Home Tech | Smart Speakers Showdown (Alexa vs. Apple vs. Google Assistant)

AI voice-activated assistants have been available since Siri took the world by storm in April of 2011. Hot on her heels was Google’s Google Now, Microsoft’s Cortana, and finally Amazon’s Alexa in late 2014. While there were a good number of early adopters who hit the ground running when Siri first debuted and several more who have done so on the other platforms since then, there are plenty of smart tech users who don’t use voice-activated functions. 

Recent innovations in voice-activated smart speakers mean that homeowners can sync their AI assistants to their refrigerators, thermostats, home alarm systems, and even their lighting inside and outside the home. While the butler robots many of us would hope for are still quite a ways off, smart speakers are a convenient, hands-free way to make life a little easier.

This article, then, is for those of you who are currently trying to decide which AI voice assistant will meet your needs. While there is no single “best” home tech assistant, there is probably one that is best for you and your family, so read on to get our full take on the current state of the home tech wars. 

(Please note: because each of these AI assistants were created with different purposes in mind, it’s no surprise that they excel in different areas. We’ve done our best to fairly report the most significant strengths and weaknesses of each platform, but with literally thousands of functions between them, this is necessarily a very surface assessment.) 

 



Hardware Availability and Compatibility 
 
Because this article is focused on AI tech for the home, Amazon’s Alexa takes this category because users can choose the style of voice assistant module that they prefer; the official lineup includes the Spot, Dot, Echo, Echo Plus, and Echo Show. Additionally, third-party partners make affordable speakers for Alexa, so expanding your Amazon smart speaker network throughout your home is simple and customizable. There are several phones that support Alexa, too; this year the Sonos One is the top phone to do so.
 
While Google currently only has Home available, the less expensive Mini is coming soon along with the Max, which will feature better sound quality. Google’s is the most widely-available AI assistant, so Home, Mini, and Max will all work alongside virtually any smart device.
 
Similarly, Siri is available on iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Mac, and Apple TV, but the only smart speaker Apple produces for the home is HomePod. Unfortunately, because Siri works on a closed system, HomePod suffers limitations (more on this in a moment) that prevent Apple from successfully competing against Alexa. 
 
However, if you are already on the Apple system and do not use Amazon Prime, HomePod may still be the better choice.

 


Accuracy of Speech Recognition
 
First, it’s important to note that smart speakers generally can’t hear you once they’re performing a sound-related task like playing music or reading you the news. That means you may have to shout while standing very close to the device or (more likely) manually stop it mid-task to execute further commands, which negates the benefits of having a hands-free device. Ultimately this may be the biggest speech recognition issue, regardless of individual flaws we noticed from AI to AI.
 
Amazon and Google’s smart speakers learn your speech patterns over time. This means that even though they may hardly understand you right out of the box, there’s a good possibility they’ll be mostly in sync with you before long. This voice training will allow each user to program customized actions or responses. 
 
Siri on HomePod doesn’t learn your voice at all, though, so while anyone can use the AI, it won’t improve over time. Sadly, HomePod really needs to improve. 
 
At this time, we have to give this category to Alexa and Google Assistant, though we should point out that you may be very frustrated during the “voice training” stage, and slightly more so for Alexa.

 


Placing and Receiving Phone Calls

 

We were slightly stunned to learn that HomePod’s Siri won’t assist you with making or receiving phone calls, but functions solely as a speakerphone instead. You’ll have to place or take calls on your iPhone and connect HomePod to the call via your Audio button on the call screen.

 

Both Google Assistant and Alexa can place phone calls using voice commands, but it gets a little complicated: Alexa only takes calls from other Alexa-enabled devices but doesn’t support regular cell phone or landline calls, and Google Assistant can’t receive calls at all.

 

You can use any of these AI speakers to send messages, but the phone call limitations of each device are worth considering.

 


Handling Music Requests

 

This category is highly variable depending on both the assistant and the specific audio service. Where certain audio services may mesh very well with one or the other smart speaker, other combinations are disastrous. We’ll mention a few results here, but you’ll probably need to do some additional research to see how people are faring with the smart speaker you’re interested in and the music services you use most.

Alexa and Google Assistant both play nicely with Spotify, but couldn’t perform even moderately well with either Google Play Music or Apple Music.

While Siri can only respond to voice commands asking her to play music from Apple-approved services, you can use your phone to send music to your speaker.

 


Entertainment

Google Assistant and Siri will open a movie or video on the phone you’ve connected to them, and Google Assistant will beam content to your Chromecast. 

