Google Home was late off the starting blocks compared to Amazon Alexa, which was launched months previously. However, Google Home is definitely offering something different to Alexa, and is already looking like it will be the digital home assistant that wins the race.
When the Amazon Alexa was first launched there were many teething problems, and it took some months for these to be ironed out. This is also the case with Google Home, as it’s not yet perfect, but at launch it still offers a better digital assistant than the Amazon Alexa.
The Design and Build of Google Home
The Google Home Assistant is far more pleasing on the eye than the Amazon Alexa, and it fits in comfortably with your home surroundings. It also comes in many different base colours, which makes matching the Google Home to your home furnishings much easier. The main unit is purchased in the standard colour, and if you want to buy a different coloured base unit; these can be bought separately.
The Google Home assistant comes with a button on the back of the device, which you can use to mute the microphone. This is to give you peace of mind that Google Home isn’t listening to your private conversations. However, this is just to provide you with peace of mind, as Google have pointed out, very clearly, that Google Home will not listen to your conversations, and only starts listening when you ask it to do so. This is somewhat different with the Amazon Alexa, which is already creating privacy concerns.
To communicate with Google Home you simply say the words ‘OK Google’ or ‘Hey Google’ and the device will start listening. Another way to communicate with Google Home is by touch, and this is located at the top of the unit, which is at a slightly curved angle, which makes it easy to interact with. Touch the top of Google Home for a couple of seconds and Google Home is ready to listen for any commands.
You can also tap the top of the device and this will play/pause any music or movie Google Home is currently streaming. You can also use the touch control on top of Google Home to control the volume. Swipe the touch control clockwise and this will turn the volume up, and swiping anti-clockwise will turn the volume down.
On top of Google Home there are four lights, which come in the colours of the Google Logo, and these lights stay static when Google Home is not being given a command. If you ask Google Home a question or give it a command, the lights start to rotate to let you know Google Home is listening. Once you’ve given Google Home a command the lights will rotate faster and in different directions to let you know your Google Home is currently searching for an answer to your question, or is looking for the music or movie you’ve asked it to play. If you’ve used the button on the back of the device to mute the microphone, this will be shown by all four led lights displaying a static orange colour.
Asking Google Home questions
Google Home is definitely better at answering questions than the Amazon Alexa, and this is understandable, as Google have been working on their Home Assistant for mobile phones for some years now. It also helps that Google Home looks for answers to your questions using the Google Search engine, which is without question the most popular search engine on the planet.
This makes it much easier to get an answer to questions with Google Home than it is with an Amazon Alexa. Google Home voice recognition is also more advanced than Amazon Alexa. If you’ve ever used voice recognition on an Android phone, you’ll know it beats any of the competition, and compared to the likes of Apple Siri or Amazon Alexa; Google voice recognition is light years ahead. Also, ask Amazon Alexa a complicated question, and the reply you’ll usually get is that it doesn’t understand the question, this can be really frustrating, and Google Home is a breath of fresh air when it comes to answering your questions.
Google Home can also be set-up to understand six different voices within the household. This is a great feature as its unlikely only one person in the household will be using Google Home. Google voice assistant learns the voice of the individual, so having the functionality of accepting six different voices makes Google Home assistant more versatile than the competition. This doesn’t mean other people cannot use Google Home; it can still listen to any voice and provide answers, or follow commands. It will not however, play music from your playlist, or let you know your schedule for the following day unless it recognises your voice.
A great example of this is when asking Google Home to play your favourite play list. Google Home recognises your voice, and then plays your favourite playlist. If another member of the household, who is also registered with Google Home, asks for their favourite playlist, Google Home will automatically recognise the difference in voice, and play the playlist of the person giving it the command.
This is a great feature of Google Home, as one member of the household can ask what their schedule is for the day, and Google Home will provide you with your schedule. Afterwards, another member of the household can ask the same question, and it will provide them with their schedule. The fact this can be set-up for six different household members, makes Google Home a digital assistant for the whole household.
The Google Home assistant interacts with you naturally, so if you ask for the band name of the music currently playing, it will provide you with the answer. If you then want to know when the band formed, you don’t need to explain the band you are referring to, as Google Home realises you’re referring to the last answer Google Home gave you.
This still isn’t perfect, and if you leave Google Home for too long before asking it another question, it can sometimes forget the conversation you’ve been having. So there is still some tweaking needed by Google, but it’s far more advanced than Amazon Alexa for asking questions that follow on from previous answers. Future software updates should improve this over time, and considering Google have been working on their digital assistant for many years, means it will take Amazon Alexa much longer to provide the same style of natural interaction, as this is in a sense artificial intelligence, which takes years to master.
The sound quality of Google Home
The sound quality of the Google Home speaker is pretty decent when you consider what you’re getting for the price. After all, the main feature of a home assistant is how it interacts with you, and the sound quality comes second. That being said, you still get a decent sound from Google Home, and the bass is impressive, but don’t expect it to beat a Bluetooth speaker that has been specifically designed to provide just sound. The speaker is still perfectly acceptable, and you will be impressed with the sound it offers, albeit, not to the standards you would expect from high end Hi-Fi, or Bluetooth speakers manufactured with sound quality as the primary goal.
