CNET también está disponible en español.

Ir a español

Don't show this again

Christmas Gift Guide
Smart Home

8 things Google Home can do that Alexa can't

The Google Home is the first major competitor to Amazon's Alexa speakers, and Google came out of the gates swinging. Here are eight things the Google Home can do that the Echo, Dot and Tap still can't.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET
Now Playing: Watch this: Top 5 things Google Home can do that Amazon's Alexa can't

Since the Google Home launch in November, Google has been frequently updating the voice assistant speaker to close the gap between what it and Amazon's Alexa speakers can do. Among many other things, Google has rolled out support for third-party services, voice shopping and a wide range of smart home devices.

Google continues to close the gap, and there's still plenty of work left to do. However, here are eight things the Google Home can do that the Amazon Alexa speakers can't.

Editors' note: This article was originally published October 4, 2016, and has been updated to include new Google Home features and information.

Play Google Play Music and YouTube Music

Like Amazon's Alexa devices -- currently the Echo, Echo Dot, Tap and the new Echo Look camera -- the Google Home supports plenty of third-party streaming services, like Pandora, Spotify and TuneIn. However, both Google and Amazon are keen on promoting their in-house music services, not their competitors'. The Alexa speakers prioritize Prime Music, while the Google Home would rather you use Google Play Music.

Technically, you can stream any audio to the Alexa speakers if you pair them with your phone or tablet using Bluetooth. And the Google Home will allow you to stream any audio service that has a mobile app with Chromecast support.

However, with a Google Home, you can also stream from YouTube Music, so long as you're a YouTube Red subscriber.

Play songs based on context

Don't remember the name of a song? With the Google Home, it shouldn't be a problem. Using a little contextual awareness, Google Assistant (Google's equivalent to Alexa) can understand which song you're talking about, find and play it.

During the press event, the example given was, "OK, Google, play that Shakira song from 'Zootopia.'" The song "Try Everything" by Shakira started to play.

So long as you have some information on the song you want to play, Google can try to fill in the blanks and, hopefully, play the song you were looking for.

Act as an audio receiver for Chromecast

Naturally, Google Home acts as an audio receiver for Chromecast. Meaning, if you want to throw a song from your phone to a better speaker, you can tap the Cast logo from within a supported app and select Google Home, just as you could from any television or speaker with Chromecast installed.

Play multiroom audio

You can also create groups with Google Home and Chromecast devices, which will allow you to sync up multiple speakers and play audio around the house, much like using Sonos speakers.

This is one of the bigger complaints from the Alexa camp, since the speakers do not communicate very well with one another. You can't use two Amazon Echos to play stereo sound in a single room or have multiple speakers play the same music around the house.

Throw images, audio and video to your television via Chromecast

Now Playing: Watch this: How to control your TV with Google Home

Not only can you cast audio to the Google Home speaker, you can use the speaker itself as a controller for your other Chromecast devices. Just say, "OK, Google, play 'Stranger Things' on the Chromecast." You can do this with music, YouTube videos, Netflix movies or TV and pictures from Google Photos.

This Chromecast integration may be the single largest advantage the Google Home has over Alexa devices, but that could be remedied in the future with the Fire TV Stick.

Hold more natural, contextual conversations

You can have a back-and-forth with Alexa. When you ask for certain things, especially when using its "skills" or ordering items from Amazon, you may have to answer questions for Alexa to fully understand what you're looking for. But that's it. You're typically just answering questions to help Alexa figure things out.

However, the interaction with Google Assistant appears to be more natural. You can ask additional questions that are contextually based on the original question. For instance, Google demonstrated asking for singer Adele's real name, then following up the answer with, "How many Grammys has she won?" Google Assistant fills in the blanks and understands that "she" is Adele.

This is unsurprisingly reminiscent of Google Now's contextual awareness, and it certainly gives Google Assistant an advantage over Alexa, if you can have more natural interactions with Google's devices.

Customize the hardware

Now Playing: Watch this: How to customize the appearance of Google Home

Until recently, if you wanted anything other than a black Echo, Echo Dot or Tap speaker, you would have to disguise it, wrap it in an aftermarket skin or find a case to fit. Now you can purchase the Echo and Echo Dot in white. Beyond that, you'll still have to look to third-party options for customizing the look of your speaker.

Google sells the Home in several colors. The top is always a white polycarbonate, but there are seven colors for the base you can choose from: carbon, copper, snow, mango, marine, violet and painted steel. Fabric bases will set you back $20 (£15.58 or AU$26.59) while metal bases cost $40 (£31.16 or AU$53.18).

Voice recognition

Now Playing: Watch this: How to add multiple users to Google Home

Alexa technically supports multiple users, in that you can add additional profiles, but multiuser functions with Alexa are limited to sharing music and audiobook libraries.

Recently, Google updated the Google Home with true multiuser support and voice recognition. Multiple users can teach it their voices. Then when you speak the wake word, Assistant will recognize your voice and respond with information personalized for you, such as your upcoming calendar events, traffic for your commute to work and your preferred news sources.