Which is the best smart home voice assistant-- Alexa, Google, or Siri? This post compares the top three options to help you figure out which voice assistant will be the best fit for your home!
If you've been following along with the blog recently, you know that our big goal for 2021 is to integrate smart home technology into our house! We talked about all of the different areas we are planning to utilize smart home technology in our house this year.
But before we could just jump in and start buying cool toys that will make our home "smarter," we had to decide what "ecosystem" we were going to use throughout the house. Since Donnie was the one to do most of the research on this for our house, I will let him explain...
One of the first steps when investing in smart home products is choosing a smart home voice assistant. In a sense, all future smart home purchases depend on this initial decision.
The challenging part about making this decision is that everyone has different needs and requirements. There is no single perfect solution for everyone.
In this article I’d like to share some of the criteria that was and still is important to Abby and me when choosing our voice assistant. Even if your needs are different from ours, this will help you think through your unique situation.
Here are the areas we considered when deciding which smart home voice assistant to choose, which we will talk about in detail in this post:
- Helpfulness/Accuracy of the Voice Assistant's Answers
- Compatible Smart Speaker Options
- Voice Assistant Music Integrations
- Compatible Video Streaming Service Devices
- Compatible Smart Home Devices
- Quality of Voice Assistant Companion Apps
What is a smart home voice assistant?
This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.
Before we dive into the comparisons, I wanted to make sure I clearly defined what I'm talking about when I use the phrase "smart home voice assistant."
A smart home voice assistant is a digital assistant that allows a user to communicate with and control devices using their voice.
The three most common voice assistants-- and the ones we'll be comparing and contrasting in this post-- are: Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri.
Are smart speakers the same as voice assistants?
No. There is a difference between a smart speaker and a voice assistant. Yes, many smart speakers have voice assistants built in, but they are not the same thing.
There are an increasing number of smart speakers that have multiple smart home voice assistants built in. The Sonos One speaker, for example, has both Alexa and Google Assistant built in.
Choosing a Smart Home Voice Assistant
With all that background out of the way, let’s take a look at some criteria to consider when choosing a smart home assistant.
How Helpful and Accurate Are the Voice Assistant Answers?
It seems like most online comparisons of the three common voice assistants (Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri) focus heavily on which assistant gives the most helpful and accurate answers. I think this is a vastly overrated category.
The bottom line is that all three voice assistants have more information and capabilities than anyone could possibly utilize. And with each passing day, the answers to random questions we may ask the assistant become more accurate and complete.
One common point of comparison that I’ve seen used is how many times a particular voice assistant displays a website or search result page instead of answering the question directly. I use both Siri and Google Assistant on a regular basis, and they both do a great job answering basic (and sometimes even complex) questions. But at the same time, neither are perfect and sometimes take the easy way out and display “results from the web” instead of a direct answer.
Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant are all fantastic at parsing specific instructions from the many complex ways that humans speak. They are more than adequate at interpreting natural language.
The Verdict: I have heard some people give the slight edge to Google in this category because of the Google Assistant's ability to leverage the massive Google search engine. This makes sense to me, but I haven’t found the other two voice assistants to be lacking.
Compatible Smart Speaker Options
A smart speaker with a built-in voice assistant seems to be the entry point into the smart home world for most people. I know it was for us.
Years ago, Abby wanted to get me a smart speaker for a Father’s Day gift. Knowing my personality, she knew I would have an opinion. Making that very first smart home purchase can, in some ways, influence all future smart home purchases.
At the time (before the Apple HomePod), the decision came down to a Google Home speaker or an Amazon Echo. Now there are many options at multiple price points.
Amazon Smart Speakers
Google Smart Speakers
Google Assistant has a number of smart speaker options, but they’ve changed up their product line quite a bit over the years.
Their primary speaker used to be the Google Home. It was a roughly $100 and designed to compete with the Amazon Echo. The Google Home was the first smart speaker we ever owned. The sound quality still amazes me from such a small speaker.
