Home Siri vs Alexa Smart Home (Longish read)

Discussion in 'HomeKit, HomePod, CarPlay, Home & Auto Technology' started by dannys1, Nov 5, 2016.

  1. dannys1 macrumors 68020

    dannys1

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2007
    Location:
    UK
    #1
    I guess this is the appropriate section - just thought i'd give fellow Mac users a little write up of my experiences between the two mainly for smart home control. Alexa only came out mid October in the UK and we're still missing some features however so far i've not been overly impressed.

    I use SmartThings as my main Smart Home hub for automations etc as it's so powerful and flexible. I use Homebridge to get it to work with Siri. Homebridge hasn't always been the most stable but lately its been pretty good.

    My Philips Hue system is Homekit compatible - I think everything else I use works through Smartthings on Homebridge (Logitech Harmony, Wemo sockets and SmartThings)

    So overall id have to say that Siri is a lot better at smarthome commands than Alexa. Siri will understand what you want to do almost no matter how you say it, where as Alexa requires stuff to be said in a very specific order. With Alexa I feel like there's no actual understanding of what you're saying just basic speech recognition and you have to say exactly what the button you'd press on a computer says for it to understand you.

    For instance with Siri I can say

    "Relax"
    "Set the relax scene"
    "Turn on relax in the bedroom"
    "Set the bedroom to relax"
    "Activate the relax scene in my bedroom"
    "Set the bedroom to relax"

    Where as with Alexa I have to say
    "Turn on the relax scene in the bedroom"

    Otherwise it'll get confused, I can't say "set the relax scene" I can't say bedroom first like "Set the bedroom to relax" - I don't have to remember how to say things with Siri where as with Alexa I have to memorise specific ways to say stuff.

    Also Siri is great with scenes, if you make a scene you can say it anyway you want. For Good night you can literally just say "good night" to your iPhone and Siri activates it. Or Goodnight siri, or all variations. With Alexa you'd have to say "Turn on the good night scene" - it's not exactly how you'd talk.

    Due to this you can do stuff with Siri you wouldn't normally be able to do. For instance I have some electric gates which i've setup with SmartThings to be triggered to open. I've created a scene in Homekit called "Open the gates" which just turns that switch on. Now when I tell Siri to open the gates, they open!

    Technically Alexa *should* be able to do this with anything. According to documentation as well as "turn on" for a switch it should understand, lock, unlock, open, close, etc - however it only works if I say "Turn on the gates" which is a weird way to phrase it. When I say "open the gates" Alexa just gives me an error beep.

    The Philips Hue skill for Alexa is awful too - you can't set colours and you have to say stuff in the right order. Where as with Siri I can do basically anything and it works FAST. Even dimming can be a nightmare on Alexa if you say "Dim my bedroom to 20%" it won't work, you have to say "Dim the mights to 20% IN my bedroom" Siri doesn't care how you ask. Siri will set the lights to any colour to tell it to as well, Alexa has not colour support.

    So overall i'm pretty disappointed. Its still worth the £50 I paid for the dot, and its quite handy get it to do simple things like on/off with the TV and my heaters when I don't know where my phone is - just being able to say it is quite handy. But i was hoping it would be more flexible than Siri not worse.
     
  2. NOITAIDAR macrumors member

    NOITAIDAR

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2015
    #2
    Not to mention the fact that you cannot integrate Alexa with your Apple Calendars, Reminders, or Apple Music.

    also... I'd have called that scene "Open the Blast Doors"
     
  3. mbfanos macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2011
    #3
    Using both Echo Dot and Siri, I gotta agree with you.
    Now only if Siri's mic is as good as Echo *dreaming*
     
  4. xraydoc macrumors 604

    xraydoc

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2005
    Location:
    192.168.1.1
    #4
    If Apple made a stand-alone device like Alexa, I might use it instead.

    But right now, a few Echos and Dots in the right locations gives me full voice coverage around my entire house - without having to have my phone near by (or raising my wrist to activate Siri on my watch). Besides, while I may have Siri at ready access via phone/iPad/watch, the rest of my family doesn't always have their devices on them at all times.

    There are several things that Alexa can do that Siri can't, however. Perhaps it'll be coming now that Apple allows third-party integration, but Alexa works with my Harmony remote - so I can ask to turn the TV on/off, changes inputs and set favorite channels. It also works with Dominos so I can order a pizza (though honestly, I eat pizza maybe once every 6 weeks... but nonetheless, Siri/Dominos can't do it yet).

    Agreed that Alexa can't set scenes and "goodnight" or "good morning" actions, both of which I have configured in Siri. But at the moment, there's more pluses for me on the Alexa side than on the Siri side.

    I'd love to be 100% Apple. But on this front, Apple's late to the game. Patiently waiting, though.
     
  5. dannys1 thread starter macrumors 68020

    dannys1

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2007
    Location:
    UK
    #5
    But with homebridge I can do all those things with Siri and more. I was really hoping that Alexa would blow Siri away and would be really clever and intelligent - in reality it doesn't' seem to understand conversational language at all, it seems to be basic speech recognition which needs to be said in the correct order and the correct way to press "preset" buttons.

    I still like Alexa - it's just after asking her to do something smart home related 3 times its easier to reach for my phone and get Siri to do it in one - and when I see the adverts saying things like "I spoke to the future and it spoke back" I was hoping it would an understanding of contextual language far beyond Siri and yet it's not even as intelligent as 1st generation Siri - there are no follow on commands related to what you last asked and as mentioned every phrase has to be exact. It's what i'd call "dumb speech control" pretty much on par with the speech recognition iOS had before Siri came along, where you can just ask it to do specific things but expanded on so those specific things are a huge list.

