As a journalist in the tech field who specializes in smart homes, I admit I don’t live a life like most people. Take smart speakers: I have Google Assistant and Alexa speakers in most rooms of my home. But that’s about to change—I’m giving almost every Alexa device the boot. Except one.
I was an early Alexa adopter and still have the original Echo smart speaker in my kitchen. It didn’t do a ton back then, but Amazon had just added smart home integrations when I purchased the Echo. It felt like the missing component to my growing smart home collection. Finally, I could turn lights and plugs off and on with just my voice. The only problem is that it only worked in my kitchen (or nearby rooms if I yelled real loud). I thought about finding a way to run microphone pickups to all my rooms to feed voice commands to the Alexa in the kitchen.
But as luck would have it, Amazon took care of the problem and introduced the Echo Dot. I pre-ordered a six-pack and sprinkled them throughout my home. I’ve been adding Echo devices here and there ever since, and you can hardly go anywhere in my house and not find some version of Alexa ready to bungle your commands.
Partway into the endeavor, Google introduced the Nest Hub (then known as the Google Home Hub). Until then, I wasn’t interested in duplicating functionality in my home with another smart speaker. The Nest Hub displayed photos beautifully, and Amazon didn’t have anything like that to match. Slowly my house became both a Google and Amazon home, which was fine. Now that I’ve spent years with both, it’s time to unplug the almost entirely unused Echo smart speakers. They’re just too deficient in too many areas. The love affair is over. But, I will keep one—and not just because I write about tech. But let’s get into why I’m unplugging Alexa.
Alexa Can’t Keep Up With Voice Commands
The most essential part of any smart speaker is voice commands. That’s the whole point of owning them, right? And when you get down to it, Google Home (and therefore Google Assistant) does a better job of listening than Alexa on Echo. Or rather, Google is just smarter than Alexa.
Take my smart home, for instance. Over the years, I’ve developed quite a collection of smart devices, and it’s hard to find a room in my house that isn’t at least partly voice-controlled. But with Alexa, I have to go through a ton of effort to name everything just right to make those voice commands work. I’ve used techniques like careful naming, grouping, room specification, and more, and still, sometimes Alexa can’t do what I want.
If I ask Alexa to open my smart blinds in my office, it’ll tell me that there’s more than one smart blind in the office (which is true) and ask which one to open. I’d like to say my response of “both” works, but it rarely does. On the Google end of things, when I ask my Nest Hub to open the blinds, it just works.
Google also does a better job with “and” commands, like “turn off the living room lights and the dining room …….