Amazon’s Echo has long ruled the smart home market, but Google Home’s recent updates make it a contender for the top slot. The smart home market is evolving faster than you can say “third-party device,” and the competition between these heavyweight companies is good for your wallet. Understanding the pros and cons of each platform is essential, especially when integrating home security devices.
When it comes to digital assistants, Google Home and Amazon Echo are the clear front-runners in the smart home market. Their platforms utilize voice controls and massive libraries of available skills, and both offer integration with a number of third-party devices. These features allow you to connect almost any electronic device in your home — from your thermostat to your home security system — so long as the third-party device is compatible. With enough compatible devices, you can integrate your entire home with your digital assistant, letting you control everything using simple voice commands.
Since Amazon’s Echo was the first system on the market, it has the benefit of a robust selection of compatible devices. In fact, nearly every “smart” device works with Amazon’s digital assistant. While Google Home offers a decent selection, it’s still playing catch-up to Amazon’s two-year lead.
Amazon’s Echo: The defending champion
Amazon was one of the first companies to capitalize on the potential of the smart home market. Its Echo and Echo Dot are some of the best-selling smart home devices of all time, and a suite of Alexa-enabled products like the Echo Plus, Echo Tap, and Echo Spot expand the company’s market dominance even further. The availability of hundreds, if not thousands, of third-party devices is almost intimidating.
Amazon’s home security offerings are similarly excellent. The newest home security systems offer direct integration with Amazon’s products, streamlining the integration of a monitored home security system with smart security devices like smart doorbells, security cameras, and smart locks. Most smart security devices are already compatible with Amazon’s platform, easing installation and setup issues.
Google Home closes the gap
For a while, the gap between Google Home and Amazon’s Echo was vast. Google has only recently tightened the race with an expansion of its third-party-device compatibility. Google’s recent addition of support for products from August, Vivint, Insignia, Frigidaire, and Logitech (among others) expands its repertoire of third-party devices considerably, allowing Google Home early adopters to pursue whole-home integration for the first time.
Google may lag behind Amazon in smart bulbs and Wi-Fi coffeemakers, but the tech giant pushes home security as one of the primary uses for the platform. Google Home connects with Alarm.com, Vivint, and Frontpoint Security, integrating the digital assistant directly with a variety of monitored security systems. IFTTT capabilities allow advanced users to program home security “triggers” into the system, adding another layer of defense.
Amazon Echo vs. Google Home
If you haven’t invested in any smart home devices yet, choose your digital assistant carefully. All AIs are not created equal, and even with a long-standing lead in the smart home market, Amazon’s Echo could still learn a thing or two from Google’s platform.
Google Home pros and cons
Google Home benefits from deeper voice recognition technology, perhaps its most outstanding feature. It has the ability to hold contextual conversations, remembering information from previous queries to mimic natural language patterns. Google also supports true multiuser voice recognition — Amazon’s system is a bit clumsier in this regard. These features combined make interfacing with Google Home as painless as possible, although the device still struggles with some queries.
Google Home also offers superior music management, ideal for multiroom sound systems. You can connect to Google Play Music and YouTube through voice activation, which the Echo can’t do. Google Home is also compatible with Chromecast, allowing you to switch between media devices at any time.
Amazon Echo pros and cons
Amazon’s Echo maintains a clear lead from the hardware side, but the interface is starting to show its age. The Echo’s voice recognition is more simplified than Google Home and can’t utilize as many contextual cues when answering queries. Despite these limitations, the Echo still offers over 15,000 individual skills and counting, giving it an incredible amount of flexibility as a digital assistant.
The Echo’s widespread compatibility makes it almost universally integrable with smart home security devices, which simplifies the home automation process considerably. That’s the biggest reason to go with an Echo over Google Home. Amazon also offers a few new niche products like the Echo Tap portable speaker that expands its utility even further.
The bottom line
Google seems to shoot for quality over quantity, but the sheer flexibility of Amazon’s platform is hard to argue with. For home security, Google edges slightly ahead with advanced features like IFTTT, but only if the list of compatible devices fits your needs. In all other scenarios, the Echo is still the reigning champ.
Allie Shaw is a freelance writer who specializes in consumer technology and connectivity topics.