In the second part of my three part series, I’ll be discussing the Amazon Echo vs. Google Home in terms of skills, smart home control, and IFTTT. Last time, I took a look at how they handle music from a software perspective. Let’s dig in to this week’s comparison!

SkillsAmazon Echo skills

Both the Amazon Echo and Google Home have their version of “skills.” Amazon calls them skills, where Google calls them services. Starting with the basics, Amazon offers over 3,000 skills for the Echo, and that’s mainly because it has a 2-year lead in the market. Google offers just over 50 services for it’s Google Home as of now. Talking about the quality of the skills and services, they’re even on both platforms, and this is because skills and services are developed by 3rd party developers. For that reason, some skills and services are great, and others are.. crappy.

A Note on Games

When it comes to games, the Google Home has the lead. While Alexa offers plenty of games in the form of skills, they aren’t all that great. They’re just half-baked, and I was displeased with my experience. On the Google Home, they offer a few native games, such as trivia and Mad Libs. The trivia game is a good deal of fun, featuring engaging and quirky music. The game also has sound effects. It makes you feel like you’re on a real game show – not talking to a robot in a speaker.

Google Home devicesA Note on Smart Home Control

The Amazon Echo and Google Home handle smart home control differently. The Amazon Echo uses skills, which 3rd party developers make, to control smart home tech. The Google Home offers native support, developed in collaboration with the 3rd party developer and Google. There are several benefits to this: Google is giving it’s “blessing” of support to these developers, assisting them in getting a working, quality solution to controlling the smart home tech. On the Echo, it’s 100% up to the developer to offer support. While the Echo currently supports way more smart home items, I feel that Google will offer higher quality support by taking it’s time to work with each developer. For example, my LIFX bulbs aren’t supported on the Google Home, but I got them working perfectly using IFTTT. In fact, I would argue that they work better than the LIFX “skill” on the Amazon Echo.

Update (1/24/2017): Just hours after releasing this article, Google has announced 2 additional natively supported smart home products: Belkin Wemo and Honeywell. Support is available today in the Google Home app.

IFTTT

There are some key differences with how IFTTT works on the Amazon Echo and Google Home. Let’s start with what you can do on IFTTT recipesthe Amazon Echo:

  • Say a simple command
  • Trigger an event after an alarm/timer goes off
  • Trigger an event when an item is added to/deleted from your shopping list/to-do list
  • Trigger an event when you ask about the score of your favorite sport’s team
  • Does not allow you to program custom feedback (forced default response: “Sending that to IFTTT..”)
  • Requires you to say “trigger” before each command (“Alexa, trigger <recipe>”)

Now, let’s take a look at the abilities of the Google Home:

  • Say a simple command
  • Say a phrase with a text ingredient (variable)
  • Say a phrase with a number ingredient (variable)
  • Say a phrase with a text and number ingredient (2 variables, 1 text, 1 numbers)
  • Allows programming custom feedback (example: “Ok, you’ve triggered your favorite recipe!”)
  • Does not require anything before the command (“OK Google, <recipe>”)

As you can see, there are some key differences between the Echo and Home. The one that suits you will be up to your specific needs, but I’m giving the edge to the Google Home. I find it more useful to be able to have variables in a command, and having to say “trigger” before each command on the Echo really rains on the “magic” parade. For example, on the Google Home, I say “OK Google, goodnight.” It says “OK, turning lights off. Goodnight, Christian! Sweet dreams.” It then fades my lights out over 1 minute. On Alexa, I need to say “Alexa, trigger goodnight,” in which case it responds “Sending that to IFTTT..” As you can see, the Google Home simply feels more “magical.” In addition, the ability add a text ingredient is infinitely useful. I can change the color of my lights all thanks to IFTTT – something that isn’t possible on the Echo, even with native skills to control LIFX!

Conclusion

To sum things up, I’m giving this round to the Google Home. Although the Echo wins in it’s number of skills, the Google Home’s native smart home control support, native games, and better IFTTT support all give it the lead this time. There’s still 1 part left, and either assistant could take the crown at this point! Which one do you think will win? Drop a comment below!

Check out the video version below!

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