The Battle is On! Google, Apple, Amazon & Cortana…

It took a long time to finally narrow it down.  But the TL;DR- you’re going to find it’s hard to decide when weighing the pros and cons on these.  Basically you may enter and adopt smart home technology- but you should really check first on how you will control it and better yet – what you would like to control “with” your other devices in you Smart Home.  After working with hundreds of different products, wireless languages, technologies – it comes down to this…  Which one is going to be the one that sticks?  It’s still similar to pulling hair out trying to figure it all out.  I’ll explain why here…

Amazon Echo featuring Alexa:

Amazon’s flagship device the Echo featuring voice-controlled recognition with yours truly, Alexa- has proven it’s ground.  This is no doubt.  Such integrations include: Logitech Harmony, Philips Hue, Nest, Nexia, SmartThings, among truly way too many to list.  This is great!  But there are some drawbacks…  Sometimes when I leave my house and need to flip something off, Alexa falls short.  I realized it the other night when I was leaving and forgot to turn off some lights.  I quickly grabbed my phone with words of summoning “Ok, Google.”  (pause for a few seconds)…  Turn off my lights- and suddenly I had realized the limitations of the Echo.  What if I’m on the other side of my house and she can’t hear me?  This is where every smart home user has to get a little creative.  I’ll explain why later.

Want an Amazon Echo?  Here you go:

Amazon Echo – Black (1st Generation)

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Google Assistant via Android:

Ok, so I don’t have a Google Home Hub officially yet.  I’m not going to lie- I was convinced the OnHub was the first of it’s kind and somewhere in the noise of media and all the “accurate” news out there on the trending smart technologies I was confused.  I would have purchased it if it were better than my Nighthawk router, because indeed- I thought it was a router originally with usb-expansion slots for emerging wifi technology about to be released.  I was wrong.  Then realizing I had already had an Echo, I didn’t want to get another tube- especially one that looked like a modernized air freshening diffuser (think I’m lying?  Take a look at it at first glance and tell me you can’t say the same).  Nevertheless, I have the power of google with my android and it seems to work very well.  However – it seems to me to be just a tad behind the homekit embelishings that come along with an iOS device like an iPhone.  If you’re looking to control your home from your phone – go with a fairly new iPhone, that way you wont have to get another new phone a year from now when they discontinue the operating system upgrades (bye bye old generation iPhones).  As for Google – they are in it for the long haul, but just not quite up to par.  See my suggestions below.

Apple featuring Homekit:

Apple you need to catch up.  Desperately.  Where are your smart home products?  I see an Echo, a Google Home Hub, and I feel like maybe you’re just playing for the fun of it.  Did you not like the feeling of diversity with the proprietary needs that Apple strives to live by?  I get it.  We have to make sure things are secure.  Everyone has an iPhone these days.  So let’s just sit back and learn from everyone’s mistakes in the meantime…  But you’re going to pay for it later.  If you are going to use phone-controlled smart home features – then this might be your best route if you are looking to keep it simple.  But…  Something to keep in mind.  The certifications involved with becoming homekit “compaitible” isn’t as easy as the Echo for instance.  I’ve heard there are stacks upon stacks of agreements and testings that are needed – hence the limited interoperability.  I fell short on this one because when I realized I was putting together my smart home based on things that were compatible with my iPhone- I knew something was wrong.  Next…

Microsoft featuring Cortana:

Where the heck did you come from?  And where are you going?  I am so magnified by this player.  Let alone intrigued to find out what they have up their sleeves at Microsoft.  The way that things are going – this one is going to either fall off the charts, or go big with a homerun.  The reason why I say this is simply because I’m watching behind the scenes- from as many angles as I can…  And I have to say- I’m interested to know more, but more importantly: I’m interested to SEE more.  Reason being – I somehow have been able to get my windows 10 to sync seamlessly from computer to computer almost as if it is catching an image of my exact customized settings and lending it over to whatever “loaner” computer I log into.  Not to mention- I can forward my phone notifications directly through windows 10…  Yes- I can get text messeges, as well as get instant messeges from colleagues when I’m either at work or away from work and they get forwarded to my computer.  Better yet- I can REPLY back directly from the nifty little pop-up that appears when I get the notification.  So, if I left my phone at home, I can still get texts and notifications that are forwarded to my computer.  Not to mention I can sync my home network and play my xbox one from another computer in my house.  I think we might be onto something.  But still not quite there on any fronts with all of these players.

