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Amazon Echo vs Google Nest: Which is better right now?
Google’s first smart speaker, the Home, was released in 2016. At launch, many people were disappointed with the capabilities of the Google Home vs Amazon Echo. The original Echo had already been on the market for almost two years, giving Amazon a headstart.
Google has since made a huge number of improvements, including hands-free calling, ever-growing smart home control, and visual interfaces on smart displays. Things have changed so much that the only place you’ll see the Home name now is in a mobile app. Google has shuffled all of its speakers and displays under its Nest brand, which became Google Nest in 2019.
Of course, Amazon hasn’t kept its arms crossed this whole time. Let’s take a look at the similarities and differences in this Amazon Echo vs Google Nest battle. Keep in mind this is just a general comparison of different Google Nest and Echo products, meant to help you decide which ones might suit you personally.
Related: The best smart speakers you can buy
Amazon Echo vs Google Nest: Aesthetics
Looks certainly matter in the Amazon Echo vs Google Nest split. Google tends to stick with minimalist designs, perhaps best illustrated by the Nest Audio (above). They also tend to have more color options ― newer Nest devices offers colors like blue, pink, green, and orange, depending on the model, which can go a long way towards blending in with décor. Black and white remain Google’s defaults, however.
Google tends to stick with minimalist designs.
Nothing is too flashy. This may or may not be a bad thing, depending on your tastes. In fact there are often few buttons or switches on most Google Nest devices, and the Nest Audio and Nest Mini hide everything but their mute switch using touch-sensitive surfaces. Otherwise you’re expected to use apps and your voice, or sometimes a touchscreen in the case of Nest Hub displays. All Nest products use lighting and animation to ensure you know what’s going on.
Cable management is nice, so you should be able to position hardware without adding too much clutter. Overall we think Google Nest designs are the most elegant, though some people might rather have something more futuristic to show off.
So how do Echo products stand up aesthetically? It depends on which of the company’s many speakers or displays you get, but Amazon tends toward the flashier side. Newer Echo speakers come in spherical shapes, which make them pop wherever you place them. And those light rings are nothing close to discrete.
As for displays, the Echo Show 5 and 8 sport a relatively modest “alarm clock” look, but the Echo Show 10 is a pivoting screen on a cylinder, and the Echo Show 15 (below) is a wall-mounted product built to be a home hub. They’re sleek in their own ways, but conspicuous no matter where you move them.
Amazon Echo vs Google Nest: Music and entertainment
An important point in the Amazon Echo vs Google Nest battle is the music and entertainment options available. While both platforms can stream major services, there are some conspicuous gaps.
When it comes to audio, Google plays nicely with services like YouTube Music, Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, iHeartRadio, Deezer, and more. Of course, Amazon drops YouTube Music in favor of Prime Music and Music Unlimited, but thankfully Echo devices also support the likes of Apple Music, iHeartRadio, Spotify, Sirius XM, and others.
Speakers on both sides sound pretty good when compared to their direct competitors. The Nest Mini sounds similar to the Echo Dot, for example. As a rule, you won’t be disappointed, although the 4th gen Echo can get louder than a Nest Audio, and there’s no Google equivalent of the high-end Echo Studio. If you want to fill your whole home with music, both platforms allow you to group speakers and/or create stereo pairs.
One problem both ecosystems still suffer from is sometimes being unable to hear keywords when playing audio. This is a difficult issue to solve, and both Amazon and Google have made continual efforts to improve. You can usually make yourself understood by getting closer to a speaker and/or shouting.
Nest Hubs not only have Netflix, YouTube, and more, but support for any app with Google Cast.
Both Google Nest and Amazon Echo devices can control TV platforms without a remote, the emphases being Google Cast and Amazon Fire TV, respectively. The technology works best with first-party streamers like the Chromecast and Fire TV Cube. You’ll find Cast on far more TVs than Amazon’s OS though, so Google has the edge in this area, even putting aside the growth of Android TV and Google TV.
Both Google Nest and Amazon Echo have non-streaming entertainment options like games, jokes, and singing songs. Most of the games aren’t anything to write home about mind, and the jokes and songs are just meant for quick fun. You can safely ignore these when you’re shopping.
