Amazon Echo 2 vs Google Home vs Apple HomePod: Which smart speaker should you make the centre of your smart home?

Amazon Echo 2 vs Google Home vs Apple HomePod: Which smart speaker should you make the centre of your smart home?

Google Home vs Amazon Echo 2 vs Apple HomePod: Services

All three smart speakers have a growing list of services that integrate neatly into the platform – and of course, some will remain exclusive to them. The Echo is particularly good if you are an Amazon Prime member, as you can order things and get a cheap Amazon Music Unlimited subscription as part of the overall package.

By that same token, if you’re a Googler, then Google Home offers some very useful extras. The best of these is Chromecast integration. You can boss around YouTube using only your voice, which is quite a neat party trick. If you’re on of those strange people that uses Google Play Music for all your musical needs (like me), then you’ll be right at home here too.

Neither Amazon nor Google seems to have great faith in their music platforms being a big draw though, as both include Spotify support, sensibly.

Other than that, the two are very evenly matched, with third parties wisely choosing to pitch their abilities to both speakers. For now, with the Google Home relatively new to market, the Amazon Echo has the edge – it could well be that its lead is short lived though, so watch this space.

Oh, and all three speakers support IFTTT, meaning the ability to create your own commands is only really limited by your imagination. 

Apple HomePod, unsurprisingly, links all of Apple’s services – and if you’re an Apple Music user, it’s functionality is particularly strong, able to tell you who plays drums on a given track, for example – but this limits its wide appeal. 

Winner: Amazon Echo

Google Home vs Amazon Echo 2 vs Apple HomePod: Joke telling

This is obviously the most important benchmark. Both Google Home and Amazon Alexa will tell you a joke if you ask them to. It’s like having your very own personal court jester to entertain you at will.

We’re not sure if the HomePod cracks funnies. We tried testing with Siri directly on an iPhone in the office, and got a distinctly unfunny response:image_uploaded_from_ios

So back to Echo and Home. Which is funnier? Here’s a best of three from both of them.

Alexa:

“What has eight wheels and flies?”
“A rubbish truck”

Google:

“I said to the gym instructor, ‘can you teach me to do the splits? He said ‘sure – how flexible are you?’ I said I can’t do Tuesdays.”

Alexa:

“Why did the American football coach shake the vending machine?”
“Because he needed a quarterback.”

Google:

“What do you call a microbiologist in an orchestra?”
“A cellist”

Alexa:

“Why is six afraid of seven?”
“Because seven ate/eight nine”

Google:

Did you hear the one about the chicken crossing the road?
It was poultry in motion

Okay, so neither is likely to kill the room in an open mic night, but I’m going to give this one to Google. Partly because I think the jokes are marginally better, but also because it has more flexibility in its structure, rather than the question and answer format.

Winner: Google Home

Google Home vs Amazon Echo vs Apple HomePod: Priceamazon_echo_vs_google_home_vs_apple_homepod

There was a time when the Amazon Echo was the more expensive model: that’s no longer the case. While the original Echo retailed at £149.99, the Echo 2 comes in at £89.99 – a good £40 saving on the Google Home at £129.99. You could really push the boat out and buy the Echo Plus for £149.99, which has enhanced sound quality and works as a smart home hub, but most people will be fine with the standard model. 

But if you already have a perfectly good dumb speaker – or even a decent Bluetooth speaker – then you can just get the Echo Dot for £49.99 for the same functionality, and possibly better sound. The Google Home Mini also retails for £49.99, but for some boneheaded reason doesn’t have a 3.5mm headphone jack, so is a non-starter.

And as for Apple? The HomePod starts at an eye-watering £319. It’s not really playing the price-cut game.

Winner: Amazon Echo

Google Home vs Amazon Echo vs Apple HomePod: Verdict

So, on overall scores, it’s 3-2-1 – but this is an extremely close call, and my advice, therefore, hinges on a couple of things.

1) If you want the cheapest experience, the Echo Dot is the way to go

Assuming you have a speaker to connect it to (Bluetooth or wired), it’s a no-brainer way of tasting the future. You might think the Google Home Mini is a good answer here: it isn’t. It has no 3.5mm headphone jack, meaning you need to have a Chromecast Audio connected to play music off another speaker.

2) If you’re tied into Google services – and especially if you use Chromecast – then Google Home is the superior product

Gun to my head, if I were buying one today, I’d pick Google Home – and I say that as a household that actually went out and bought an Echo and Echo Dot (the Home is sadly loaned for the purpose of this comparison). But the Amazon Echo is nonetheless a great device that is getting better all the time, and there really is very little between them as things stand.

3) If you care about sound quality above all else, the HomePod is where it’s at

Neither Google nor Amazon amazing sound quality. The HomePod does.

It’s probably worth hanging on to see where the market goes from here, but for now it’s all about the HomePod. Or connect an Echo Dot to your own brilliant setup, of course.

Google Home vs Amazon Echo vs Apple HomePod: Upcoming rivals

Of course, there are rivals from in Amazon’s own family. Not only has Amazon made the Alexa software available to third parties, meaning that the next Alexa-enabled speaker on the market may not be sold by Amazon.

As if that wasn’t enough, Harman Kardon will be throwing their hat into the ring soon with a speaker powered by Microsoft’s Cortana. We don’t know much about it yet – there’s no firm price, and no release date, though we’d expect it to be with us before the year is out. Oh, and the rumour is that Samsung will be getting in on the act with a Bixby speaker soon too – but consider the company a dark horse in this race, given Bixby’s voice commands still aren’t enabled on Samsung Galaxy S8 handsets by default.

One thing is clear though: Amazon is clearly on to something with the smart speaker/home assistant, and as long as Echos continue to sell well, rivals won’t be hard to come by. Both the Echo and Google Home make good purchases for the moment, but it won’t be long before the market has plenty more options to choose from. Time will tell as to whether being first to market makes their respective positions insurmountable. 

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