We later added several Google Home Mini smart speakers. Periodically, Google would have a sale and sell them for $30. Occasionally we would even get a coupon code for a free Google Home Mini.
A few years ago, Google released their Google Home Max. This was their attempt to get into the big and ultra high quality smart speaker segment. The Google Home Max is a great speaker, but it was discontinued in December 2020.
It’s hard to know exactly what Google has in mind in terms of their smart speakers, but they seem to be transitioning to their “Nest” brand. Their new “standard” smart speaker is the $99 Nest Audio speaker. Their low priced speaker is the $49 Nest Mini, which is very similar to the older Google Home Mini.
Apple Smart Speakers
Apple (which has Siri as the voice assistant) was a little late to the game with smart speakers, but they now have two options-- the HomePod and HomePod mini. (Note: Apple recently decided to discontinue the full size HomePod and focus exclusively on the HomePod mini.) Not surprisingly, they are very high quality speakers. But they are also much more expensive than Nest Audio or Amazon Echo options.
The increased price of the Apple speakers may not be a huge deal if purchasing just one or two speakers. But if your goal is to get a smart speaker into many rooms in your house, the price can really add up.
The cheapest Apple option (HomePod Mini) is $99, compared to $49 for the cheaper options from Amazon and Google.
Smart Speakers with Dual Compatibility
There are a number of smart speakers that are compatible with both Alexa and Google Home. The most noteworthy is the Sonos One speaker.
If you’re not familiar with Sonos, they are an exclusive audio/speaker company. Sonos speakers are known for their high quality sound. We have a Sonos sound bar for our living room TV that we’ve been pleased with.
If you’re having trouble deciding between Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant as your voice assistant, it may be worth considering the Sonos One line of speakers and reap the benefits of both. The Sonos speakers aren’t cheap, but I don’t think you could buy a better smart speaker.
The Verdict: Amazon, Google, and Apple all offer smart speakers that perform well. When taking price into consideration, Amazon and Google's speakers will end up being a less expensive than Apple's version.
Voice Assistant Music Integrations
Many people have invested a lot of time and money into their preferred music streaming service, so it’s important to make sure our preferred music service works with our voice assistant and smart speakers.
Amazon's Alexa will work with Pandora, Spotify, and Amazon Music, among many other options.
The Google Assistant will work with Pandora, Spotify, and YouTube Music, among many other options.
We use Spotify to manage our music and playlists, and it works well with the Google Assistant and our Google smart speakers.
The Apple HomePod speaker is the most limiting in terms of available music services. The HomePod is designed for playing Apple Music. You can also stream music from other services like Spotify, but you have to use AirPlay. For example, you can’t ask your HomePod to play a song on Spotify. This adds an extra step, which can be annoying.
The Verdict: If you are a huge Apple Music fan, you may want to pick Siri and the Apple HomePod speakers. If you prefer to use a different music service, Alexa and Google Assistant (and their companion speakers) may be a better option.
Compatible Video Streaming Service Devices
Another consideration when selecting voice assistant is your choice of video streaming device.
When I say "video streaming device," I am talking about the device that you plug into your TV's HDMI port that allows you to stream movies, shows, and other video content to your television.
Amazon (Alexa) has the Fire TV Stick.
Google (Google Assistant) has Chromecast.
Apple (Siri) has Apple TV.
Compatibility in terms of available “apps” or streaming services on each device no longer seems to be an issue. Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and YouTube will all work with any of the video streaming devices I’ve mentioned. This wasn’t always the case, but thankfully this has changed.
With Apple, you’ll spend up to $200 for the Apple TV device. I prefer the experience and layout of Apple TV, but it’s significantly more expensive than the other options.
There are rumors that Google Chromecast and Google Nest Audio will have this feature in the near future, but nothing yet.
The ability to pair a smart video streaming device with smart speakers is a huge deal. I’m not sure why this isn’t a universal feature, but kudos to Apple for making it happen.
The Verdict: While Amazon, Google, and Apple all offer video streaming devices that allow you to view your favorite movies and shows, Apple has the additional bonus of wireless speaker connectivity, allowing users to step up the sound systems in their homes.
