to prepare it for my laziness; I want to be able to shout out half a command and have Alexa and Assistant know what at I'm asking.

Which platform are you using?

The answer to whether Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa is the best as a home assistant is entirely relative. It's possible I can answer that after another few months of using the two connected devices, but I'm also not in a rush to figure it out. The platforms are both so nascent, but it's promising to see that sales numbers point to interest. Perhaps we'll have a clearer picture of which platform consumers like the best after this holiday season — and after Google brings those updates it previewed at Google I/O 2017.

Are you using a connected platform in your home? What do you love about it? Tell us in the comments!

Florence Ion was formerly an editor and columnist at Android Central. She writes about Android-powered devices of all types and explores their usefulness in her everyday life. You can follow her on Twitter or watch her Tuesday nights on All About Android.

36 Comments
  • We have three Google Homes throughout the house to control our Home Automation, except in the guest room. In the guest room we use an Echo Dot so the guest can say "Alexa turn the lights off" and only that room turns off. It was easier than teaching guests to say "Hey Google, turn the GUEST ROOM lights off." After the third time a guest said "Hey Google, turn the lights off" and every light in the house turned off, we found a solid use case for the two different ecosystems.
  • That's awesome.
  • We have two echo dots. Really want a google home since we already pay for Google play music and have a chromecast. Though $100+ is too much. Spent less than $80 on the echos. Google needs an echo dot competitor. Paying for a music subscription on one of the dots.
  • Amen. Google really needs a cheaper solution. That's why I have a dot, so I could try one out inexpensively.
  • Yep, this is a must and I hope they do it soon. Two of my Google Homes are rarely, if ever, used for music because we have SONOS. A hockey puck sized Google Home with SONOS integration would be a game changer for our setup.
  • A-f**king-men on the Sonos integration. Really wish I knew what the hold up was.
  • Look on craigslist and offer up. I bought both of my GH's for 60 bucks about two weeks apart.
  • We have both (our "kids"). My wife uses it mainly because she's home more often. Google is clearly better all around and integrates with more of the online services we use. The problem is Alexa is still easier to say and so my wife defaults to asking Alexa to do things like play music and start a timer.
  • If Alexa integrated with Google play music I'd be perfectly fine with my dots, but for me it came down to price point, if Google made something similar to the dot, I would have gotten that, but hey, when on sale for $40...
  • I've held off on both (all) systems thus far. Don't quite see the purpose in it just yet. Will let things play out and mature. Phone is a Moto Nexus 6 (Google). I'm an Amazon Prime user. No cable, but 100 Mb FIOS internet. Use Kodi and Tixati. For now I'm happy and content.
  • Until Google Home supports bluetooth (yes, I know in beta), Echo is the only acceptable choice for many people. How do I play Amazon music on an iPhone on a Google Home? On the other hand, I can play almost any audio source on an Echo via bluetooth.
  • Blissfully disconnected. Amazon sells you products, Google makes you the product
  • So :)
  • The choice is easy. Neither! For the life of me, I still can't understand why anyone would want one of these. An always-on microphone, constantly eaves dropping? No thanks. Everyone in my house has a phone and/or tablet and each of those devices can do what Google Home or Alexa can do...and so much more. All without the threat of an always-on mic (presumably). And, to be honest, I rarely use an assistant on my phone, except when I'm driving. What am I missing?
  • "What am I missing?" Have Google Home or Amazon Echo yell at all those kids on your lawn for you?
  • "I still can't understand why anyone would want one of these" There's a term called "PERSONAL preference" look it up. :)
  • For the life of me, I cannot understand what normal people talk about in their home that is so important that they think anyone would want to spy on them through an always-on mic. I'm only slightly trying to be funny. My buddy works in government IT and is sure the NSA is using our technology to spy on us. I said if they want to hear my wife and I argue about who's turn it is to change the poopy diaper, I would like them to chime in!!!
  • It's only really eavesdropping after it detects the hotword. Until that happens, nothing leaves the premises.
  • Had an Echo since launched and now several Google Homes. The Echo remains my toy versus the Google Homes well intgrated into our home and used by my family. The fact that the Echo requires commands you memorize was higher friction compared to the Google Home you just talk naturaly is a huge difference and the lower friction is why the Google Homes get used all day for things.
  • I find Echo more mature all around. I usually only use Google Home for better "search results." I find Echo much better at playing music as well. I can't even get Google Home to simply "Shuffle My Music" (from personal library). Echo does this so much better. If I may digress...I find I have problems choosing between Cortana, Google Assistant, and Alexa for reminders. All three have their pros/cons and coming from a PC world, I tend to find Cortana the best at reminders, as it will also add to my Calendar.
  • I have Echo, Tap and Dot, fully integrated into Amazon's ecosystem because it just plain works, it was first and it's less expensive. And now I can also get Alexa to talk with Google to give me search results for those times when Alexa comes up short through unofficial "Ask Google" skill. Really sweet to say "Alexa, Ask Google.....". and then Alexa and Google communicate together.
  • Can you use the ask Google to control Chromecasts? If so, that would be awesome!!
  • Love my echo dot, even the wife likes it and she is not into tech at all. As a prime user we get Amazon prime music as well as all the radio stations that come with tune-in. The ability to set timers when cooking make this a great item to have in the kitchen.
  • I much prefer my Google home
    I feel like it can answer my questions better than Alexa, plus I am more involved in the Google ecosystem
