In our house, we have six little conversational interface audio boxes.
What do we use them for, and which one is better?
Here’s what I’ve discovered about Google’s Google home mini, and Amazon’s Echo (standard and dot, we have both kinds).
This isn’t a techie product review, and you won’t find a single spec in it. It’s all about the experience of using them in four simple (and possibly silly) scenarios.
I think that nine out of ten requests we make of all the smart home things are “tell me a joke”.
For jokes, Google wins hands down.
Amazon has too many repetitions, and the jokes are more about obfuscated little puns than about genuinely funny things. Also, Google has been sneaky-smart and added a laugh track, a badum-tshish or other comical sound effects after its jokes, making them even funnier and more relatable.
My favourite joke is from Google: How do you wake up Lady Gaga? Poke her face.
Sometimes, we’ll ask them to play Spotify. I am more guilty of that than my partner. He has more delicate ears and is easily offended by the tinny “music” the amazon devices play (and I’m including the tall tubular ones).
On this, Google wins again.
Because thanks to voice recognition, it can play either his Spotify or mine, depending on who asked it for that (wow, right?).
And (the killer feature here, ladies and gents), it can play from both of our Spotify accounts. Amazon cannot do that. Only the “primary” account holder to whom the amazon device is registered can actually play from their Spotify account. So. Freaking. Annoying! (I asked an Amazon Echo person, and apparently it’s a licensing thing… that weirdly Google has avoided… hmm…) 🤔
The sound of the google home mini is also infinitely better than even the big amazon echo. It’s somehow smoother, warmer, deeper. Rock on, Google!!
We have one of each (echo dot and home mini) in the kitchen. Don’t ask me why, it was his idea, and I’ve warmed up to it because the google home mini has a daaaaamn sweet little speaker, so it plays better music. And tells better jokes.
What we ask them both to do in the kitchen is be timers. It’s a lot easier to tell it to set a timer for fifteen minutes, than to open the phone, find the app, change to timer, set the amount and tap “start”. Especially if you have to wash your hands first and wait for them dry (damn you fingerprint sensor for spoiling me rotten with your unlocking speed).
Here, again, Google wins. Why? Its alarm is a more obnoxious and modulated sound that we can hear across the flat much better than amazon’s flimsy one that is volume-related. And that’s what you need from a timer. Not to kick yourself because of setting the volume too low. And neither device manages to make its sibling devices ring.
We both listen to podcasts. He’s much more into them (he’s better at following verbal things than I am, I need visual support or my mind drifts off), and he got me into a few that are genuinely amazing; like 99% invisible.
And sometimes, in the kitchen, when your hands are occupied doing some menial task like washing up or chopping or whatever, your brain goes “hey, I’m about to go comatose here, stimulate me!!”… and when I ask Google to play me a podcast, it knows which episode I last listened to (on the device, mind you, not all over the internet – Google people, if you pull that off, that would be akin to magic!!).
It also knows if I stopped part of the way through one, so it will continue from where we left off last time. So nice for us easily bored types! Amazon is not capable of either of those things. It just plays the last podcast episode that was released, from the beginning. Every. Frickin. Time.
Guess who wins? GOOGLE. Again.
So… Better sounding music. Personalised music. All user accounts on the same device. Funnier jokes. Podcast episodes remembered. Timers easier to hear.
Why the hell do we have Amazon echos?
Oh. Right. They got into the market first and we thought it’d be cool. And they seamlessly control the WeMo switches we’ve hooked up to the living room lights so we don’t have to dive behind furniture to reach the Victorian plugs and turn them on and off.
I’m still waiting for a tv show we’re watching to have someone holler “Alexa, turn off the lights”… and pitch us into darkness!!
Still, we want more funnies, better music, and smarter podcasts.
So I’m taking advantage of the Black Friday sales this week where you can get a Google Home mini for £29, and now it comes in a beautiful seafoam blue as well!!
I bought two, and intend to take one travelling with me so I can ask it for jokes, ocean sounds at bedtime, and the weather in the morning, wherever I may be.