Alexa is capable of launching an app and playing a movie or television show, but your Amazon smart speaker will need to be networked with a Fire TV module in the home. 

 



Online Shopping
 
Google Assistant and Alexa are both fully capable of placing orders online, with our experience being fun and simple. Whether Amazon or Google is a better choice for your shopping has more to do with where you tend to shop than the performance of either AI.
 
Because Siri is a closed system, especially on HomePod, Siri can’t place orders online. Instead, HomePod will essentially Google nearby physical locations where you can shop for the items you’re requesting to purchase.
 

 


The Takeaway

If you want to experience the fun and novelty of an interactive speaker, by all means, choose the model that seems best suited for your lifestyle. We don’t recommend HomePod at this time due to the high cost and limited functions Siri can perform in this medium.

Amazon Prime users who use Amazon Music, Amazon Video, and shop on Amazon frequently will certainly get more use out of one of the Echo, Dot, or Spot models, whereas those who use Google Play Music, etc, will probably enjoy Google Assistant more. 
None of the models we reviewed were perfect yet, so it might be in your best interest to wait a bit and see if there are any significant improvements in the technology in the near future that will spur you to make the leap. 

Listing of the Week

Million dollar views of the Cumberland mountains are seen from this fabulous home! It has extensive features (hello built-in sauna, 3 fireplaces, and a chefs kitchen) as well!  With 10 acres, this home offers lots of privacy and, even a garage that fits an RV!


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Home Care Tips to Start on Today

While we no longer depend on a fireplace for heat and therefore don’t need to do a post-winter deep clean for soot and dust, the idea of spring cleaning is still alive and well. While not needed for fireplace grime, a good spring cleaning and maintenance session are not only good for the soul but one of the smartest thing to do for the longevity of your home.
 
By spending a little time and effort now, you’ll save huge expenses and potential disasters down the road. A little bonus? You get the best version of your home to enjoy over the summer.
 
Below is a list of recommended yearly spring maintenance:

Inside the Home

 Dryers 
While cleaning out the lint filter becomes an easy habit for most, what about that pesky lint that escapes the filter? Over time lint can build up in the dryer vent, causing slower drying times and potential fire if not taken care of. Saving energy plus a potential fire? Worth it.
 


Lightbulbs
Checking your home’s light bulbs is a small, but often overlooked task. Check each light bulb to ensure the lightbulb is the correct wattage for the fixture, replaces burned out bulbs, and think about converting to LED for reduced energy and heat.

Smoke Detectors 
Ideally, smoke detectors should be checked monthly, but take the time during your spring cleaning and maintenance to check and/or replace the batteries and smoke detectors themselves. Remember that there should be at least one smoke detector on each floor with an additional one in each bedroom and hallway.  A quick check is all it takes for serious prevention.

Screen doors and windows
Opening windows and letting the fresh air in is such an amazing warmer weather perk … but not when critters are able to find their way in. Clean and patch (screen repair kits can be bought at hardware stores) each window and door screen, so that you can take advantage of those slightly cooler breezy nights!
 


AC Tuneup 
Most people only think to call someone out to look at their AC unit when it’s broken, but if you’re calling when it’s broken, it’s too late. Small, routine tune-ups before AC season can not only save energy and money now but huge expenses (and the unpleasantness of no AC) down the line.
 


Check window and door seals 
Winter weather can cause caulk to harden and crack. Keep the cool air in, and tiny critters out by filling in any cracks or gaps along window and door seals.

 
Outside
 

Reseal Exterior Woodwork 
Wooden decks, patios, and porch swings will last much longer if sealed every year or two. Plus, why not have that back deck looking its best during the months you’re actually using it?
 


Gutters 
The point of gutters is to get water off and away from your house as soon as possible. When leaves and other debris over the past year have built up, gutters don’t work properly. When the water is prevented from going out the downspout it collects around the house and causes wood to rot. Not worth going down that route. Clear those gutters!
 


Roof inspection  
Use a zoomed in picture, binoculars or (carefully), a ladder to inspect your roof for any shingles out of place, water pooling, or just plain damage. A small repair now will be worth the time and money.

Trees 
Check for dead or rotting trees, and remove. (It’s usually worth hiring a service for your safety.) Dead trees may look steady now, but they won’t act that way when those powerful summer storms blow through.
 


