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Technology

How to choose between an Amazon Echo, a Google Home and an Apple HomePod

Smart speakers with built-in voice assistants like the Amazon Echo, Google Home and Apple HomePod can be a lot of fun. You can use them to manage your calendar, play music, check the weather, control the lights and more.

But picking the right one can be pretty confusing.

They offer similar features, but some smart home speakers are better than others, and what might be good for one person might not be for another.

Here’s what to consider before making a choice:

The Amazon Echo is one of the most full-featured products on the market, and it keeps getting better.

All Echo products aren’t created equal, however.

Amazon sells a bunch of models ranging from $50 to $230. There’s the Echo 2nd Generation, Echo Dot 2nd Generation, Echo Spot, Echo Show and Echo Plus. The Echo Plus offers the best audio experience and serves as a hub for your smart home, while the Echo Spot and Echo Show have screens that can do many things, including playing movies and showing lyrics to songs that you’re listening to.

All models can place calls to other Echoes, serve as in-house intercoms, play music, answer questions, help manage a to-do list, order products from Amazon, read audiobooks, check the weather and manage alarms.

Plus, Amazon and its partners are always updating Echoes with new skills and features that make them more powerful.

Pros:

  • Some Echoes have screens, letting you use them as an alarm clock next to the bed. It’s also helpful for ordering products through Amazon.
  • The Echo Dot is an affordable way to see what smart speakers are all about and starts at just $49.99.
  • There are thousands of “skills” that make the Echo smarter. This means you can install skills to order pizza by voice or play trivia games with the family.
  • It can be an affordable way to create multiroom music by connecting multiple Echoes around your home.

Cons:

  • Managing the Echo through Amazon’s Alexa app can be frustrating. Some options are buried in settings, and it gets more complicated as you add more Echoes around your house.
  • I’ve found the Echo isn’t always good at hearing me — this is true across almost all models — as the Google Home is. Your mileage may vary.
  • It’s not as good as Google is for sharing multiple accounts with family members.

Pricing:

  • Echo Dot $49.99
  • Echo $99.99
  • Echo Spot $129.99
  • Echo Plus $149.99
  • Echo Show $229.99

There aren’t as many Google Home options as there are Echoes. There’s just a small $50 Google Home Mini, the standard Google Home and a more expensive audio-focused Google Home Max.

That means you don’t have an option with a screen that shows you data, though Google is working with partners to launch that function in third-party products later this year.

Google, like Amazon Alexa, has thousands of skills you can use for playing music, placing phone calls, ordering food and goods, and so much more. I find the two relatively comparable in this regard. Like the Echo, you can conveniently use the Google Home to control light bulbs and other smart gadgets around your home.

However, if you use Android as your phone, Google Home may feel more familiar since it has the same Google Assistant as your smartphone built-in.

Pros:

  • Like the Echo, there’s an affordable option to try Google Home. The Google Home Mini costs just $50 and is frequently on sale for less.
  • Google can recognize different voices of family members to serve up personalized information to different people.
  • You can send calendar information, shopping lists, translations, directions, traffic information and other queries that you’ve given to Google Home right to your phone. This is convenient if you say, “Ok Google, how long will it take me to get to Arby’s?” After a response, you can send that data to your phone so you have directions ready to go.
  • It’s powered by Google, which means it usually has some of the best answers when you ask Google Home a question.
  • The Home is usually pretty good at hearing me even from across the room.

Cons:

  • Google doesn’t sell a model of the Home that can automatically detect gadgets around your house. That means you need a hub, which you won’t need with the Amazon Echo Plus.
  • You can’t order as much by voice as you can from Amazon, which is tied into Amazon’s vast library of products.
  • While you can control a Google Chromecast with Chrome, you can do a lot more with an Echo connected to an Amazon Fire TV.
  • The Google Home Max is focused on audio, but it does not sound as good as you’d expect from a $400 device.

Pricing:

  • Google Home Mini $49
  • Google Home $129
  • Google Home Max $399

The $349 Apple HomePod sure sounds great — better than any Echo or Google Home product out there — but it’s not nearly as smart.

I find that it’s the most attractive of the smart home assistants, which might matter if you care about what a speaker looks like inside your home and whether or not it sticks out or not.

It’s too tied into Apple’s ecosystem of software and hardware, however, and doesn’t do nearly as much as any Google Home or Amazon Echo.

Pros:

  • It sounds great and gets nice and loud.
  • It now supports stereo playback and multiroom audio — if you have the dough to buy more than one — a feature it didn’t have at launch.
  • You can use it to control your lights and other smart home gadgets that are linked to Apple Home.
  • It can manage your calendar, but only for one person at a time.

Cons:

  • You can’t control your Apple TV with it.
  • Siri only lets you play Apple Music by voice. To play other services, such as Spotify, you have to stream it from your smartphone to the HomePod using AirPlay.
  • It’s very expensive, and there isn’t an affordable model yet.
  • You can text people, but again only for one user — which isn’t appealing for a household of people.
  • You can’t really call people from it. Instead, it serves as a speakerphone for your iPhone.

Pricing:

  • There’s just one, and it costs $349.

I think most folks are best off with an Amazon Echo Dot or a Google Home Mini to start. Pick the Google product if you’re on Android and are already used to the Google Assistant since it’ll feel familiar.

Both products, however, offer affordable ways to see what the whole “smart home assistant” experience is like. The Echo Dot and Home Mini offer almost all of the same functions as more expensive Echo and Google Homes (the exception is Amazon Echo products with touchscreens, which have more visual data).

If you’re invested in the Apple ecosystem, like Siri, and put a high value on audio quality, then the HomePod is a good choice.

Smart home assistants aren’t for everyone. Some people are still afraid that placing these microphone-enabled devices around their homes is an invasion of privacy, and I get that. But for me, the ability to control my TV and lights, play almost any song I can think of, set reminders and ask questions, is really enticing.

Source: Tech CNBC
How to choose between an Amazon Echo, a Google Home and an Apple HomePod

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