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Smart Home

7 things Amazon Echo can do that Google Home can't

Google Home -- equipped with Google Assistant -- may have crashed the smart-speaker party, but it still has some tricks to learn from Amazon's Alexa.

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While Google Home can do a lot that the Echo can't -- like contextual conversations or throwing images and videos to your televisions -- it has plenty of catching-up to do with Amazon Echo's Alexa. Google is always adding new features to Home, so that list continues to shrink, but there are still seven things we wish it could do.

One technical note: Throughout this piece, Google Assistant is often compared to Amazon Alexa, as those are the voice-assistance technologies within these devices. Just remember that the way Google Assistant works on Google Home is much more limited than the way it works on phones.

Update, Jan. 8: Originally published Oct. 12, 2016, this article has been updated multiple times to include new Alexa features. Some items have been removed to reflect new Google Home features. Previously included in this list were Alexa skills, voice shopping, multiple designs, DIY Alexa and official iHeartRadio support.

Track packages

Since you can order items using Alexa, it only makes sense that you can track orders placed through Amazon with Alexa, as well. All you have to say is, "Alexa, where's my stuff?" She won't give you a ton of details, like where the package currently is or the status of the shipment, but she will tell you the day it's estimated to arrive.

Seeing as this is a feature already integrated into Google Assistant on phones, it's likely only a matter of time before Google Home can also track orders placed with practically any online retailer. But there is no mention of package tracking in the long list of features of Google Home.

If you ask Google Home to track your package today, she'll just say, "I can't do that yet." Yet!

Delivery notifications

In that vein, while Google Home does now support notifications for reminders and calls, it can't tell you when something you've ordered is out for delivery. Alexa, on the other hand, can. And it's not limited to packages from Amazon. You can also enable notifications for Domino's pizza delivery status. 

Amazon Music and Prime Music

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The music and radio services officially supported by Google Home at launch were Google Play Music, YouTube Music, Spotify, Pandora and TuneIn. Support for iHeartRadio was rolled out at the end of February.

With Amazon's Alexa speakers, you get support for the same music services, save for Google Play Music and YouTube Music. Instead, you get support for Amazon's in-house streaming services, Amazon Music and Prime Music.

Despite not officially supporting Amazon Music or Prime Music -- which isn't all that surprising given they are competitors -- you can stream almost any audio to Google Home by casting from a phone or tablet. The Amazon Music app does not support Chromecast, however, so you can't stream audio from the app to Google Home using an iOS device. However, there is a workaround for Android devices. Begin playing music from within the Amazon Music app, pull down the notification shade, tap the Cast logo, and select your Google Home from the list to stream the audio through the speaker.

Read books out loud

One of Alexa's greatest features is the ability to play audiobooks from Audible or read your Kindle books, simply by asking. Say, "Alexa, play 'A Walk in the Woods'," or, "Alexa, read 'Ready Player One.'"

Google Home doesn't come with any official support for playing audiobooks or reading e-books (not surprising considering the companies are competitors), which is unfortunate and surprising, especially considering the built-in Read Aloud feature in Google Play Books.

Of course, while you can't queue up an audiobook or have Google Home read an e-book with a voice command, you can use the same workaround mentioned above to stream the audio through the Google Home speaker. Play the audiobook or select Read Aloud in the Google Play Books app, pull down the notification shade, tap the Cast icon and select your Google Home speaker to begin streaming the audio. Still, this doesn't work with Kindle books. You will have had to have purchased the book from Google to stream the Read Aloud feature to Google Home, which might fragment your digital library.

Voice remote

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If you just want to be able to control your Echo from out of typical voice range, all you need is an Alexa Voice Remote for $30 (not available in the UK or Australia).

To accomplish the same thing with Google Home, you will need to add a second Google Home for $129, £129 or AU$199 a pop.

Third-party apps

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CNET

Amazon lets developers harness the power of Alexa within applications, such as Roger and Ubi. One developer created an online tool -- called Echosim.io -- so developers can test their skills without needing to own the hardware. As a plus, now anyone can take Alexa for a test drive in their browser.

Aside from streaming audio, these virtual versions of Alexa work exactly the same as the official devices from Amazon, meaning you can get the full effect of Alexa before ever having to spend a dime on Amazon's speakers. For now, the best way to test Google Home is by using Google Assistant on a compatible Android phone.

Show you things

One major addition to the Alexa speaker lineup in 2017 were displays. With the Echo Show and Echo Spot, instead of just spitting out answers, Alexa speakers can now show you results. 

You can see things like weather, lyrics for some songs that are playing and much more. You can use the Google Home to send music, videos and pictures to a nearby Chromecast-enabled TV or queue up Google Assistant on your phone to see visual responses, but it's just not the same as having an integrated screen.

Google Home: The complete list of Assistant commands so far.

Amazon Echo: The complete list of Alexa commands so far.