December 1, 2017
Google versus Amazon. It’s just like dogs versus cats, except without the barking and meowing. Two giants, battling each other in many different arenas. The one I’m going to focus on is the voice activated speaker arena: more specifically, Amazon Echo versus Google Home.
If you’re a person with a disability, you might be wondering, “Which one should I buy?” I wish the answer was easy, but it really depends on a number of factors.
Both are capable of doing some of the same things, like turning on and dimming your lights, controlling your thermostat, playing music, or telling you the weather. They are each very stylish and compact, with one looking like a can of potato crisps (Amazon) and the other looking like an air freshener (Google). Both can have multiple units of itself around your residence, and can figure out where you are in relation to it so it knows which device closest to you should respond. They can also control what you watch on your TVs. If you have a Chromecast for each TV, you can use Google Home, for example, to tell it to play cat videos on the living room TV. Conversely, if you have Fire TV devices, you can use the Echo to tell it to play dog videos in the den.
The similarities make the decision tough. The differences make the decision more interesting.
If you’re a person who likes to order from Amazon a lot and finds typing on the computer or phone a chore or difficult, then the Echo might be for you. Just tell it what you want, and with an Amazon account connected to it, you can get what you need. Are you an individual who has a Google Music account and wants to hear a certain song on your playlist? Then Google Home is for you.
For doing Internet searches, they differ considerably. Google Home uses, well, Google, and Amazon Echo uses Microsoft’s Bing. Sometimes, asking either device the same question can give you quite different answers. For example, you can ask both devices, “What’s the time in Tokyo?” Both will answer you correctly. But, if you ask both devices a follow-up question, “What’s the temperature there?” Google Home will tell you what it is, while the Echo will say, “Hmmm… I’m not sure.” Google has become more “conversational” and can usually understand what you mean when you ask other questions related to the topic. That’s something to consider when choosing either device.
While technology is an ever-changing format, for PWD who may use a DynaVox or speak with different tones or pitch, these devices are getting better at recognizing different speech patterns. They are by no means perfect, but as more people use them, they become “smarter”.
Another thing to consider is price. Google Home has a few devices covering different users’ needs. The “Mini” is $49, the original “Home” is $129, and the “Max” is $399—the differences between them being sound quality, due to the number of speakers used. Not to be outdone, Amazon has six different devices covering varying price ranges from the Echo Dot at $49.99, all the way up to the Echo Show at $229.99—their differences being number of speakers used and video capability.
Functionally, each respective company’s devices mostly work the same way. And now that the holiday season in full swing, seasonal sales should make prices more competitive.
As a person with a disability, which device should you choose? Both are excellent tools that can help make your life easier at home. Take these factors to heart, and make the choice that’s right for you. With upgrades and newer capabilities coming out all the time, you can’t go wrong with either of them.
Assistant Alumni Relations, The Viscardi Center
An alum of the Henry Viscardi School at The Viscardi Center, Courtney assists in implementing initiatives and new opportunities that positively impact fellow Viscardi alumni.