Two of the hottest gifts this year were the Google Home Mini and the Amazon Echo Dot. This was in large part to the drastic reduction in price at Christmas. These little guys went for as low as $20 to $30 during the holiday shopping season.
Amazon Echo was far easier to set up. Let’s just say when it comes to the two, there is no comparison when it comes to ease of setup.
The basic concept for each device is the same. You plug in the device, install the app on your phone and follow the instructions to customize your device. It took me just a few minutes to do this on my Amazon Echo (aka Alexa). I loved it so much and found it so easy to use, I immediately went back to Amazon and bought a second device for my bedroom.
When I came time to set up my Google Home Mini I ran into a problem getting Google to understand or at least accept my voice. To set up the device you must say two phrases, two different times so that it can record your voice, analyze it and add you as the user.
The first thing you say is “Ok Google” on your phone. Sounds simple enough, right? Only it didn’t work. I repeated the phrase about 20 times, no such luck.
I contacted tech support and they suggested I delete the app, reinstall it and try again. Which I did. It was then I remembered how much trouble I had getting the Google Home Mini to recognize my Wifi connection. After 5 attempts, including moving the device closer to my router, it finally connected and I started the setup process yet again. I said, “Ok Google” as instructed about 10 times, didn’t work. So I gave up. I just stuck with my Amazon Echo and enjoyed what features it offered.
At this point, I had also purchased two Wifi plugins to automate a lamp in my living room and the fan in my bedroom. Now I can just say “Alexa turn my fan on/off” or “Alexa turn the lamp on/off” and it worked like magic. I love that feature.
I was frustrated with my experience with my Google Home Mini but I wasn’t willing to give up. So while in bed one morning I told Alexa to turn off my fan, I grabbed my phone, opened the Google Home app and tried once again. I said it twice this time, in different ways and it somehow worked. Now it wanted me to say “Hey Google” and although it didn’t accept my first or second attempt it did accept the third. I had learned to change modulate my voice just a little until it found a tone that Google would accept.
The app had me repeat the phrases “Ok Google” an “Hey Google” one more time and again that took about five tries each for me but finally, it worked! My Google Home Mini was installed.
If you are like I was and wondering if you would really use the thing, I think you might be surprised just how often you do. I also found that the more I use it, the more I want to use it for other things. It just makes some things in life so much easier.
I use mine to set an alarm to wake me up and as a reminder and to set timers when I have things in the oven or when I’m boiling eggs. I have it play my audio-books and read me books on my Kindle. The TTS (text to speech) capabilities are quite remarkable.
In fact this week alone I’ve had it read me 3 books from my Kindle. It’s great being able to work and have Alexa read me a book while I am getting other things done and not have to pay extra for the audiobook version.
Sometimes I use mine to message my sister who also has an Echo to tell her things I’m too lazy to text.
I use it to turn the light on and off in the living room. I also use it to turn the fan in my bedroom on and off. I seriously can’t sleep without my fan and it’s just so convenient to not have to fumble with the on and off switch in the back each night in the dark. Now I just say “Alexa turn my fan on” and it’s on.
I also use it to ask what the temperature is outside and most recently I set a daily reminder to remind me to take my medicine.
Neither device is a complete home automation solution just yet, but if you get in the habit of using them, it’s a huge step in making your life just a little bit easier.
- Boling some eggs? Just tell Alexa (or Google) to set a timer for 10 minutes.
- Need to remember to call your mom on Friday? Tell Alexa to remind you. If you use Google she’ll set it to your Google calendar.
These little things can go a long way in making your life easier and for that reason, I give them both huge kudos.
I find that I use my Echo Dot by far more than my Google Home Mini. In fact, I recently upgraded to the $159 full version of the Echo. Of course the week after I did this, they went down to $100. #facapalm
I will say this though, there is nothing better than your $30 dot can do that the full version does. The only different (the full version) comes with fancy stereo speakers (Dual speakers with room-filling sound, powered by Dolby. 2.5″ woofer and 0.6″ tweeter), while the dot doesn’t. If you care about epic sound then, by all means, pay the extra $50 or whatever to get the slight sound upgrade. But as far as actual functionality, no difference at all.
So there you have it. I hope this review helps you decide which home system is best for you. 🙂