The new Google Home smart speaker is the first serious competitor to the Amazon Echo, and to Alexa, the virtual, voice-activated assistant housed within. Now she'll be competing with the aptly named Google Assistant, a conversationally intelligent home helper that wants to steal Alexa's job. But Alexa still has a couple of key advantages over her new rival.
Amazon's had a two-year head start in the smart speaker category. The retail giant used that advantage to build up immense third-party support for Alexa, and smartly opened up her software to make it easy for outside developers to teach her new tricks.
As a result, she now has over 3,000 third-party "skills," which are basically voice apps. Ask Alexa to enable one and she'll learn how to do something new. The Google Home doesn't have any extra skills at all.
Another advantage? Movie showtimes. Alexa will happily tell you what movies are playing at theaters near you. But if you ask the Google Home, it'll just tell you, "Movie showtimes are not available yet."
Remember those Alexa skills Amazon's been cultivating? The retail giant's been building up smart-home support, too. Alexa started with controls for Philips Hue bulbs and Belkin WeMo switches back in the summer of 2015, and she's been steadily making new friends in the category ever since. At this point, she can control dozens of different kinds of smart lights, smart thermostats, smart switches, and various other connected gadgetry. The Google Home is only launching with four smart home partners, and has some serious catching up to do. Advantage Alexa.
OK, maybe this is a subjective one, but I like Alexa's sense of humor better. Alexa offers a larger library of easter egg responses to geeky quotes like "set phasers to stun," and she's also better with fun questions like, "what's your favorite color?" The bookish Google Assistant will give you a bland response about how pretty the colors in the Google logo are, while Alexa cleverly muses about how infrared is super pretty.
Both Alexa and the Google Assistant can identify song lyrics, so if you can't remember the name of the song that goes, "I see a little silhouette of a man," you can just ask them to "play the song that goes 'I see a little silhouette of a man', please" and they'll both know you want to hear "Bohemian Rhapsody."
Here's the thing, though. Alexa is way better at it. In our tests, Alexa was able to identify non-memorable lyrics of obscure songs ("Alexa, play the song that goes, 'getting disemboweled always makes me kind of mad.'") The Google Assistant was much less accurate, and only knew the obvious hits.
Here's an obvious one -- Alexa is better if you want to use your smart speaker to shop. With the full power of Amazon's online retail mastery at her disposal, she can order you just about anything (and yes, you can set a password to keep your kids from ordering an industrial-sized barrel gummy bears.)
One last little one -- Alexa lets you manage to-do lists and check tasks off or edit your list with simple voice commands. The Google Home is much more limited -- lists other than shopping lists are not supported.
Just because Alexa is better at some things doesn't make her a complete slam dunk over the Google Assistant, or over the Google Home smart speaker. We've run down all the ways Home manages to outsmart Alexa.