If you are looking to buy a smart speaker for your home, then the best one for you will depend on your needs. However, there are two huge players in the market that will cover most people’s needs: Amazon Echo range and Google Home. Let’s face it, with Amazon and Google, you know you’re getting a top of the range product, no matter which one you go for. However, picking between the two might be harder than you think. Even within the Amazon and Google ranges, there are different versions and devices you can choose from. With both the voice assistants on these devices becoming more useful and smarter with every update, either device with be able to answer your questions, set timers, set your alarms and much more, with just your voice.
Putting the Amazon Echo and Google Home devices next to each other, they do have similar features and designs; however, there are some differences that you need to consider before choosing which is best for you. Not forgetting that once you have chosen between Amazon and Google, you will then need to choose which device within the ranges will suit your home best.
Both Echo’s and Google homes have ‘wake’ words to activate the voice control, for Echo’s you simply say ‘Alexa’ and for Google home ‘Hey Google’. Both devices let you control other smart home appliances such as lights or thermostats with voice control.
Alexa seems to be easier to use if you only use the set phrases Alexa likes, but Google assistant is less fussy, you can shout lots of combinations of words at it and its more likely to understand you compared to Alexa. But learning Alex’s set phrases means you can find out more info and uses a wider selection of ‘skills’ with third party apps. Both devices work with big brands such as Phillips and Hive, but you get slightly more integration with the Amazon Alexa.
When it comes to the design of the speakers, we will compare the latest models of each device which are the Google Nest Audio and the 4th generation Amazon Echo.
The new Echo is spherical in design and comes in a choice of colours; charcoal, twilight blue and glacier white. It also features a LED light ring at the base that adds extra visibility.
The Google nest has an oblong design and comes in only two colours; charcoal and chalk white. Its rounded corners and 4 led lights do give a sophisticated feel.
If being good to the environment is high on your list of priorities then both devices have become greener. The Nest Audio is made from 70% recycled material and the Echo fabric and metal components are made from 100% recycled material.
Amazon have been on a mission to make the sound quality in the Echo better, and in this latest version they have added a 3.0-inch woofer, duel firing tweeter and Dolby processing, so you are getting some pretty decent sound quality with all that. In the Google Nest Audio, does also have a 3.0 woofer; however it doesn’t feature an audio jack so you can’t connect it to speakers.
You can use both of the devices for hands-free calls and play music through a variety of music apps, such as Spotify on both and Google play music and Amazon Music.
There is a variety of devices to choose from in both the Amazon and Google range. The cheapest you can get a Google device is around £29, which is for the Google nest mini. Whereas the cheapest Amazon device you can buy is the Echo Dot for around £49.99. If you are looking at the other end of the price scale, Amazon now offer the Echo Show 10, which features a smart display, and you can find that for around £239.99. The most expensive Google speaker is the Nest Hub Max, which also offers a 10-inch display, for around £189.
The prices of the Amazon Echo and the Google Home Nests, are quite similar, however Google probably comes out as the cheapest overall.
Are They Safe?
With all this advancement and new technology to help secure your home, people are questioning how secure Alexa or Google is. One main thing that concerns people is that their smart home devise is always listening. Clearly they are listening for any commands you might throw at it, but how much can it hear? Well they do record what you are saying and sends it to a server, but that only when it’s triggered by you saying their wake words. They do have a habit of being triggered by things other than your voice television or radio for instance, so there is a chance snippets of your life will be sent to a server and stored. Amazon and Google have some of the best security in the world to keep this data safe, so it is unlikely that anyone could access this data and use it. However nothing is 100% secure, so there is always a small chance that something could happen.
If you choose to have an Smart Speaker in your home then you will never have 100% privacy. If you did have complete privacy every home assistance device would be completely useless. You can however make your smart speaker more secure with a few simple steps. Mute it when it’s not in use, this will turn off the ‘always listening’ function until you unmute it again, this is easy for both Amazon and Google and there is a ‘mute’ button which you simply press. It’s also wise to disconnect the calendar feature, as a hacker could gain access and know when you are planning to be away from home.
