Siri and the Smart Home

With the news of Google cutting its budget around Assistant, and with Amazon in a similar position of losing a potential $10 billion on Alexa and other smart devices, I’m again intrigued by the smart home echo system and have many thoughts on this sector of technology.

These thoughts also come because, as this is the holiday season, Amazon and Google are having fire sales on their respective assistant devices. And while the technologist in me wants to buy them all (even though I already have a version of a Nest Mini or Echo Show in one form or another), I know I’m in for disappointment.

But since I hate myself, I’ve gotten these devices out to test again; and I’m once again reminded why I’ve invested in the Siri/HomeKit ecosystem and sold my Amazon and Google devices. Here’s a short list why:

Media playback

This is, perhaps, the biggest reason I prefer Siri to the other assistants. When it comes to media playback, and control from personal devices (like an iPhone), Siri takes the cake. I can request a song from Siri, and it generally plays what I want it to. If it misses what I said, AirPlaying to the HomePods is a piece of cake. In addition, if anything on the network is playing, I can easily control playback from my phone, tablet, or even watch.

Google comes close with Chromecast, but I’ve never had luck with Chromecast being reliable.

This is in stark contrast to Alexa’s experience. Yikes. While you can (sometimes) control media playback on devices from the Alexa app, it’s incredible bare-bones and barely integrates with anything outside of Amazon Music. If I ask it to play something and it gets it wrong, I can’t go into the app and get it to play the right song.

And multi-user playback? Forget about it. While Apple and Google will recognize voices and play from the appropriate account and streaming service, Alexa is tied to the primary user’s account, and you can’t change it per voice profile (there is functionality for this in each voice profile, but I haven’t seen any Music Skill enable it). Amazon is also at a disadvantage as it cannot provide OS-level integration like Google or Apple can. This results in Alexa’s experience feeling bug-ridden, accident-prone, and isolated.

Home Control

While Apple has the least number of supported devices out of the big three assistants, it does have some major benefits: one, Matter and Thread support is already here and is completely supported. Two, home requests are local and, as a result, fast. Also, no annoying ads or “did you know”s from the assistant.


Plus, with all that local support for devices, I can use solutions like Home Assistant and Homebridge to add unsupported devices and experiences to my Home app. And it works great! Plus, for extra control, I can set up Shortcuts. How is Apple the most customizable solution here?


What do I find lacking in the Apple Ecosystem, though? The device ecosystem, and specifically: a photo frame. Google absolutely nails this experience with its Nest Hub, and I wish Apple would provide something similar in price, functionality, and stature.

In that vein, the lack of “forms” (and prices) Siri can take is also disappointing. An Echo Dot being sold for $15 is exactly why I would want to use that device: a cheap, good-enough-sounding speaker I can put anywhere! (and I’m in love with the idea of the Flex!) It’s well worth the price considering how many of those I could purchase for the price of one HomePod. Ah well.

And one final quibble: I can’t set default speaker groups in the Home app. But that’s a fine price to pay for everything else working so well.


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