I have to make this clear right off the bat: this blog post isn’t going to tell whether you should buy an Amazon Echo or Google Home.
More in line with our traditional Appy Hour spirit, we’re putting together a list of the apps that go above and beyond when it comes to helping you get the most out of your Amazon Echo and Google Home functionality.
Right now, we’re at a place where we see apps evolving, right before our eyes. It kicked off in 2014, when Amazon launched their wireless speaker, the Echo. The Echo was powered by Alexa, the virtual assistant that promised to streamline our lives by letting the endless chores we depend on our phones and mobile devices to handle be done via voice command. In 2 years, Amazon sold about 5.5 million Echos, and the idea that we could have Star Trek-worthy tech in our home was cemented. Google Home followed suit in 2016 with the Google Home, powered by the Google Assistant.
IFTTT (If This, Then That) is a smart home platform that connects all the apps you love, letting you create commands (recipes, in IFTTT parlance) for your favorite web services, social media apps, hardware and more. When you connect it to Alexa or Google Assistant, all these recipes (“Email me when TechCrunch publishes a new tech article” “Automatically update my Android wallpaper with NASA’s image of the day”) are just a voice command away. Being able to create these custom commands what makes IFTTT such a standout; it's making apps that don't yet have Echo or Google Home skills accessible.
One of IFTTT's popular ESPN recipes. When you use IFTTT with the Echo or Google Home, you can direct access all the commands you've created by voice.
You know how your TV remote likes to dive into the couch and hide out there sometimes? Usually when you want to settle in and binge Grey’s Anatomy? When you integrate Logitech’s Harmony Hub with Alexa, your remote can hang out wherever it wants. Alexa and your Google Home can use the Harmony Hub to control your TV, Xbox, cable box, and sound bar, plus smart home systems and devices from companies like Nest and Phillips.
Re-enactment of what happens to the typical TV remote.
Whether Dominos is your favorite pizza or not, the company’s truly become a leader in utilizing mobile to engage and delight their users. And it's working; Dominos reported higher same-store sales in 2016, with 60% of sales coming from mobile devices. Not surprisingly, Dominos was one of the first ecommerce brands (and certainly the first of the big pizza/delivery brands) to create skills for both the Echo and the Google Home. Just tell Alexa or Google you want the Easy Order set in your account, and use either monitor its status to your front door.
There's plenty you can do for fitness in terms of using your Echo or Google Home to stream workout videos to your TV, but what makes the 7 Minute Workout unique is kind of what made the original app such a hit: just like when all you needed was your mobile device, there's nothing you need beyond your Echo or Google Home. Ask Alexa or Google Assistant to start your workout, and they'll coach you through each step, and visually describe the movements if you want extra help.
The 7 Minute Workout in action. Image.
Nest is one of the most popular smart home product lines, and it's integration with virtual assitants means you don't have to move from your comfortable spot on the couch to, well, set a more comfortable temperature. Nest integrates with the Logitech Harmony Hub, too, letting you turn on the TV AND turn up the thermostat in a single command.
I feel like I saw this in quite a few movies back in the day: "[Name of robot], dim the lights.." If you're ready to make that scene your reality, the Phillips Hue smart lighting system is for you. One of the most helpful features of this app is the ability to group lights into "scenes" you can update all at once. Note: Just like Nest, you can integrate the Hue with the Logitech Harmony Hub and do more with a single command.
One of the biggest names in the onlinerecipes game (60k and counting!), Allrecipes settles the ongoing issue of how to check the recipe on your laptop or mobile device when your hands are covered in raw egg. (Or cookie dough). Ask Allrecipes to find a recipe for you, and deliver step-by-step instructions. It can also serve up recipes you've saved in your Allrecipes account.
This could be you. Image
When it comes down to it, tAlexa and Google Home is they're both speakers and pretty comparable in terms of the music streaming apps available and sound quality (from the perspective of someone who doesn't put a high premium on sound quality.) Alexa has the advantage in terms of options--plus Audible if you'd rather listen to some books. Pandora, Spotify, and TuneIn can all stream to either device.
NPR is a dominant force in mobile news--you'll consistently find them on the popular app and podcasts categories. The team originally offered a popular hourly news briefing, but just a few months ago launched NPR One for Echo and Google Home, offering interactivity and access to a much wider swath of their content, like local news and podcast recommendations outside of NPR's own content.
Another way to surround yourself with those soothing NPR voices. Image
It doesn't get much simpler than this: 1. Need a ride. Ask Alexa or Google Assistant to get you one. When you're back, you can leave a rating and tip by voice, too. You could easily do it with your app on your phone, but you'll have plenty of opportunities to do that when you're actually away from your Echo or Google Home.
Both the Amazon Echo and Google Home are proving more popular with consumers than the experts were predicting a few years back. (Just a few months ago, The Echo was described as the "accidental winner" of the virtual assistant race.) As the Google Home scrambles to catch up with the Echo's lead, you can count on both companies to integrate as many third party apps into each system as possible, while refining each experience to draw on more contextual data to create a conversational experience.
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