Echo Dot vs. Home Mini: Title Bout '17

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While startup twitter continues to be an amalgamation of thirsty AND extra over bitcoin in the run up to the end of the year, there’s another consumer technology that’s low-key (compared to BTC at least) arrived in the mainstream in the second half of 2017: the voice-activated, connected home. Three or four years ago, tech blogs went ham buzzing about IOT – internet of things – and the treasure troves of new data moats and transparent, efficient living that connected home devices would create. All and all, that didn’t really happen, due in some part to the big tech corporations staffing up via acquisitions including Nest to Google, Beats to Apple, and Vesper to Amazon in order to execute on the IOT future.

Data on the total number of IOT home devices sold since 2010 is hard to come by but it’s safe to say that there are many more Echoes and G. Homes in households today then there ever have been internet-connected thermostats. The mass, mega marketing push to get a home device into our homes is in full effect. Barely subliminal commercials that activate any listening Echo or G.Home within range of the TV highlight the surge to saturate. I tweeted a few weeks ago that these intensifying battles are starting to resemble the Sega-Nintendo Console Wars in the 80s and 90s. That tête-à-tête brought us Mario, Sonic, Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, Dreamcast, and N64. Of course, today e-commerce has replaced big box hardware retailers; consumers, once mesmerized by the novelty of video games and eager to spend for more pixels, are more discerning and demanding of all tech-digital product purchases.

I’ve been conducting an experiment at home recently the pitting the Google Home (mini) against the Amazon Echo (dot). I opted for the smaller versions mostly because they’re cheaper, NYC living is mini and there’s not much lost in the brain of these devices when downsizing. A few observations after an empirical couple of weeks with my two new faceless roommates:

1). The Google Home Mini has a much higher rate of accurately completing requests on first attempt. Neither device is perfect but there have been far fewer I’m so frustrated I’m going to throw this thing out of the window moments with the G.Home compared with the Echo Dot. If the 3rd party integrations are similar for both, the advantage probably has to do with the two corporations’ root technology and existing datasets proprietary to each corporation. Google’s is search; Amazon’s is purchase. Internet users have been searching for decades now so Google has the jump on returning accurate results. Voice-activated requests to a connected home device resemble more closely a proactive Google search then an e-commerce purchase on Amazon. We still want some degree of ability to browse and choose with what we buy, so Amazon’s core data doesn’t translate as well to voice-based requests to smart hardware.

2). The Echo Dot can be manually muted from passive background listening via a button on top of the device. The G.Home Mini cannot be manually muted…(don’t be evil).

3). The Echo Dot has the two best Easter egg features I’ve found so far. The first is the name-change feature that allows you to change your device’s wake-up name from Alexa to either Echo or Computer. The computer is the best. The second is the small collection of celebrity voices that are available alongside the standard ringtone chimes that can be used with Echo Dot alarms. The crown jewel of this collection is the Missy Elliot alarm clip. There’s no better way to end a peaceful night of sleep then Missy yelling at me to get up out of bed.

4). For now, I’m inclined to think that the connected home device falls under the usage threshold necessary to count on consistent revenue from updated hardware sales to existing customers. Regardless of which one you buy, this may be a product category that relies on software-OS improvements inside same hardware body for a significant period of time.

5). At the end of the day, the edge-case variables, semantics, vocal fry, and mumbling in our spoken word are much more complicated to accurately process then the text-based spelling errors via our thumbs and fingers. So it’ll take some time before these devices approach an error-proof state.

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To be clear, I did not put quantitative measurement here. These notes are my subjective observations. I imagine that everyone has had different experiences with these devices and I hope you’ll share them too.

 

Tim DevaneComment