Have you ever wondered which is the best smart home platform? Is it the walled garden of Apple Home, the omnipresent Google Home or the vending machine-like Amazon Alexa? Which platform should you invest in? If you’re completely open to the different platforms, go with Apple Home. Amazon Alexa is harder to setup but has more devices and Google Home needs to grow up a bit.
At Smart Home Reviews Eh, we base everything we do on actual usage. We use the products for a while before running it through our scoring system. And we do this to answer the question: “How do I get the MOST out of my home?”. For this comparison, we’ve actually built (and re-built) our smart home in each one of the platforms. Yes, we basically built the same smart home setup three times over the last few months. We won’t lie to you, it wasn’t easy.
For this comparison, we’ve organized it into the following categories:
- Smart Home Hardware Setup
- Home Apps & Automation
- Gadget Data Privacy & Security
- Smart Home Remote access
- Smart Home Voice control
- Fundamental Problem
The fundamental problem is the main issue why adding smart home gadgets won’t necessary turn your home “smart”. The fundamental problem is more prevalent when trying to setup the automations that run your home.
For you to get a better comparison on how the hardware setup of Apple Home, Amazon Alexa and Google, here is a table showing the step-by-step process of each smart home platform.
|Apple Home||Amazon Alexa||Google Home|
In the table above, we can clearly see that Apple Home has the shortest and simplest approach among the three. Because of that, Apple Home is not prone to mistakes unlike the Amazon Alexa and Google Home. In the other two setup, there are too many pieces that can go wrong.
For example when we tried the setup of KooGeek Smartplug P2 in Amazon Alexa, it took us 3 days. Compared to that, it only took us 3 minutes to add the SmartPlug P2 to our Apple Home.
It should also be noted that in Google Home, seeing the brand on the list doesn’t necessarily mean all the products on it are compatible. For example, as of this review we were able to add our Nest account to Google but we are unable to use my Nest Cam IQ with Google Home.
Google Home also, as of now, does not support iPhones installing any of the smart home devices. We contacted the Google Home support and they suggested we use an Android device when using Google Home.
We then used our Galaxy S7 to install everything but we found another obstacle. The list of compatible devices is much shorter on the Android app than the iOS app. Even though Google’s product is new in the industry, it’s performance is underwhelming.
We also cannot ignore the fact that there is a possibility of a manufacturer going out of business, in regards to Amazon Alexa and Google Home’s hardwares. There’s a good chance that our accessories are going to be useless since the support isn’t going to be there anymore.
With Apple Home, however, there is a higher chance that the devices will work for a while due to manufacturers having to meet Apple’s Homekit requirements.
As it stands right now, Amazon Alexa has more compatible gadgets. Alexa is compatible with Smart Things which opens up another large pool of devices to draw from. However there is a chance that it will change in the future since Apple has changed the Homekit standard for a bit in 2017.
When it comes to controlling your smart home using an app, the Apple Home is far better among the three. Aside from Apple Home allowing you to control all the devices using Siri, it also allows you to toggle them on/off in the Home App. All the HomeKit compatible devices will show up in other 3rd party HomeKit apps as well. You can’t do these with Amazon Alexa or Google Home.
Alexa and Google Home, on the other hand, uses the manufacturer’s own app to toggle the device. This will not be an issue if you have bought the products on the same manufacturer. But if you’re running a plethora of devices from different manufacturers, trying to find the right app will get annoying. There are 3rd party apps that can solve this problem however some of them look poorly built so use them with caution.
When it comes to creating automations, which is the smart home’s greatest strength, the Apple Home again comes on top. The automations are baked directly into the app and wouldn’t need to sign up for another service like IFTTT and Stringify to make your devices to talk to each other.
The standout feature of Apple Home automations is the ability to trigger one based on your location. Apple Home uses both the location of your device as well as your home network to detect whether you are at home or not. The location based automations work every single time whereas the equivalent ones set-up through IFTTT are quite hit and miss. A location based trigger is going to be important for those who want to lock down their house when they leave. An automation like that needs to be 100%.
However, it should be noted that Stringify will allow you to create complex automations that can serve a finite purpose. The Apple Home automations are quite simple in the sense that if A happens, the B happens. Whereas Stringify allows you to specify if A happens, than B happens as well as C. These higher level automations will be attractive to the same people who like Android devices because of their customizability. But the majority of us will not need nor care about those higher level automations.
The Amazon Alexa and Google Home are always listening. You will not have an idea what they are recording or not recording. With Apple Home, on the other hand, everything is encrypted. Your requests are encrypted. A good example of Apple’s setup can be seen in the HomePod’s keynote where Phil tells us that the HomePod only starts listening when you say “Hey Siri”.
