This has the potential to become another Mac vs. PC, VHS vs. Beta, iOS vs. Android debate. Or does it? The world is starting to line up between two competing smart home systems, but do we really have to choose? Let’s take a look.
Amazon can take the credit for introducing the smart home assistant to us back in 2015. Alexa wasn’t the first smart assistant. In fact, neither was Siri. But both Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa broke new ground with the ability to understand more natural language. While Siri stayed mostly in your phone, Alexa was designed from the start to interact with your outlets, your light bulbs, your cameras, and even your garage door.
For what it’s worth, Apple’s smart home competitor, HomeKit, seems hopelessly grounded by comparison.
Amazon invaded the home by producing a super-cheap device that added voice control to any room. The first-generation Echo Dots were so cheap you could be tempted to buy them by the dozen so you would never be far away from Alexa, the soothing voice of reason that could do everything from settle a bet to give you a recipe for margaritas… all without you lifting a finger.
Google Assistant wasn’t the first to the party but they brought the power of the world’s most powerful corporation. Google had hardware like Amazon’s echo, but they also had a phone with over 85% market share. You might have to put an Echo Dot in every room but why would you if your phone was always with you? With a massive marketing campaign in the last two years, it seemed like Google Assistant was prepared to take over the world.
Comparing the two
At this moment in time, both Alexa and Google Assistant are working hard to beat each other. Eventually it will be a total wash and both will be great, just like Android and iOS. But for today there are some differences.
Where Alexa shines
Right now Alexa still has the upper hand in smart home products. There are more products that support Alexa and the “skills” you can add are more complex and more feature-complete. If you’re looking to outfit an entire home for voice control, Alexa is still the way to go.
Where Google Assistant shines
Google still has the upper hand on providing you meaningful information. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise because, well, they’re Google for gosh sakes. Providing meaningful information is sort of what they do for a living. If you’re looking to find out the capital of a small province in Pakistan, you’ll do better with Google Assistant than with Alexa.
This is especially true since Alexa relies on Wikipedia far more than Google Assistant does. Google Assistant does rely on Wikipedia as well, and that’s a bit of a failure point since Wikipedia is a free, non-profit resource. However Google has a whole lot of other options for searching, again that should come as no surprise.
Siri, by the way, is more hamstrung because she looks more at Bing search and Wolfram Alpha, the search engine that basically you never heard of and ironically you’ll probably use Google to find out more about.
The best news though…
Most smart home products here in 2018 support both Alexa and Google Assistant, sometimes at the same time. If you decide to go with one and it turns out the other one is the winner, you won’t have to rewire everything as long as you’ve bought products that support both. That’s getting easier and easier especially if you shop for smart home products at Solid Signal.
It’s still fairly early in the race for home automation supremacy but it’s nice to know that unlike other technology races, there might be a clear loser eventually but it won’t cost you a bundle if you back the wrong horse.