What I really want is this:

One system- that can seamlessly integrate from phone to computer or computer to phone (or xbox haha) and harmoniously alert me while still being prepared to take commands back from me- to control my smart home.

Here’s what I’m getting for now (Or is all that is available right now):

A sweet black hub that can control things (Only when I’m at home) – thanks Alexa…  A cool program on my phone that lets me throw off commands to control my smart home but is limited to only certain devices- thank you Apple….  Another hub, that looks just like my echo, but more of the modernized “dinky” air freshner version that is far behind the curve- thanks Google.  Last but not least – one of the coolest and seamless integrations from computer to phone – but there’s nothing yet that’s connecting it to my smart home.

What ever happened to this?

What is or where did Alljoyn fall off the map? Microsoft…

Move faster… Microsoft.

Nevertheless- here’s my recommendations:

Phone controlled Smart Home:  Go for the iPhone route

Computer controlled Smart Home:  Jeez…  I would say maybe find the best “binding” effort on this one.  I would recommend a few integrations – but I’ll leave this up to you if you’ve made it passed using a phone or voice to control your home.  There’s some cool integrations with Smart Things…  This was just another layer in my setup.

Voice-controlled Smart Home: The Amazon Echo.  Easiest out-of-the-box solution with all the bells and whistles and integrations as well to that note.

" The SmartHome Ninja : Owner, creator, imagineer, smart home enthusiast, tester, practical applicator extraordinaire.."

View Comments (4)

    • Hey @rvandermey - I get my texts because of the windows insider/preview program for the beta updates as they come out. Originally this started working around October of last year- and I think it only works for android-based phones as the backbone is the same with windows as it is with android - linux/unix etc. I also think it is because they are SMS-texts and not iMesseges. Apple was smart (and also a brat) about not shaking hands will any non-apple devices so it gets us back to the main problem with Smart Home... Interoperability! However, I believe how it works is that the SMS is essentially using a push via the cortana integration on my smartphone which is then carrying over to windows (if you were curious about the shaking-hands process of it all). Nevertheless, it's awesome because I can reply to texts and virtually almost any program like hipchat, slack etc through my windows computer or my work computer even as they both have windows 10 and it all is working through the Cortana app on my android and Cortana on windows. THe full features aren't there yet- but the basics are, and I love them. I do believe i'm also on the beta/developer releases for Cortana- but I didn't need that to get it working, however I remember when it stopped working after an update and I tried everything to get it back, and that was one thing I did when troubleshooting (get on the Cortana beta program). I do believe only certain phones it works for, and you have to be on the insider/preview program and apply/get approved for Windows 10. Other than that- you simply download the cortana android app, and you go into cortana settings on windows and go to the "notifications" and make sure after installing cortana on your smartphone- to set notifications to "on" for cortana and your smartphone setting after it populates after restarting windows and your phone so they sync up to populate in the windows 10 notifications menu. If you have an iphone though... Not sure how it will work as I've tried every which way :(

      • Awesome, thank you. I'll give that a shot. I haven't even started playing with Cortana. It's time.

  • Mr. Ninja, I have experience developing for Alexa, Google Assistant, and Cortana. I'd rank my experience with Alexa in the lead by a good margin, then Google Assistant, and Cortana is hardly in the running. If I submit a new Alexa skill I generally get feedback the next day. I submitted a Cortana skill about 2 months ago and still don't have any feedback. I believe Microsoft is a great company in general, so it makes me think they hardly care about Cortana.

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