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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 Echo's Alexa.

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

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 ($89.99 at Bed Bath & Beyond)'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 ($129.00 at Dell Home) is much more limited than the way it works on phones.

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!

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.

Multiple designs

Unless you have an Android phone that supports Google Assistant, Google Home is the only way you can bring Assistant into your household.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Since the launch of Echo, Amazon has added smaller and more portable options to its lineup. The Echo Dot is a cheaper, low-profile way to add more Alexa to your house; the Tap lets you take Alexa on the go -- no wires needed.

As mentioned, we suspect Google will allow other speaker-makers build Assistant into their devices. But until one hits the market, Amazon has the advantage when it comes to giving you multiple design options.

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.

To accomplish the same thing with Google Home, you will need to add a second Google Home for $129 a pop (currently only available in the US, that directly converts to about £106, AU$171).

Third-party apps


Amazon lets developers harness the power of Alexa within applications, such as Roger and Ubi. One developer created an online tool -- called -- 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.

DIY Alexa

In March of 2016, Amazon released an API for Alexa Voice Service (AVS), the service which powers the Amazon Echo, Echo Dot and Amazon Tap. This allowed developers and users to put Alexa on custom hardware, like Raspberry Pi. It also allows third-party manufacturers to build their own Alexa speakers (or Alexa-powered computers.)

So, if you don't like Amazon's speakers, there are third-party or homebrew options to choose from, like the Matrix Creator, an add-on board for Raspberry Pi.

Editors' note: This article was updated March 13, 2017 to update information regarding new Google Home features and Google Assistant availability. Previously included in this list were Alexa skills, voice shopping and official iHeartRadio support. The ability for Alexa to read Kindle books was also added.