Alexa vs. Google Assistant are the Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington Redskins battle of voice assistants. The choice is really between these two. Both have the backing of tech giants and offer many of the same functionality and features.
Virtual or real, any assistant needs to be reliable. Google and Alexa both do well. Sometimes, it is necessary to repeat or rephrase a query, but they both answer requests quickly and the answers are generally reliable.
Both devices can get confused when there are multiple people living in the house. Each assistant attempts to solve this problem differently. Amazon Echo and Google both offer multiple voice profiles. This allows you to train your device to recognize your voice and give a personalized response.
Both Alexa and Google Assistant have two voice-related features that are worth mentioning. First, they both have an optional “follow up” mode. This allows them to remain active for a few second after answering your query. Second, you can issue another command, without having to say the wake word again. As it could lead to false positives, this mode is disabled by default in both cases. Second, both can understand the “and” in both items and commands. For example, you could say “turn off lights in the office, turn on lights in my living room”, or “add milk, bananas, and bananas to your shopping list” without actually getting any item labeled “milk, bananas”.
Although Amazon is likely to continue improving its support for multiple profiles and Google’s extensive personal results make it the better assistant in this area.
Music and Podcasts
Smart assistants should have a strong interest in music. Both assistants can be integrated with the company’s music services and, in certain cases, they can link to third-party products.
Both assistants provide multiroom audio functionality. You can even create groups of speakers using your smartphone. Both Alexa and Google Assistant support audio playback via Sonos speakers or music services. Google Assistant can also communicate with any Chromecast-connected speaker. A number of smart speakers have both Alexa and Google Assistant built-in.
Alexa wins because she has slightly more integrations with Apple Music and Apple Podcasts. This is still the most popular podcast directory.
One of the most exciting features of virtual assistants is their integration with home entertainment equipment. Alexa allows you to control your Amazon Fire TV Stick, Fire TV Edition or Amazon Fire TV TV. This includes opening apps, jumping around in the time and pausing. Google Assistant can also control Chromecast-connected devices such as TVs with Chromecast integrated. It only offers a handful of services and you will need to first link some apps through your smartphone. Alexa and Google Assistant are able to control devices via a third-party intermediary device such as the Logitech Harmony Elite remote.
To continue with the entertainment track, my attempt to use the assistants for movie tickets to Pixar’s Next was unsuccessful. It took far more effort via voice than using a web browser. Alexa was able to give me showtimes for nearby theaters. However, when I tried to purchase a ticket it sent me to Atom Tickets. This skill was slow and clunky. It also got stuck in repetitive loops. It took me some time to understand that I wasn’t trying to order tickets for the present day. The skill allows you to pick up from where you left off and can even handle reserved seats in theaters.
Ordering food, making reservations, and getting recipes
Both assistants help with queries about ordering food, making reservations, or getting recipes. Each assistant offers suggestions for restaurants, with varying details like address, rating, prices, and other details.
Although it seems like a great feature, buying things with your voice can still feel cumbersome. Because of its tight integration with Amazon, Alexa should have an advantage. It will search the Amazon catalogue for the item you are looking for and then add it to your Amazon Cart. This can sometimes lead to unexpected results.
Phone calls, video calls, and texts
Sometimes you get tired of talking to robots and just want to speak to someone. Both virtual assistants are able to connect you with your contacts.
You can use Alexa to call or send messages in text or audio to any Alexa user in your contact list (even those who only have the smartphone app). You can also call any number or contact with a phone number in your contacts. Standard text messages will only work if you have an Android phone with the Alexa app. Once it’s set up, the call will appear to be coming from your actual number.
You can make video calls to Echo Show owners and other users of the Alexa smartphone application. Alexa also offers an intercom function that allows you to broadcast a message from your Echo device to all Echo devices. Amazon recently added Skype support to its Echo Show, allowing you to make audio calls and calls to phone numbers.
Smart home integration
Integration with virtual assistants has become a key area for smart home devices. Both Alexa and Google work with many connected products. Many, if not all, third-party products can also be used with them.
You can do much more with these devices when they are connected to Alexa than with Google Assistant. Alexa can turn your smart lights on when Alexa hears the sound of a broken window or fire alarm. You can also activate smart home devices based upon your location. Google Assistant is limited to controlling individual smart home devices. You can either create a schedule or speak a command, with very few exceptions.
Many utilities have partnered with tech companies to make smart devices easier to access for customers. This often allows customers the ability to choose to use the devices to manage their electrical energy consumption, as well as utility company rates and plans.
Although smart thermostats are an obvious example, the options are growing. For example, several of the un-regulated utilities in Texas offer rebates for smart thermostats.
Google Nest, a premier smart thermostat, has partnered with over 50 electricity providers in the United States and Canada in order to provide products and services, plans and rates for customers. Nest executive Jeff Hamel wrote in an email that Nest Hub, allows customers control smart home appliances such as lights and thermostats through one interface, is becoming increasingly popular. ComEd and several Texas utility companies have partnership program with Google Nest that allows customers to use voice commands to control their thermostats using smart speakers. Similar programs are offered by Texas’ Reliant Energy and Minnesota’s Xcel Energy.
Amazon and Google both push their virtual assistants at an accelerated pace. They add new capabilities and features monthly (if not weekly), so there’s always something to discover. But for now, Amazon’s Alexa holds the upper hand.