Compatible Smart Home Devices
Perhaps the most important consideration when choosing a voice assistant is availability of compatible smart home devices.
It doesn’t make sense to invest in smart lights, for example, if you cannot control them using your voice assistant.
When looking at smart home devices, the packaging will typically indicate which voice assistants are compatible.
Siri-compatible devices will display an Apple HomeKit logo. And Alexa or Google Assistant logos will typically appear on the packaging of smart devices that are compatible with those voice assistants.
My general feeling is that Alexa has the most broad compatibility, but at the same time, I don’t think anyone will feel limited by available devices that work with the Google Assistant.
When Google acquired Nest (a prominent smart home device company) a few years ago, it really allowed them to make a up a lot of ground towards catching Alexa.
Even just looking at the Nest (Google) devices on the Google store, there are a lot of options: the Nest thermostat, Google WiFi, smart locks, smart switches, cameras, doorbells, security systems, etc.
While it’s impossible to cover every possible smart device and analyze their compatibility, it’s safe to say that Siri and Apple HomeKit have the least number of compatible devices in most categories, like smart switches, doorbells, security cameras, and lighting.
This site will give you a sense of the Apple Siri compatible devices.
The Verdict: The bottom line for me is that you may feel limited by smart home accessory options if you choose Siri. You almost certainly will not feel limited with Alexa or Google Assistant. (And that statement is coming from a huge Apple fan!)
Voice Assistant Companion Apps
Part of the experience of controlling and managing a smart home is using the corresponding voice assistant app.
Alexa has the Alexa App. The Google Assistant has the Google Home app. And Siri has the Apple HomeKit app (only available on iOS).
These apps act as the central “hub” for controlling devices. You can create rooms, then manage all of the devices within each room.
In terms of which app is better, a lot of this is subjective. Because it’s subjective I’m going to make big broad sweeping generalizations that many people will disagree with. 🙂
I find the Alexa app to be underwhelming. I don’t like the layout or design. The app seems to be an afterthought.
The Google Home app has a lot of potential, and the app makes device setup very easy. But navigating through the app to all of the various settings can be confusing at times. And Google also makes a separate “Google Assistant” app. It really should all be in one app.
I love the Apple Home app. It’s well designed and intuitive. It’s the type of app that I want to use. It just feels different and better than the Google Home or Alexa apps.
The Verdict: If I were choosing a smart home system based solely on the look and ease of use of its app, the Apple Home app would win out. But is that enough to convince me to go with Apple's system all around?
What Smart Home Voice Assistant Did We Choose?
We use Google Assistant.
We kind of fell down that path years ago when we purchased our first Google Home smart speaker. Since that time, we’ve added many more to our house. This makes it difficult and fairly expensive to switch to a different voice assistant.
Even though Abby and I both have iPhones and MacBooks, I haven’t had any issues primarily using Google Assistant and Google smart devices in our house.
Although I’m happy with Google Assistant, if I was starting over from scratch today I would give some serious consideration to Siri, HomePods, and the whole Apple ecosystem. It’s limiting in some ways. But limits can sometimes be freeing as well.
And in terms of Amazon and Alexa, many people seem very happy and content with that route. It’s certainly hard to beat Alexa in terms of compatibility since they had a head start as the first major player in this space.
The Verdict: As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, none of the systems will be perfect for every single household. It's important to weigh each of the areas I discussed in this post, decide what your biggest priorities are, and make an educated choice based on those priorities. Then get ready to embrace all of the amazing things smart home technology can do!
I hope this quick rundown and comparison of the three major smart home voice assistant systems was helpful for you! We are excited to continue to add more smart home technology to our home. And as we do, we'll be sharing what we've loved, our frustrations, our smart home DIY projects, and everything in between, so be sure to check back for that!
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What is the primary smart home voice assistant that you use in your home? I'd love to hear about what you chose in the comments below!
Thank you so much for following along! Have a wonderful day!
This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.