Amazon opened the floodgates last year by bringing its Echo devices to India and it was a matter of time before Google followed. The company introduced the Home devices in India recently, starting with the Google Home and Home Mini smart speakers.
Just like Amazon, Google is also testing the waters here, keeping the most expensive devices out of reach for the moment. The Google Home is meant to get more Indians to use the Google Assistant, in turn improving the company's ability to improve its AI capabilities in the country.
And like the Echo, the Home has its flaws right now. Together, the two companies want to force smart speakers into Indian homes, though their products differ very slightly for now. So, the obvious question now is which smart speaker should make it through your doors.
Using the Google Home
The Google Home is a pretty powerful device overseas but like many other things in technology, it's considerably weaker in India. On one hand, Google has made inroads towards mastering Indian accents and our language, but on the other, the Home needs to be significantly more functional to be recommended.
Setting up the Home is slightly easier to setup than the Echo. The setup process starts with the Home app, and the setup wizard is easy enough to understand. However, since the Google Assistant and Home apps are native to Android, the setup here is considerably smoother. The Home is recognised easily and connects fast.
Once you're through, it can do a bunch of things that the Echo can. You can play music, tell the speaker to turn on/off or dim the lights ( if you have lights that support it), ask for weather, traffic, news and more. Yet, there are some marked differences.
In my experience, over the past few weeks, the Home is not as good at hearing me as the Echo. That's likely because it has fewer microphones than the Echo. Google claims that it uses AI to solve this problem, but it doesn't seem like that to me.
Setting the Echo and Home side-by-side, it's quite clear that the Echo hears my voice more easily. I have to raise my voice quite often when waking up the Home. This becomes even more pronounced when the Home is playing music.
Also, like the Echo, playing music with voice commands can often be quite frustrating. Especially because the Home will hear the wrong song or artist name and play something completely different than what you wanted. It's annoying when that happens.
It's easy to complain about the fact that the Home doesn't support as many apps or commands just yet, but that won't really be true. Except the fact that the Echo can make calls to other Alexa users, I can’t think of a feature that I really miss here.
The Home can't call an Uber right now but I've never booked an Uber through the Echo either, since it insists on always booking cash trips. Similarly, the Home doesn't allow voice-driven shopping either, another feature I barely ever use. The Echo taps into the Amazon marketplace for that, but it's nowhere close to being intuitive enough, to be done without a screen just yet.
Sure, Amazon may have added over 10,000 skills in six-odd months, but I can honestly say that I've not had reason to use more than three - playing music, calling and controlling the lights. And the Home can do two of those things.
Simply put, both the Google Home and Amazon Echo are early adopter's devices in India. There's nothing here that I couldn't live without. Everything I said for the Amazon Echo stands true for the Google Home too.