Check for Cracks 
Check for cracks in your driveway, and any other paved paths around your house. Asphalt can be patched and concrete (depending on the size of the space) can also be repaired. Safe, even, walking surfaces and prevention of longer, deeper cracks is important.
 


Exterior Paint 
Your house’s exterior paint job may feel like it’s all for looks, but just as important – it’s your house’s protective barrier to the elements. Be sure to re-paint any cracked or peeling paint you notice.
 


Prevent Mosquitoes
No one wants summer fun ruined by mosquitoes! As they are much easier to prevent than to get rid of, be sure to check for and eliminate any standing water on your property.

May | Local’s Supporting Locals

If you’re anything like us, you’ve been waiting on the edge of your seat to see what LOLO gifts are coming this month! Juice to baked goods to candles, we are celebrating so many amazing local businesses across Middle Tennessee throughout May!

 

LOLO, Locals Supporting Locals, is an amazing program for your Parks realtor to give to you! Each month, a completely free, new gift comes to your cell phone for you to enjoy. The gifts are selected by county and are only for local businesses, no nationwide chains!

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Listing of the Week

Enjoy private woodland views with all the serenity that comes with that but, live in a prime location in Nashville? This custom home is a truly unique find! Just minutes to Radnor Lake, you can enjoy plenty of outdoor space while still having a short commute to downtown! You’ll also love the open kitchen and den. The master has also been renovated and has 2 walk-in closets and a huge bathroom. The backyard has 2 decks, 2 screened porches, and 2 open porches for all kinds of entertaining options.


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How’s the Nashville Market?

How is the market? It’s a question our agents get asked a lot, and for good reason. If you’re considering buying a new home or selling one that you already own, the market trends and predictions are important in the decision-making process. Below is our most recent market update information for Davidson, Maury, Williamson, Wilson, Rutherford, and Sumner counties to help you make the most informed and beneficial choices possible.

 

Davidson County Real Estate Market

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5 Questions to Ask at an Open House

 

 

Visiting an open house should be more than just a casual walk-through of the home – it’s a great time to talk with the listing agent and ask questions. Here’s a list to get you started.

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Places to Hear Music For Free (Or For Cheap!) in Middle Tennessee

There’s always a show happening in Music City. Any time of the day or night, you can stroll through downtown and enjoy our live music scene. What further sets Nashville apart as a true jewel when compared to other music scenes throughout the country is the dedication our local artists show toward making live music available FOR FREE to locals and guests all year long.

Here are a few of our favorite places where you can hear music for free or cheap here in Middle Tennessee. We hope to see you out at the parks and on the dance floors!


Musicians Corner

From 12 – 5 pm in May, June, September, and October, Centennial Park hosts this famous family-friendly concert series. This casual event features food trucks, local artisan vendors, the Musicians Corner Pub, and a whole section called Kidsville just for the younger music fans. Bring your picnic blanket and sunscreen and kick back to enjoy this relaxed community event.

For more details, visit: www.musicianscornernashville.com


 

Symphony Concerts

The Nashville Symphony holds various free community events throughout the year, with a series of free music events taking place in June and early July. A favorite every summer, these events can become full quite quickly, so arrive early to secure prime seating.

For more details, visit: https://www.nashvillesymphony.org/communityconcerts or call 615-687-6500.

 


American Artisan Festival

This year marks the 44th annual art show and music festival! From June 15 – 17, visit the front lawn of Centennial Park to participate in live music and enjoy local cuisine. Wander through 150 of the most talented local artists’ booths, and encourage your children to create their own art with some of the free children’s art activities the American Artist Festival makes available.

For more details visit: americanartisanfestival.com


CMA FEST

Although the world-famous CMA Music Festival will always draw the biggest stars in country music to headline the massive stadium nighttime shows, Nashville locals know there are also four full days of music ABSOLUTELY FREE. See hundreds of artists on seven stages throughout downtown Nashville, and wander into local pubs and cafes for even more hidden musical moments.

CMA Fest is happening from June 7 – 10.

For more details and the full musical lineup, visit: visit cmaworld.com/cma-music-festival.

 

Crockett Park Concerts

On Sunday evenings at 7 p.m., the Eddy Arnold Amphitheater in Crockett Park in Brentwood is host to a different musical guest every week from May 27 – June 24. There are no concerts scheduled in July, but there is one final concert on the first Sunday in August.

For more details, visit orbrentwood-tn.org or call 615-371-0060.