    Music was disappointing too - it's great you can set Spotify as the default, but it'll often play a random version of a track and there's no way to tell it other wise. Case in point, ask Siri and Alexa to play Billie Jean by Michael Jackson (Alexa from Spotify) and Siri gets it right from Apple Music and Alexa pulls up the Home Demo recording from the 25th anniversary album?!

    It'd be great if they could do some work on it so I could stuff like "Alexa, turn this socket on for 35 minutes" - I don't see why those things are not possible seen as we can set alarms. I should be able to turn things on, on timers really easily (and granted Siri can't do that either)
     
  6. xraydoc macrumors 604

    xraydoc

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2005
    Location:
    192.168.1.1
    #6
    Hmmm. I'll have to look into Harmony support via HomeBridge, but for most, that's not going to be an out-of-the-box function.
    True about the music. Like I said, if there was a stand-alone Siri box, I'd buy multiple units.
     
  7. dannys1 thread starter macrumors 68020

    dannys1

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2007
    Location:
    UK
    #7
    No it isn't but in the UK Alexa doesn't support Harmony or IFTTT anyway so i've done it all through SmartThings integration. And I have SmartThings in Homebridge so I can also control everything that works through SmartThings with Siri (which is everything I own, audio gear, heated blanket, non Hue lighting, TV, Xbox, Plex, electric gates, heated, fans, motorised blinds etc)

    A lot of the stuff I have on advanced automation with SmartThings so I never have to ask to do anything it's just monitored and reacting to situations but when you want to its nice. I'd use Alexa all the time for the lightning if she understood me the same way Siri does. I don't understand why it's so hard to build that as flexibly (or to add colours!)
     
  8. xraydoc macrumors 604

    xraydoc

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2005
    Location:
    192.168.1.1
    #8
    In the US, Harmony and IFTTT are natively supported by Alexa, so it's very simple to just turn those two functions on. And Harmony is supported natively (not a "skill") so it doesn't need a prefix like other skills (like "Alexa, tell Dominos to order my easy order"). I can just say "Alexa, turn off the TV" or "Alexa, turn on NBC."

    But yes, for those willing to invest time and effor in getting HomeBridge up and running, it becomes a whole lot more flexible. Trouble is, until it can do all this out of the box, the home automation marketplace will never go beyond the hobbyist.
     
  9. SouthernTeuchter macrumors newbie

    SouthernTeuchter

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2016
    #9
    There are various rumo(u)rs that Apple are working on a competitor for Echo/Google Home :-

    https://9to5mac.com/2016/05/27/apple-siri-speaker-echo-google-home-wwdc/
    http://www.itpro.co.uk/desktop-hard...ple-home-amazons-music-unlimited-lands-in-the
    http://www.theverge.com/2016/5/24/11763836/apple-siri-speaker-amazon-echo-alexa-google-home-ai

    My guess is that Google's launch has made them pause to ensure that they can offer a competitive differentiation. I'm waiting for that day - although my wife is mentioning Alexa more and more...
     
  10. T5BRICK macrumors 604

    T5BRICK

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2006
    Location:
    Oregon
    #10
    I've never been a fan of Siri, and I've read that Alexa just isn't as good as the competition. Google had a $30 discount on the Google Home the other day so I picked one up. At this point, I'm just using it in the kitchen for answering quick questions and playing or casting music to other speakers in the house. I need to pick up some smart lights and play around with that functionality.

    I'll be playing around with it and hopefully I'll have some feedback (positive and negative) to post about it going forward.
     
  11. dannys1 thread starter macrumors 68020

    dannys1

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2007
    Location:
    UK
    #11
    Be interested to hear what it's like, but I can't see me ever using a Google product to be honest.
     
  12. T5BRICK, Dec 2, 2016
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2016

    T5BRICK macrumors 604

    T5BRICK

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2006
    Location:
    Oregon
    #12
    Yeah, I've switched back and forth between Apple and Android. I prefer many of Googles services to Apple. I rely pretty heavily on casting instead of AirPlay for audio and video. It just works better for me.

    Either way, I will try to pick up smart devices that work with both Homekit and Google Home so I can do some comparisons.
     
  13. Applebot1 macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2014
    Location:
    UK
    #13
    I find Alexa more reliable than Siri. The amount of times Siri lets me down is ridiculous. The only thing going for Siri is better control over my Hue lights. I've come to the conclusion this is Phillips being lazy in their skill implementation but could be wrong. I was all in for Home Kit but not anymore and any smart device I purchase ideally has Alexa support.
    --- Post Merged, Dec 7, 2016 ---
    I only have a Dot but it's impressed me so much...the wife says I have another Women in the house lol. Think the secret is not to tie yourself into a particular eco system. Google Home looks good and wouldn't hesitate to try it out. Apple are stagnating at this moment in time imo. life long Apple fan but struggling to see their value or innovation at the moment.
     
  14. iPhonetherefore macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jul 8, 2008
    Location:
    Taunton UK
    #14
    Im also in the UK and picked up an echo dot on Black Friday. have to say Im impressed. works very well and with the new developer kit coming out from amazon it will only get better at working out smart home functions.
    My wife has terrible trouble with Siri - she has an accent that Siri just doesn't understand so she doesn't use it at all now. She uses the dot in the kitchen for setting timers, playing music and changing the heating (up, annoyingly!) so Alexa passes the crucial wife test. Ideally when I buy more home automation stuff I will be looking for both home kit and Alexa compatibility so that I have options when I am home and away.
    Lots of companies in UK have Alexa compatibility now - lightwaveRF, energenie, tado - all of which are still waiting for apples home kit approval!
    However - if apple were to bring out a similar system where you had a larger unit with big speaker and bluetooth version Ala the dot, I would very tempted if I hadn't bought a house full of dots and echoes when it comes out!
     

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