Amazon's Alexa can send text messages, guard your house, whisper back and many more things Google's voice assistant can't.
For several years now, Amazon and Google have been competing for the No. 1 smart speaker spot. And while Google Home has features that Echo doesn't, like listening to multiple commands at a time, Amazon still has a set of unique skills that Google can't yet do. (The Echo also sometimes has a chilling sense of humor.)
Only Amazon Echo can guard your house and alert you if it hears something suspicious while you're gone. It also lets you know when your packages are out for delivery. Google Home still can't track your packages and can't tell you if it thinks someone is breaking into your house, although it can translate other languages in real-time.
Read on for a rundown of nine things your Amazon Echo can do that Google Home can't, and how to set them up.
Apple HomePods and Amazon Echo speakers can both be used to send text messages -- although you can only send texts from HomePod if you have an iPhone. However, Google Home still can't send text messages on your behalf.
To send a message using Alexa on your Amazon Echo, say "Alexa, send a text message." Alexa will ask who you want to text, followed by what you want to say. To confirm you want to send the message, say "yes" when Alexa asks if it should send the message. Note that you can only send messages to others who have the Alexa app.
The Google Home smart speaker won't tell you when a package is out for delivery, but the Echo definitely can -- no surprise, given that this is an Amazon product we're talking about.
Alexa will notify you from the time your Amazon order has shipped to the time it arrives at your doorstep. Just say something like "Alexa, where are my packages?" to get an update. You can also enable notifications for Domino's so you'll know when to expect your pizza order.
When you wake up in the middle of the night, you no longer have to look at your phone's bright screen to see what time it is. Instead, you can whisper to Alexa and ask it what time it is -- or any other command, like turning the lights on. You don't have to change anything in the settings to do this, you just have to whisper to your Amazon Echo and it'll go into whisper mode. No other voice assistants have this capability yet.
While Google Home supports popular music streaming services like Spotify, YouTube Music , Google Play Music, Pandora and more, it still doesn't support Apple Music or Amazon Music, both services from major hardware competitors.
Alexa, on the other hand, does. When you unbox your Amazon Echo, the default music service is Amazon Prime Music, but you can change these settings, even to Apple Music. The rivalry with Google appears fierce enough to exclude Google Play Music from your list of options.
If you primarily listen to songs using Apple Music, open the Alexa app menu and select Settings. Under Alexa Preferences, tap Music & Podcasts > Link New Service > and select Apple Music. Tap Enable to Use and log in to your account with your Apple ID.
In the Alexa app, there's an option that lets you create your own personalized skills. To use it, open the app's menu and select Blueprints.
From here, you have a list of templates to choose from, like custom Q&A, games, stories, greetings and more. Once you select your choice, tap Make Your Own to begin creating your skill.
The skills you create are private, so only your Echo devices will have the information. You can also create Alexa skills on your desktop.
You already know Alexa is a great assistant for your smart home , but it can also be useful to take with you in the car. Your Echo will make for a hands-free commute so you're not pressing buttons on your car radio while changing lanes.
You can either plug your Echo Dot into a USB port, or you can use Amazon's Echo Auto and plug it into a USB port or the lighter port. Note that you'll have to use your phone's mobile data to use your Echo in the car. Just remember to conceal the device when you park.
If you're going out of town and are worried about leaving your house unattended, you can set up Alexa Guard on your Amazon Echo. Once activated, your smart speaker will listen for sounds like breaking glass and alarms. It can also periodically turn your smart lights on and off to make it look like someone's home.
To set it up, open the Alexa app menu and select Settings. Scroll down to the bottom of the list and tap Guard > Set Up Guard. Follow the on-screen prompts to finish setting it up. Now when you're ready to leave the house, just say "Alexa, I'm leaving" to activate Guard Mode.
Note that Google Home can pair with Nest Secure, but Google Home itself doesn't have this specific guard action yet.
When you arrive home in the evening, it's nice to have the lights turn on so you can see where you're walking. With Amazon Echo, you can set up location triggers so the lights will automatically turn on when you pull into the driveway. You will, of course, need to have smart bulbs set up outside, and also inside if you don't want to walk into a dark house.
To set up location triggers, you'll need to create an Alexa routine. Just open the Alexa app menu and select Routines. Tap the plus sign in the top right corner. Now you need to add the routine name, tap When This Happens and select Location. Enter your home address, tap Arrives and then Next. Now select Add action > Smart Home > and tap the name of your smart lights, e.g., "Living room."
Last year, Amazon announced that it's giving its voice assistant Frustration Detection. That means if Alexa notices a tone of irritation in your voice, it will apologize and try to clarify what you actually want it to do.
For example, if you ask Alexa to play Maroon 5 and it plays something else, the voice assistant will recognize the anger in your voice -- "Alexa! PLAY MAROOOOOON 5!!!" -- and will try to adjust, much like a person does.
Amazon said the new feature will begin rolling out this year, starting with music requests, but we still have yet to see it.
While it's nice for Amazon Echo owners to know how their platform excels against the competition, there's plenty more your Echo smart speaker can do, from letting you create a playlist with just your voice to these five surprising music hacks it can do. Plus, you can turn your Amazon Echo into a free TV speaker.