 


Chamber Music Series at Symphony

Formerly called OnStage, this free Chamber Music Series is now able to host much larger audiences. Now when you attend, you’ll be seated on the main floor of the beautiful concert hall. If you attended the OnStage events at the Nashville Symphony in prior seasons, you’ll be pleased to hear that the Chamber Music Series is still an intimate experience. Come meet the orchestra musicians and join the Nashville Symphony for an exploration of the rich history and fine artistry behind the music.

These tickets go quickly. First-come, first-served, so please reserve your spot as soon as possible.

For more details, visit nashvillesymphony.org

 


Vanderbilt ConcertsThe Blair School of Music at Vanderbilt University presents dozens of free concerts during the school year. Parking is provided for free in the West Garage located between 24th and 25th Avenues. Also, be sure to explore the University’s other musical offerings, like full opera productions presented by the University Orchestra and the Vanderbilt Opera Theatre.

For more details, visit blair.vanderbilt.edu or call 615-322-7651.

 


Belmont University ConcertsThe Belmont University School of Music offers a truly remarkable range of free concerts, including symphony tickets and much more.

For more details, visit www.belmont.edu/music or call 615-460-6408.

 



Symphony Free Day of Music
The annual Nashville Symphony’s Free Day of Music is happening October 27. Mark your calendars to be at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center for a day of full orchestral music in the concert hall followed by all genres of music represented by more than 20 musical guests on four stages. This lively event will feature food trucks, an instrument petting zoo, and much more.

For more details, visit nashvillesymphony.org

 


Live on the Green

This popular mini-festival music series takes place on Thursdays in August and September. As of this writing, the lineup has not been released, but check the website for the full lineup slated for release on June 21. Bring your beach blankets, personal umbrellas, leashed pets, photo ID for any adult beverage purchases, and head out for an amazing free concert experience.

For more details, visithttps://www.liveonthegreen.com.

 



Bluebird Café’s Early Show

This iconic Nashville venue gets the night started early at 6 or 6:30 p.m., and these early shows are almost always free. Writer nights, Sunday Spotlights, and Open Mic nights are also free, but all other shows have a small $10 food/drink minimum for each patron.

Book online at bluebirdcafe.com. For more details, visit bluebirdcafe.com or call 615-383-1461.

 


Big Band Dances

During the summer, the event shelter at the back of Centennial Park transforms into a rollicking big band dance hall. The orchestra strikes up at 7:30, and you can stay and dance until 10 p.m. These family-friendly dance parties take place June through August and include free dance lessons and a completely different 20-piece band weekly.

For more details, visit nashville.gov/parks or call 615-862-8440.

 


Honky-Tonk HighwayNashville’s famed honky-tonks line both sides of Lower Broadway. Wander down the street day or night and enjoy endless free music. It’s always appreciated if you slip some cash into the ol’ tip jar, but there’s no cover charge. The music really gets going around 10 a.m. and keeps going until the partiers wander home around 3 a.m.

For more details, visit nashvilledowntown.com.

 


Concerts at the WineriesThere are a handful of beautiful Middle Tennessee wineries that are open to the public for free concerts throughout the spring, summer, and fall seasons. Pack a picnic, bring some low chairs, pick up a delicious bottle of Tennessee wine, and relax to some excellent live music at one of these scenic spots:

  •  Arrington Vineyards, “Music In the Vines”
    These concerts are held on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from April through October.6211 Patton Rd, Arrington Tenn.
    www.arringtonvineyards.com
    615-395-0102
  • Beachaven Winery, “Jazz on the Lawn” These concerts take place on select Saturdays from May through October.
  • “DJ on the Dock,” also at Beachaven, is a happy hour concert series that takes place early evenings on Thursdays in June and July. Beachaven goes all out for this event, so expect dancing, delicious food trucks, and plenty of beach games.1100 Dunlop Lane, Clarksville Tenn.
    www.beachavenwinery.com
    931-645-8867

Listing of the Week

Interested in buying a new build? This perfectly designed and outfitted home might be the one for you! Built by Cadence Construction, it’s sure to offer everything you could ever want! Bright open floor plan, fenced in backyard, deck with fireplace, guest room downstairs, master suite upstairs, AND a bonus room. Plus, Great landscaping on a quiet street in Lipscomb/Green Hills!


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Discover Home | Summer Music Festivals

A note on tickets for these events: although Let Freedom Sing, Live on the Green, and Musician’s corner are free events, the other festivals require tickets or passes, which can sell out almost immediately. Follow the FAQ links for each festival to learn more and plan your festival experiences.

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