Amazon Echo vs Google Home UK: which one is right for you?

Updated 30/8: It has new multi-room music powers, but is the Echo still king of the smart speakers?

Updated 30/8/17: Amazon has given the Echo a big update that gives it the ability to control your multi-room music. See the 'Music' section below for details on how to set it up.

Updated 28/3/17: We've updated this face-off to include all of Google Home's new talents ahead of its UK launch on 6 April. Read on to find out whether it's ready to dethrone the Echo as the voice-controlled brain of our house...

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We live in a time where you can stumble home at 4am, buy a gallon of peanut butter online, then order an Uber back to the bar after realising you've left your significant other behind - all accomplished with nothing but the sound of your very own voice.

That's right folks, the age of the smart speaker is upon us. And with the arrival of Google Home in the UK from 6 April, that age is quickly becoming a golden one.

Can the Home's new UK-specific talents and voice topple the Amazon Echo, with its flashy volume dial and promises of voice-controlled Sonos?

Both look great. Both promise the world. But which one should you have in our house? 

We've spent some time auditioning them in the UK and talking to ourselves, to find out:

Amazon Echo vs Google Home: Smart Home

One of the biggest selling points of a smart speaker like the Echo or Home, is their ability to act as a central voice-controlled hub for your entire house.

The future is here - we have the ability to control our lights, our heating, and appliances, with nothing but our voices, and smart speakers are at the heart of it all.

Google Home has recently upped its smart home game in a big way. In the UK it supports smart lighting from Philips Hue and LIFX, smart heating from Nest, Tado, Honeywell and recently Hive, hubs including Samsung's SmartThings and Wink, security devices from Ring and August, plus an array of plugs and switches from WeMo, TP-Link and Insignia Connect. 

In short, the two are now very evenly matched. Both let you control robot vacuums with your voice (they each support Neato Botvac Connected, with Alexa also playing nice with iRobot Roomba's range). This is truly the pinnacle of human laziness. Marvellous.

Both Google Home and the Echo also support custom commands though IFTTT, and while SmartThings can get most things done on Google Home, if you’re after a little more flexibility, then Alexa on the Echo is the best choice for smart homes (but only just).

Winner: Amazon Echo (just) - Amazon's speaker plays nice with a few more devices and services, but it's very close

Amazon Echo vs Google Home: Entertainment

This is where both the Echo and Home simultaneously pronounce "say hello to my little friend" - or more specifically, the Amazon Fire TV Stick and Google Chromecast.

Google Home used to have voice-controlled telly sewn up thanks to its Chromecast smarts. With a Chromecast plugged into your TV, you can tell Home to play the new Power Rangers movie trailer on your TV, and it'll fire up the YouTube app on your Chromecast, playing the trailer on the big screen. 

It's impressive stuff, especially as it's normally clever enough to understand what you want to watch even if you don't know the full name. Asking it to play the new Scorsese film trailer, for example, will correctly bring up Silence.

The functionality works with the likes of Netflix too. It's not quite good enough yet to fully replace your remote yet - you can ask it to play Stranger Things, but not episode 9 from the first season of Stranger Things - but it's definitely getting there.

The trouble for Google is, so is Amazon's new Fire TV Stick. It now has voice control and built-in Amazon Alexa, which gives it similar functionality to the Chromecast (albeit in a very different technical way). You have access to most of the same services on both, bar the obvious exclusives - Amazon Instant Video on Fire TV, and both YouTube and Google Play Movies on the Chromecast.

A recent update also means you can now control Amazon's Fire TV range directly via an Alexa device, like an Echo Dot, without needing a controller handy. But Google Home just edges this round thanks to its smarter search powers.

Winner: Google Home - but Amazon's Fire is spreading fast

Amazon Echo vs Google Home: Organisation

Both speakers can tell you your upcoming appointments and add news ones to your calendar, though the process is a currently a little convoluted on the Google Home.

The Echo, on the other hand, lets you create appointments easily, though you have to set the default appointment calendar on the app if you have more than one calendar.

Google Home can’t do reminders either, which seems insane.

Both speakers do, at least, let you set alarms and timers with ease, which can be incredibly useful when you’ve flung yourself in bed, or are timing something in the oven.

Winner: Amazon Echo - its ability to add reminders gives the Echo the edge

Amazon Echo vs Google Home: Apps and services

In terms of quantity, the Echo has way more connected apps and services compared to Google Home. It has over 10,000 'skills'; we counted fewer than 200 equivalents in the Google Home app.

The Alexa app lets you easily browse, search and enable a plethora of services for the Echo, making it much more flexible and useful than Google's offering. Bizarrely, it doesn't even have a search function for its add-on services yet, making you scroll through a list.

And yet, Alexa's skills do remind us of the early days of mobile app stores, and you have to sift through quite a lot of rubbish before finding genuinely useful, polished services.

Still, there are some handy ones. The National Rail service lets you ask Alexa for your regular commute train times, or you can plan a different journey from scratch. You can also order takeaways from Just Eat, or get directions for a quick 7-minute workout. 

Google Home, however, offers no such services, and will act dumb if you ask it about public transport. While it offers very basic car directions, it'll only tell you how far away a destination is, as opposed to how to actually get there.

It's now something of a tie when it comes news though, as Google Home has beefed up its offerings in time for its UK launch. Both the Echo and Home now offer pre-recorded clips from the likes of The Guardian, The Telegraph, BBC, The Financial Times and Sky News. It's a fantastic way to quickly catch up on headlines while you get dressed/feed the cat/brush your teeth.

Winner: Amazon Echo - the Echo still has the edge on flexibility, despite Google Home's big UK push

Amazon Echo vs Google Home: Shopping

The Echo wins hands down in the shopping department, as it's the only smart speaker which actually lets you order things online in the UK (on Amazon, of course), using nothing but your own voice.

When we asked Alexa to order an umbrella from Amazon, it checked our previous order history, found an umbrella we'd previously purchased, and asked if we wanted to re-order it. We said yes, and just like that, we had a brand new umbrella in our hands the very next day. Magic.

If you haven't previously ordered anything before, Alexa will give you a list of the top few search results on Amazon, asking you if you want to buy any of them. It's one of the most futuristic things we've done in a while, and you can set a verbal pin number to prevent your mates from ordering you a MacBook Pro every few seconds as a prank.

Google Home recently started supported shopping in the US, thanks to integration with Google Express stores like Costco and Walgreens. Naturally, it can't yet match Amazon's scope and there are no shopping services available yet in the UK. 

Winner: Amazon Echo - ordering triple-ply toilet paper with nothing but your voice? The Echo is the future.