Amazon Alexa vs Google Home vs Apple HomeKit - which smart speaker assistant is best?

Having trouble choosing which smart assistant to go for? We assess the three main options to see which is best...

Echo Dot, HomePod Mini and Nest Audio side by side
(Image credit: Amazon; Apple; Google)

Even once you've decided to get a smart speaker and maybe even build out a wider smart home with additional accessories and products, the question of which assistant to go for remains. Do you want an Alexa speaker, Google Assistant or Apple HomeKit?

Considering that smart assistants can essentially become part of your household, helping you do everything from setting morning routines and controlling your heating to answering the kids' many questions and playing the tunes, you should consider carefully before making any commitments.

To make things even more complicated, these assistants don't just reside on smart speakers produced by the company behind them. Instead, there are dozens of third-party products from the likes of Lenovo, Bose, Sonos, Bang & Olufsen, and more that also offer full functionality from Google, Alexa, and Apple.

To help make choosing an actual speaker a little easier, we have assembled our favorites in our guide to the best smart speakers. Before that, though, keep reading to see which smart assistant will suit you best.

1. Amazon Alexa

Amazon Echo on kitchen shelf

(Image credit: Amazon)

Amazon's range of smart speakers and displays may be the most well-known, with the command 'Alexa' becoming synonymous with the smart home phenomenon overall. However, it also has the widest selection of devices. Moreover, it is most regular with its new releases - knocking the price of older models down for those who aren't necessarily interested in the latest tech.

Music & podcasts

For obvious reasons of friendly competition, the only major audio streaming services not supported by Alexa are Google Play and YouTube Music, making it the best option for those with multiple subscriptions or memberships to Apple Music, Tidal, or Amazon Music (which aren't supported by Google or Apple).

There's also multi-room listening, which allows you to network multiple speakers around the home together for parties or to listen to podcasts while cleaning different rooms of the house. No pausing required. This is, of course, useful for broadcasting messages to another room, like calling the kids for dinner.

Fire TV & Ring security

A big perk of Alexa is that it is part of the wider Amazon suite of technology, including Fire TVs. This allows you to control your viewing with just your voice and offers far more functionality than the Google equivalent of Chromecast. So whether you have a Fire TV or Fire streaming stick, it's a great bonus.

Then there's the range of Ring security products, such as Ring doorbells and security cameras. Alexa smart displays such as the Echo Show range come in handy here, giving you a video feed direct to your device. You can also use your speaker to communicate with someone at your front door when you're too busy to answer the door. For more on this, take a look at our guide to the best video doorbells.

Alexa Guard offers another layer of more low-tech security, with the ability to train your speaker to alert you with a push notification to your phone when it hears something like a smoke alarm. 

Amazon Echo Show 5 on bedside table beside white and gold lamp

(Image credit: Amazon)

Audio quality

The Echo Dot houses a 1.6" speaker, while the larger Echo has a 3.0 woofer and dual front-firing 0.8" tweeters. The Echo Studio blows both out of the water with a 1.0" tweeter, three 2.0" mid-range speakers, and a 5.3" woofer. The latter two also feature Dolby Atmos surround sound.

Smart home hub

The updated Echo features an in-built temperature sensor and Zigbee hub, increasing its usefulness as a standalone smart home hub. Zigbee-equipped smart locks, lights, and plugs will all connect seamlessly for a completely automated home.

Kid-friendly

For an extra subscription, you can activate Alexa's kid-friendly options, including filters for answers to kids' questions, filter explicit songs and stop the little ones from doing some secret shopping. You can also review what might have been happening while you weren't supervising.

Privacy & personalization

Echo devices (and most Alexa-equipped voice speakers) have a switch for the microphone so you can protect your privacy whenever you want. You can also hear back any interactions you've had, deleting them at your leisure.

You'll also be able to set up multiple voice profiles for a more personal touch.

Amazon Alexa: who will it suit?

Amazon's Alexa smart assistant is a fantastic all-rounder, with the company putting as much effort into the design as it has the features in recent years. The spherical Echo and Echo Dot won't be to everyone's taste, but they're sleek and modern-looking enough to blend into their surroundings.

When it comes to functionality, it's impressive. Compatibility with things like Ring, Amazon shopping, and Zigbee smart home products is a massive bonus for anyone interested in building a wider system, and kid-friendly features will please parents.

Audio quality is also a winner, and Amazon offers the widest range of smart displays to suit those looking for something small for the kitchen counter, or a 10-inch video calling, recipe-guiding machine.