Anything that is connected to the internet is potentially hackable, so there could be a risk of hacking with a Smart Speaker. It’s more likely that the hacker is your child who asks Alexa or Google to send them toys, which if you have the shopping mode enabled, could happen. There is also a risk that someone with hacking skills could turn your Amazon Echo or Google Nest into a listening device. But you have to weigh up the risks. Why would someone want to listen in on the average person’s life? There are easier and more effective ways to get someone’s bank account details. Some security systems that work with Alexa or Google let you control the door locks with your voice, so we suggest you enable the mute function while you are out of the house to stop people from doing this
There has also been some talk about hackers being able to control smart speakers by using ultrasonic frequencies. This has been named ‘Dolphin Attack’. It involves hackers broadcasting a frequency too high for the human ear to hear, but is audible for your microphone on your smart product. In theory a person would be able to ‘whisper’ commands you cannot hear to your smart device, and if your smart lock is connected, potentially open your door. As advised before, turning off your microphone function when leaving the house is the best way to protect against this kind of attack.
If it’s the fear of a burglar hacking you smart door or alarm system and getting in to you home, that’s stopping you from getting an Amazon Echo or Google Nest, then rest easy. Most burglars are opportunistic and are more likely to kick your door in, smash a window or pick a lock to gain entry to your home. The fact that you have a camera on your door bell or a smart security system may even put burglars off from breaking in, as they are more likely to be identified and caught. On the other hand, when you have a flashy or expensive security system, you run the risk of thieves thinking you have items worth stealing locked inside. But this can be the case with a smart lock, or non smart lock that is out of the ordinary.
Google Nest Audio- £89.99
A speaker that is 175mm tall and 124mm wide, features 3 microphones, comes in two colours. No display or touchscreen.
Google Nest Mini- £49
The smallest Google speaker at 50.8mm tall and 101.6mm wide, voice controlled and features better sound quality with 40% stronger bass. No display or touchscreen and it comes in 4 colours.
Google Nest Hub- £49.99
This is more than a speaker, it features a 7-inch touchscreen display and is 118mm high and 178mm wide. It has 2 microphones and comes in a choice of four colours.
Google Nest Hub Max- £219
Google’s largest home hub, it stands 182.55 mm high and 250.1mm wide, this is good device to make video calls and for leaving video messages. It features a 10-inch touchscreen display, 2 microphones and comes in a choice of 2 colours.
Inspired by Star Trek, the creators of Alexa wanted to be like the crew of the USS Enterprise, who would simply shout out ‘computer’ then give commands or ask questions to the all-knowing devise. The guys behind Alexa wanted to replicate this, but felt that ‘computer’ was a word used to commonly is everyday life. And thus Alexa was born, as having a word that has soft vowels and contains an X is unusual. Amazon Echo devises and Alexa have advanced leaps and bound since its original conception and the dream of having a voice controlled assistant is a reality, as now over 12,000 products have ‘Alexa Skills’.
Amazon Echo Dot- £39.99
Amazons smallest home product at 40.3mm by 90.9mm this is one of the cheapest ways to get Alexa in your home. It uses wi-fi and Bluetooth to connect has a 3.5mm stereo audio output so you can use an external speaker.
All-new Echo- £89.99
The Echo is bigger than the dot, standing at 133 x 144 mm round. It features 76.2 mm neodymium woofer 20 mm tweeters. It also connects using wi-fi and Bluetooth and also features 3.5mm stereo audio output.
Amazon Echo Studio- £189.99
This beast is Amazon’s biggest and most expensive home device being 206 x 175mm. It features three 51 mm midrange speakers, one 25 mm tweeter, one 133 mm woofer with bass aperture to maximise bass output.
Amazon Echo Show- £64.99
Amazon touch screen device has an 8-inch display and 52 mm neodymium speakers with passive bass radiator. Like the other devices, the Show uses Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to connect, but also has the 1 MP camera with built-in cover.