Q: I saw your column comparing Amazon Alexa and Apple’s Siri. What do you think of Google’s competing voice assistant and its related products?
A: Google Home speakers and Google Assistant perform on par with Amazon Alexa devices. The Google speakers tend to have better sound than their Amazon equivalents, but Google does not have anything with a display like Amazon’s Echo Show or Echo Spot. (They are said to be working on devices with displays, but no other information is available.) If you are deciding between the systems, I’d recommend basing your decision on the type of Amazon membership you have. If you have Amazon Prime, get Alexa devices. If not, take a closer look at Google.
Speaking of Google, there were some excellent promotions on Google Pixel 2 phones in December, so I bought a Google Pixel 2 XL and added a new phone number. I was unhappy with my iPhone. This was before Apple admitted that they were deliberately slowing down older iPhones without informing customers. I know it was done in the interest of preserving the battery’s life, but I was disappointed by the lack of transparency. I have an iPhone 6 Plus that is only a year and a half old, and its performance has been absolutely awful as of late. If I had I known that replacing the battery would have improved things, I would have done so immediately.
But getting a second phone did make me realize something: If you are looking for an Apple alternative, the Pixel 2 is a really nice phone. I have been delighted with it. It has a built-in Google Assistant. It can be on my desk, and I can say, “Hey, Google, call Mom,” or “OK, Google, add eggs to my shopping list,” and the phone responds without my touching it.
Smart-home and voice assistants were the unofficial theme of this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Among the products I saw were a television soundbar with an integrated Echo Dot and many new Bluetooth speakers that support Alexa, Google or both voice assistants. We are headed toward explosive growth in this area, although it will take the marketplace some time to sort out what is useful and what’s just glitzy.
For example, do you really need your washer to communicate with your dryer over Wi-Fi that it is doing a load of delicate laundry? It’s not like it’s a huge imposition to set the dryer to “delicate” yourself when you load it. Besides, the last things people want to be worrying about when they’re washing their clothes are Wi-Fi passwords and updating the apps on their appliances. Manufacturers, are you listening?
Send questions to Don Lindich at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get recommendations and read past columns at soundadvicenews.com.