Google Home works perfectly with Chromecast
As mentioned above, the sound quality isn’t going to satisfy the people out there who like true Hi-Fi, and this is why using a Chromecast with Google Home is a really good idea. A Chromecast can be attached directly to a home receiver, which means you can ask Google Home to play a certain song on a Chromecast of your choice, and this can then be played to your speakers connected to your Home Hi-Fi.
If you have a Chromecast set-up in your living room with the name ‘Living Room’, and you also have a Chromecast set-up in your bedroom named ‘Bedroom’; you can easily ask Google Home to play a song to an individual Chromecast, or both Chromecasts at the same time, just by asking it to do so. A word of warning, if you already own a Chromecast, and you have not changed the name from the obscure name your Chromecast comes with as standard, then you might want to change this if you’re considering buying a Google Home. As asking Google Home to play your favourite playlist to your ‘living room’, is much easier, and natural, than asking Google Home to play your favourite playlist to ‘Cast5463EUB’.
You can also ask your Google Home to play the latest episode of Game of Thrones, and providing you have this in your media, it will start playing it through the Chromecast you asked it to stream on. You can also conveniently ask Google Home to pause or play what is currently being casted, which makes having a little pause from the TV much easier than heading for the remote control.
Why Google Home is better than Amazon Alexa for voice control
If you’ve ever owned an android device you’ll know how easy it is to ask questions, and it then searches Google for the answer. The fact Google has more indexed websites on its search engine, than any other search engine, makes it easy to find an answer to your questions. Amazon is known as an internet retailer, and it tells, as Amazon Alexa isn’t so great at providing the answers to your questions.
Also, Google has stuck to their business model with Google Home, and Amazon has stuck with their business model with Amazon Alexa. Unfortunately the business model of Amazon is similar to Apple’s. So when you ask questions, or want to know more about a certain product, Amazon Alexa always appears to be pushing products that Amazon Sell. This can be frustrating because you can never be sure whether that is the best answer, or whether the deal it is offering is the best deal you can find.
This is in far contrast to Google Home, which continues to follow the Google business model, of giving you the answer that you’ll most likely want, and if you can find a cheaper version of a Game of Thrones series elsewhere, Google Home will bring back this information, instead of just recommending a product from their own music and video store.
You can also ask Google Home about other useful things that Amazon Echo appears to struggle with. You can easily ask Google Home to find the cheapest flights to Italy, and it will find this for you and bring back the results. So using Google Home is very similar to using the Google Search engine, which makes Google Home far superior to the Amazon Echo.
Google Home and controlling your home
Google Home can control different devices in your home, we’ve already looked at how it can control your Chromecast, TV and Hi-Fi, but it can also control your kitchen appliances, heating and lights around your home. However, for it to control all of these devices, you would need to have these devices connected, so unless you have a home that is 100% connected, you will not be able to take advantage of this functionality.
Using Google Home to play music
Using Google Home to play music is great because it has such a vast music library. You can set your preferred music streaming service such as Google Play, Spotify and soon to be available Deezer. Google Home will search your default music streaming service first to play a song you have requested. Also, it can cast YouTube videos to your television or home amplifier receiver using a Chromecast, so it’s extremely unlikely you’ll ask Google Home to play a song that cannot be found, which makes Google Home a great on demand music DJ.
What’s next for Google Home?
In the future Google Home will be able to make calls directly from the device, so you’ll simply be able to ask Google Home to call someone for you. This will make calls easier when you’re busy doing other things, than using a mobile phone or landline phone.
According to Google, you’ll be able to set-up Google Home with your mobile phone or landline, and this will allow Google Home to import your contacts, so you can simply say a name from your contact list and Google Home will call the contact for you. You can set-up Google Home so calls you ask it to make use either your mobile phone bundled minutes, or it can be set-up to make calls by using your landline contract.
Google have also confirmed a call can be made without using a mobile phone or landline to connect the call, and calls can be connected just by using your home broadband. This means calls will be possible with Google Home without using your mobile minutes or landline contract, which means you’ll be able to make calls free of charge.
The Google Home has only just been released over the last few months, and it’s already a better choice as a digital home assistant when comparing it to Amazon Alexa, which has had a few more months to iron out any issues. The fact that Google Home can answer questions easily, and it does this by searching Google’s search engine makes it an obvious choice. The Amazon Alexa can struggle answering your questions, which isn’t great, when you consider the main role for a digital assistant is to assist you and your household with any questions you may have.
Google Home fits in perfectly with your home surroundings, and it will blend into your home without being intrusive. It’s half the size of the Amazon Echo, and being able to choose different base colours also allows you to customise your Google Home.
Although both Google Home and Amazon Alexa are relatively new to the consumer market, it’s already plain to see Google Home is definitely the better choice. If you’ve already bought an Amazon Alexa, then you may not be willing to change over to Google. However, if you haven’t yet bought a digital home assistant, then Google Home is the only option you should consider at the moment.
Google Home is currently available in the US, Canada and the UK; in the last few days it has also been released in Germany. The price in the UK is £129, in the US its $109, and in Germany it costs €149. Google Home will be rolled out to more countries during the summer. You can buy the Chromecast at the Google online store, and many other retailers.
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