2. Google Assistant

Google Nest Mini mounted to white brick wall above sideboard

(Image credit: Google)

The biggest tool in Google's arsenal is its vast bank of data, having completely cornered the market on internet searches and knowing way more about us all than we'd probably like. This doesn't necessarily help it when it comes to the smart speaker wars, but it can't hurt its ability to answer obscure queries.

Powered by Google

While there are still alternative email and calendar services to Google's own, it's true that many of us rely on Gmail and its attached services for both work and personal organization. Google knows this, of course, and makes it incredibly simple to hook your email and calendar up to your smart home routines. If you use Google Meet for keeping in touch with family and colleagues, even better.

You can't ignore the benefits of having Google-owned YouTube at your fingertips, either, with video tutorials and recipe guides all easily accessible on your smart display. YouTube Music is also our favorite for weaving video into our music listening. 

Money matters

There's not a huge amount in it, but Google's products dip a little further into the budget market with products like the Nest Mini - costing under $30. This comes in useful for those who want to build a network of speakers across the home without spending the earth in the process. In comparison, the cheapest (current generation) Echo speaker is around $50, and you could spend $100 on the HomePod mini. 

Google Nest Audio on side table in yellow room

(Image credit: Google)

Audio quality

The budget option from Google - the Nest Mini - much like Amazon's own, has just one speaker, while the Nest Audio hosts a 0.7" tweeter and 2.9" woofer for more impact. 

Privacy & personalization

Like Alexa, Google speakers feature a microphone mute switch that protects your privacy when you don't want to be overheard. Also like Alexa, each member of the family can set up their own voice profile.

Smart home hub

Google Nest speakers hold their own as smart hubs, working with compatible Philips Hue light bulbs, smart plugs, and Nest thermostats (and more) to automate your home exactly how you like it. 

And, though not as impressive as what you can do with Alexa and Fire TVs, for many, Google's abilities to cast entertainment to the TV via Chromecast will be more than enough. 

Google Assistant: who will it suit?

We'd recommend a Google Assistant speaker for those who want to use their smart device as a productivity tool. Whether it's having reminders of calendar events and email alerts, or tracking their sleep and setting routines, it's all slightly more connected than Alexa can claim, and without locking you in like Apple.

Smart displays are where Google Assistant really comes into its own, with the latest Google Nest Hub prioritizing something we're all interested in pursuing - better sleep. 

Apple HomeKit: the details

Apple HomePod mini

(Image credit: Apple)

iPhone or Mac users will already be familiar with Apple's resident smart assistant - Siri - and the company's HomeKit range could be the best choice for those who want their smart home to work seamlessly with their other Apple products.

Apple only

HomeKit is by far the most restrictive of the three options, tying you to Apple-branded services for pretty much everything. So, if you don't fancy kitting your house out with Apple TV, subscribing to Apple Music, and tying yourself to the iPhone for the foreseeable future, think carefully before going for a HomePod.

There aren't even third-party speaker brands that have Siri on board and, since the Apple HomePod has been discontinued, you have just a single option. 

That said, Apple inspires brand loyalty from millions of people for a reason, and the recent introduction of lossless music and spatial audio will sway some audiophiles.

Personalization

Unlike Google and Alexa, Siri doesn't allow for multiple users profiles.

Audio quality

The spherical design of the HomePod mini offers a 360-degree sound that is the best on offer amongst the smallest speakers in each range. Pair it with another Apple speaker, and you'll have a sturdy surround sound system on top of everything else Siri has to offer.

Apple HomeKit: who will it suit?

There are no two ways about it - the Apple HomePod mini (and its discontinued older sibling, the HomePod) is only really recommended for those who have already sworn allegiance to the Apple brand. Those who don't use Apple Music, have an Apple TV, or already use an iPhone will find a lot of roadblocks in their way.

That said, Apple Music is doing its best to rival Spotify for music fans with HQ audio, and podcasts, of course, actually originate with the fruit-inspired brand. If you're happy with what Apple has to offer, as well as the design of the HomePod mini, then this is still a solid - though more restrictive - option. 

Amazon Echo Show 5 on kitchen counter

(Image credit: Amazon)

Verdict: which smart assistant is best?

While Apple has its fans, and by and large, deserves them, we find that it can't quite measure up to the offerings of Google and Amazon in the smart speaker arena.

We're a big fan of Google's budget Nest Mini, but the search engine giant's offering runs neck and neck with Alexa in most areas. Both have their individual strengths, but if we were forced to decide, we would give the edge to Amazon's Alexa for households with children and an eye on security.

Caroline Preece
Caroline Preece

Caroline has been a part of the Livingetc team since 2021, offering expert advice on the best smart tech for your home. Passionate about interiors and how technology can be integrated into daily living without sacrificing aesthetics, in her spare time she can be found shopping for the latest accent pieces for her own space.