This is not a new information as Apple has made it clear that personal information privacy is a top concern of theirs. We’re confident that Google and Amazon will protect our personal information but they are in the business of mining your personal information in order to improve their services. However, at the end of the day, if you don’t care much about your personal data, this isn’t going to be a big deal.
When it comes to overall security, Apple again has the upper hand as they claim that everything that occurs between your devices, home and Apple’s server is encrypted in a way that Apple can’t see what’s going on.
But that is not the only thing we don’t like about Amazon’s and Google’s smart home setup. Aside from Amazon and Google having your information, every manufacturer which you connect to your Amazon/Google home to might have access to your information as well.
For our Amazon Alexa smart home setup, we’re running devices from 6 different manufacturers which requires us to sign up with 6 different web services. It is the same with Google Home while with Apple Home, it’s just Apple’s iCloud.
Another way to look at this problem is with a Lego. Apple Home is this long piece. Amazon and Google is the equivalent piece made from several smaller blocks. Which one is stronger?
When it come to remote access, Apple Home is the best among the three. That is, if you set it up with an Apple TV or iPad. Everything runs through iCloud and you can access your home, outside of your home, like you can do in your home. With Apple Home, you can see what all your devices are doing in one app. You don’t get this with any of the other platforms.
With Amazon Alexa, you can verbally tell the AI to turn appliances on and off but it can’t handle queries about the status of the appliances. Most of the products that are compatible with Google Home and Amazon Alexa have remote access web services so if you really wanted to, you can control your devices through their apps. They are not as easy to use as Apple Home but this won’t be an issue if you don’t mind managing multiple apps on your device.
When it comes to issuing commands to Siri, Google and Alexa, we personally prefer Alexa. However, it should be noted that if you are using anything other than English, Siri is the clear winner.
To use Apple Home, you say “Hey Siri” for Alexa, it’s just “Alexa” and for Google Home, it’s “Ok Google”.
With that out of the way, here’s why we prefer Alexa. Normally, if people are commanding something, our tone is quite stern. That should be the same feeling we should get when we are giving these AI’s commands.
Saying “Hey Siri” bothers us a bit. When we say “Hey”, it’s more of a question, a query. Saying “Hey” loses the stern feel of the command. It feels like we are giving Siri a chance to not obey the command. This interaction is even more infuriating when the AI just fails at the query. Having to say “Hey Siri” when you’re about to rage makes it feel odd.
With that being said, if you can get Siri to work well for you, it’s awesome. Check out all the Siri commands we use to control our smart lights.
Onto “Ok Google”. Personally, this is the most emotionless command we can give to an AI. At least Apple and Amazon tried to give their AI a semblance of personality by naming the AI’s but Google didn’t. When we normally use the word “OK”, it’s not usually in a full sentence. We use “Ok” as a word to acknowledge something. Starting with the word “Ok” for a command feels odd.
The fundamental problem with the current state of smart homes is that you cannot make all your “dumb” appliances turn into “smart” ones in one step. The majority of the appliances in our homes aren’t meant to be smart. We can buy all these gadgets to automate our house but at the end of the day our home isn’t going to be Jetson-esque.
All the appliances available in the market still need people to power them or give them additional instructions even if there is power. We have actually created a video before on how one could turn on a kettle automatically after waking up. Setting up the automation still requires you to turn the kettle on at night.
Here is another example, a Dyson Heater can’t be used with a smart plug because we can’t leave the fan “on” while plugged in a smart plug that’s turned off. The fan defaults to “off” the moment there is no power. There are several other household appliances that operate in the same manner. To circumvent this problem, you have to buy a new fan/heater that is “on” even where there isn’t any power. That’s a bit of a waste since there isn’t anything technically wrong with the Dyson.
Lamps are also a nice example for this. Smart bulb in lamps are a neat idea as long as you never turn the lamp off. However there are some cases– like a night lamp– that it is easier for you to physically turn off instead of accessing it remotely on your phone or tablet. If you really wanted to solve this problem, you could replace your night stand lamp with a $250 Philips Hue Phoenix but does that sound like a good idea?
Wonder how we’ve automated our smart lights in our homes? Check out how to have your lights turn on automatically when come home!
Another example of this problem would be in an eating area. You put smart light bulbs in the light fixture which allows you to set the mood via coloured lighting but the moment somebody turns off the switch, those smart LED bulbs are unreachable until somebody turns them on again. You could circumvent this problem by having a smart light switch as well as smart light bulbs but that’s another $80 dollar gadget you have to get.
The fundamental problem here is there’s a break in the entire smart home automation process. However, the smart home is still a new industry. We’re sure it’s going to get better over time.
We hope our Apple Home vs. Google Home vs. Amazon Alexa Smart Home Comparison has helped you out. Was it helpful? If it was, consider getting your tech through our for yourself, check out our links to purchase your products. Let us know if you have any comments or questions in the comments below!