Smart Home

7 things your Amazon Echo can do that Google Home can’t

Amazon Echo can do seven things that Google Home can’t.


CNET

Amazon and Google have long competed for the No. 1 smart speaker spot. And while Google Home has features that Echo doesn’t, like listening to multiple commands at a time, Amazon still has a set of unique skills that Google can’t yet do. (The Echo also has a sometimes chilling sense of humor.) 

Only Amazon Echo ($63 at Amazon) can guard your house and alert you if it hears something suspicious while you’re gone. It also lets you know when your packages are out for delivery. Google Home ($79 at Walmart) still can’t track your packages and can’t tell you if it thinks someone is breaking into your house, though last week it did announce six more actions coming to its portfolio, including sticky notes.

Read on for a rundown of seven things your Amazon Echo can do that Google Home can’t, and how to set them up.

Delivery notifications

The Google Home smart speaker won’t tell you when a package is out for delivery, but the Echo definitely can — no surprise, given that this is an Amazon product we’re talking about. 

Alexa will notify you from the time your Amazon order has shipped to the time it arrives at your doorstep. Just say something like “Alexa, where are my packages?” to get an update. You can also enable notifications for Domino’s so you’ll know when to expect your pizza order.

Alexa supports Amazon Music, Prime Music and Apple Music

While Google Home supports popular music streaming services like Spotify, YouTube Music, Google Play Music, Pandora and more, it still doesn’t support Apple Music or Amazon Music, both services from major hardware competitors. 

Alexa, on the other hand, does. When you unbox your Amazon Echo, the default music service is Amazon Prime Music, but you can change these settings, even to Apple Music. The rivalry with Google appears fierce enough to exclude Google Play Music from your list of options. 

If you primarily listen to songs using Apple Music, open the Alexa app menu and select Settings. Under Alexa Preferences, tap Music & Podcasts > Link New Service > and select Apple Music. Tap Enable to Use and log in to your account with your Apple ID.

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Listen to Amazon Music, Prime Music, Apple Music and more on your Echo speaker.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Create your own customized skills

In the Alexa app, there’s an option that lets you create your own personalized skills. To use it, open the app’s menu and select Blueprints

From here, you have a list of templates to choose from, like custom Q&A, games, stories, greetings and more. Once you select your choice, tap Make Your Own to begin creating your skill. 

The skills you create are private, so only your Echo devices will have the information. You can also create Alexa skills on your desktop.

You can put Alexa in your car

You already know Alexa is a great assistant for your smart home, but it can also be useful to take with you in the car. Your Echo will make for a hands-free commute so you’re not pressing buttons on your car radio while changing lanes. 

You can either plug your Echo Dot into a USB port, or you can use Amazon’s Echo Auto and plug it into a USB port or the lighter port. Note that you’ll have to use your phone’s mobile data to use your Echo in the car. Just remember to conceal the device when you park.

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Echo Auto connects to your car’s USB and lighter ports.


Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Echo can guard your house

If you’re going out of town and are worried about leaving your house unattended, you can set up Alexa Guard on your Amazon Echo. Once activated, your smart speaker will listen for sounds like breaking glass and alarms. It can also periodically turn your smart lights on and off to make it look like someone’s home. 

To set it up, open the Alexa app menu and select Settings. Scroll down to the bottom of the list and tap Guard > Set Up Guard. Follow the on-screen prompts to finish setting it up. Now when you’re ready to leave the house, just say “Alexa, I’m leaving” to activate Guard Mode.

Note that Google Home can pair with Nest Secure, but Google Home itself doesn’t have this specific guard action yet.

Set up location triggers

When you arrive home in the evening, it’s nice to have the lights turn on so you can see where you’re walking. With Amazon Echo, you can set up location triggers so the lights will automatically turn on when you pull into the driveway. You will, of course, need to have smart bulbs set up outside, and also inside if you don’t want to walk into a dark house.

To set up location triggers, you’ll need to create an Alexa routine. Just open the Alexa app menu and select Routines. Tap the plus sign in the top right corner. Now you need to add the routine name, tap When This Happens and select Location. Enter your home address, tap Arrives and then Next. Now select Add action > Smart Home > and tap the name of your smart lights, e.g., “Living room.”

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Have your lights come on when you arrive home.


Chris Monroe/CNET

Alexa can soon tell when you’re annoyed

Last year, Amazon announced that it’s giving its voice assistant Frustration Detection. That means if Alexa notices a tone of irritation in your voice, it will apologize and try to clarify what you actually want it to do. The new feature will begin rolling out this year, starting with music requests.

For example, if you ask Alexa to play Maroon 5 and it plays something else, the voice assistant will recognize the anger in your voice — “Alexa! PLAY MAROOOOOON 5!!!” —  and will try to adjust, much like a person does.

While it’s nice for Amazon Echo owners to know how their platform excels against the competition, there’s plenty more your Echo smart speaker can do, from 5 essentials Amazon Echo tips you need to know now to these six things you probably haven’t tried with your Amazon Echo.

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