More critical for some people will be video support on smart displays. Echo Shows are mostly limited to a small selection of pre-installed apps, such as Netflix and Prime Video. Want to watch YouTube? Only through a web browser. Nest Hubs not only have Netflix, YouTube, and more, but support for any app with Google Cast, which is a massive collection at this point.
Amazon Echo vs Google Nest: Personal assistant
If you want to use your device for more practical things, Google Nest and Amazon Echo have many similar features. They can both tell you where a nearby store or restaurant is located, though Google Maps enables more flexibility, for instance giving you ETAs for several modes of transportation. They can also both give you the weather, albeit tapping different sources, which can lead to conflicting answers.
In each case news can be fetched from various sources, such as NPR in the US. You can further get updates on sports scores, and ask general information questions, such as the distance to the Moon or who the current Canadian prime minister is.
We will say that Google (specifically, Google Assistant) has the upper hand in this department, simply because it can scrape the entirety of its famous search engine. Whereas Amazon Alexa depends on major sources like Wikipedia or IMDb (the latter being an Amazon property), Google can go beyond as needed if a question is too obscure. The only drawback is that this can sometimes produce odd results.
One of the biggest benefits of a digital assistant is controlling smart home accessories, such as smart lights. Both Amazon Echo and Google Nest can hook into brands like Philips Hue, Ecobee, and Nanoleaf. After you set up rooms, you can control accessories individually or in groups, and often automate them to the point you don’t have to lift a finger. Voice control still involves repeating yourself occasionally, but it’s worth it when you can turn on lights and air conditioning while holding a heavy bag of groceries.
Both Amazon Echo and Google Nest can hook into brands like Philips Hue, Ecobee, and Nanoleaf.
When it comes to productivity, Google Nest tends to be limited to first-party services, such as Google Calendar for events, and Google Duo for most calls, though you can also use Zoom on the Nest Hub Max. Amazon is a bit better at third-party support. That includes Amazon, Skype, and Zoom for calls, and direct links with Apple, Google, and Microsoft calendars. Both assistants work fantastically for things involving your kitchen, like timers and (on smart displays) recipes.
In 2022, Amazon and Google each allow multiple profiles on a single device, enabling personalized data such as separate calendars and music accounts. If you’re an avid Amazon shopper, Alexa devices definitely have a leg up. You can not only order with your voice, but get personalized shipping and delivery notifications.
Users are identified via voice, and on smart displays with cameras, their faces. While there are privacy concerns, both Amazon and Google promise that facial recognition is handled entirely on-device, so no data has to be sent to the cloud when you sign in that way.
Amazon Echo vs Google Nest: Smart home support
This is likely one of the biggest factors in weighing Amazon Echo vs Google Nest. While many third parties support both ecosystems, some important products are exclusive. For example, Amazon owns the Ring and Blink security brands, and support for Ring doorbells and cameras is only now beginning to become commonplace within the Google Nest arena.
Similarly, you can only use select Nest Cam or Doorbell models with Alexa. You’ve long been able to use Nest thermostats, perhaps because there would be righteous fury over cutting off such an incredibly popular accessory.
Amazon wins in terms of its sheer number of compatible accessories, but ultimately, you won’t find any serious gaps in functionality if you pick Google. It’s just a matter of working with what you’ve got.
Amazon Echo vs Google Nest: Verdict
In the Amazon Echo vs Google Nest debate, which reigns supreme? It depends on your specific needs. Both platforms have positives and negatives, even if Echo remains the most popular option.
It’s important to think in terms of platforms instead of individual speakers and displays. Many of us, especially Android users, rely heavily on Google services and Google Assistant, which can make integrated hardware naturally appealing. On the other hand, some are very invested in the Amazon ecosystem, particularly people who exploit their Prime membership for frequent shipping or services like Prime Video and Prime Music.
It's important to think in terms of platforms instead of individual speakers and displays.
It’s possible to combine multiple platforms in the same home, but this should be avoided whenever possible. You have to double the time you spend on software setup, and it can get confusing remembering where devices are located, which accessories they control, and what services they support. That’s especially true if you have guests or family that are unfamiliar with technology.
If you want to experiment, you might try buying both an Echo Dot and a Nest Mini. Neither costs very much, so it won’t set you back, and you can test how Amazon and Google’s platforms fit into a real-world lifestyle.