    (Android phone, Chromebook, Chromecast, Google play music subscription, etc) rather than Amazon's ecosystem
    I actually bought three echo dots to place around my house and found that no one in my family really used them. I returned two of them and decided to keep one for special deals through amazon or in case I need to do something that my Google home cannot do
  • Maybe I'm old fashioned but I still like to research and VIEW items before I buy them (that includes physical contact at Best Buy - headphones and TVs I'm looking at you). The idea ordering something by voice offhand (no matter how simple or small) doesn't appeal to me at all. Alexa can't handle follow up questions either (tested it). Still might get a dot for Sonos though.
  • I have never heard of anyone buying new unseen products on either system. Amazon Echo is great for REORDERING products... Echo reorder xxx and UPS knocks on your door. GH has no such functionality. I agree about search quality though.
  • Well then it would not work for me. Any type of item I would reorder (toothpaste, groceries, soap, etc.) I'd rather buy locally as I run out. At the same time I enjoy two day shipping, it's simply not necessary for a simple, single tube of toothpaste (i.e. the kind of things you would reorder without seeing). I buy a local brand from a local store that is already on my way home and I bring my own bags. With Amazon, I try to build up multi-item orders from my saved lists to justify fueling up an entire jet just to get them to me in two days. My own personal issue to be certain but it is why the shopping aspect of the Echo family holds no appeal for me. I try to practice a more thoughtful end-to-end type of consumerism. Not easy in an Amazon Prime world.
  • Ahh, ok. Sounds like it has a certain eco-snob appeal to it. I do agree about purchasing local alternatives when possible.
  • Ha, that's funny (eco-snob appeal). Trust me it is a constant struggle as a tech geek. Nifty, convenient and efficient don't always go hand in hand with environmentally and socially conscious. Always trying to find a balance. Oh and I don't preach, to each their own. I make my own choices for my own life and would never dare to make them for someone else. I certainly don't want someone making them for me.
  • Personally prefer Google assistant and I use my Google home more than the echo show, plus Google Assistant works awesome on my phones as well where as Alexa sucks even on the U11 where it has better integrated than other phones.
  • 1) For "Smart Home" control, the Amazon ecosystem is SO much more robust. Many more Smart Home integrations available.
    2) Several different devices with different capabilities at different price points makes it much easier & more cost effective to outfit an entire home.
    3) Try walking up to the Google Home and asking it to show you a view of any of your security cameras like you can do with Echo Show. Not only do I rely on the Echo devices at home, but have also made them the centerpiece of our Smart Home business.
  • Florence, your four different Alexa devices hyperlink actually links one to five different Alexa devices (Echo Show, Echo Dot, Echo, Echo Look, Amazon Tap), plus a link at the bottom that leads to many more (watches, speakers, alarm clocks, plus the Anker Eufy Genie recently mentioned on AC). I'm a little surprised the Amazon Dash Wand isn't mentioned on the Amazon products page, as it's the cheapest way of getting Alexa (other than on a phone or tablet that one already owns).
  • I just wish Google Home would allow you to choose your own hot-word. "Okay Google" is so cumbersome.. I think, giving Google Home a "character" would really boost the usability of Google Home.
  • I haven't tried the Google Home but my family uses our Echo quite a lot. It sits in the kitchen/family room and does shopping lists, timers, music, calendar, weather,jokes etc. I'm happier with it because, although I'm pretty deep into the Google ecosystem in various ways, I prefer to keep a distance between my Google account and a publicly accessible device.
  • 50+ smart devices attached to Google Wifi and a Smartthings hub with 3 Chromecasts, 4 Chromecast audio's 4 Google homes and 1 Echo and 4 Dots I can give some feedback. -Google knowledge graph is far superior.
    -Google home sounds a bit better than the Echo but is not as loud
    -Google works really well with Chromecasts (audio and video). No remote is annoying at times but whole home audio is very functional. I have both a Chromecast audio and a Dot connected to my kitchen speakers as a source of music via aux out to the receiver and find that speaking to the dot allows me to control the system much easier since specific vocal direction of the output source is not needed.
    -Drop in (intercom) feature of Amazon is very useful.
    -Setting up home automation is much easier in the Amazon ecosystem since you can set up groups with the same devices in multiple groups. Google only allows for rooms and you can not have the same device in more than one room so a nightstand light can't be in the bedroom and the second floor preventing me from turning off the whole second floor and requiring me to turn off each room at a time.
    -Google tries to understand you too much. It's nomenclature is not as intuitive as Amazon. With Amazon if you label a group and put items in that group one you call for that group all the items in the group get addressed. Google has interesting scenarios where it will learn what items are lights for example and depending on your voice prompts (turn off the lights) it will act accordingly. Sometimes this is good, sometimes this is bad for home automation. Amazon is a much more precise system but maybe not as intuitive for people who do not remember the prompts.
    -Neither does multiple home locations well.
    -The Dot is very inexpensive.
    -Amazon trigger word can be changed. Overall Google is smarter with it's own ecosystem and knowledge graph but Amazon is better for home automation. The race is on and I still haven't decided on a clear winner and I am entrenched in the Google ecosystem.
  • Google's recent update has forced users to allow access to all of their devices when connecting them to Smartthings. This is a major problem and no resolution is currently available. So it is all or nothing people and that is not acceptable!!! Let's see if there is a quick resolution from either Google or Smartthings.