‘Tis the season for holiday cheer. Google Home and the Amazon Echo are supposed to take some tasks off your hands, but they’ve also got some cute tricks up their sleeves this Holiday season. Here are a few ways your voice assistant can make your holidays merry and bright.
Amazon’s Alexa used to have the market cornered when it came to voice-assistant shopping. Provided you have an Amazon Prime account and have voice purchasing enabled, you can ask her to add an item to your shopping cart and review it in the app. Google recently partnered with Target for its Google Express program, which lets you order items and have them delivered either the same day or within three days, depending on what it is. Amazon has same-day delivery service with Prime Now, where available.
If you want to brave the stores yourself, you can simply ask Alexa or Google home to add the roast beast or Merlinpeen meat cubes to your shopping list, and then you’ll be able to see it in their respective apps.
The timing of getting dinner on the table between when people are hungry enough after eating everything in their stocking and not quite into their nth glass of wine is a tricky one. Plus, you’re making multiple dishes in a single kitchen. That’s when setting reminders and using multiple timers for different foods comes in handy. Both Alexa and Google let you set multiple, named timers. Ask either to set a potato timer, Bche de Nol timer, or roast timer, and you can find out how much time is left by using the name in your inquiry.
Maybe you’re feeling adventurous and want to make a traditional dish from a country you’ve never visited. You can use your voice assistant to walk you through recipes. Enable skills from Allrecipes, Food Network, or Betty Crocker on your Alexa device to find something to make. The Echo Show can bring up videos if you’re unsure how to make an apple pie from scratch, too.
Meanwhile, Google Home takes you step-by-step through recipes from Bon Appetit, Food Network, and The New York Times. Using the Google Assistant app, you can ask to find a baked ham recipe, and it will offer up some options. Make your choice and click “Send to Google Home” if available. Then you can ask your device to start cooking, prompting with “OK, Google, next” when you’re ready to move on.
Smart appliances aren’t at all ubiquitous, but if you do have one, there’s a decent chance it’s compatible with either Alexa or Google Assistant. Alexa works with more of them. If your hands are covered with icing, it’s mighty nice to just ask your smart speaker to ask your oven to preheat to 350 degrees. If you’re doing some sous viding this holiday, Anova works with both assistants; Joule has an Alexa skill.
Chances are you’ll need some advice on some part of the holiday meal. Alexa and Google Home can convert cups to ounces or remind you that forks go on the left side. Alexa is primed with all sorts of holiday-related tidbits, including hacks, jokes, and stories. She can also settle the argument of whether it’s Donna and Blitzen or Donner and Blitzen. Sadly, the Google Home can’t recite Santa’s reindeer yet.
Not everyone can make it home for the holidays, but you can give far-flung friends and relatives a call via your smart speaker. While Google Home lets you call almost any number in the U.S. and Canada for free, but whomever you’re calling from your Echo or Echo Show will need an Alexa device to make a connection. Of course, it’s a bit like having the whole house on speakerphone, so your results may vary.
Part of the magic and misery of the holidays is mingling with relatives you rarely see. Sometimes you just wish there was an in-person Facebook “Unfollow” button. Alexa can’t do that, but she and the Google Home do have games, music, and other distractions. Try Google Home’s “crystal ball” or “Mad-Libs” games if things get tense. Alexa has Jeopardy!; Magic Door; Yes, Sire; and tons more for fans of Batman (The Wayne Investigation), music (Song Quiz), movies (Golden Ticket), wordplay (Categories Game or Amazing Word Master), and Howie Mandel (Deal or No Deal). Naturally both speakers are equipped to play all sorts of holiday tunes, and Alexa can even recite “The Night Before Christmas.”
If you listen to Amazon Music using your Alexa-enabled device, you can request to hear holiday songs. Simply say, “Alexa, play holiday music.” You can even get more specific with requests such as, “Alexa, play the ‘Christmas Present’ playlist,” or “Alexa, play music for having a Christmas party.” Alexa has you covered no matter what kind of festive music you want to hear. If you want to hear the music in every room of the house, have Alexa play the songs with Multi-Room Music using Amazon Music, Tidal, Pandora, or Spotify.
Nothing says the holidays like a festive movie with a cheery plot. Whether you want to watch Christmas with the Kranks or Love Actually, use your Fire TV Stick 4K or Fire TV Cube to watch holiday classics on Prime Video.
Got a Ring or August smart doorbell? You’ll be in a cheery holiday mood whenever a friend or neighbor rings your doorbell, if you install a seasonal doorbell chime using your connected Echo device. Use the Alexa app to go under Cameras settings, and find Doorbell Announcements. You’ll be able to hear “Deck the Halls” whenever a visitor is at your door!
For those with multiple Alexa devices, you can use the “drop in” feature to call everyone to dinner. Google Home’s broadcast feature lets you use your speakers like an intercom.
Waiting on a late arrival? Alexa’s Kayak skill can track a flight’s status for you.
Speaking of tracking, Alexa and Google Home can give you updates on Santa’s location. If you want to offer the big guy some assistance, say, “OK Google, call Santa.” If you want him to help with your wish list, say, “OK Google, talk to Santa’s helpline.” Meanwhile, Alexa has all kinds of Christmas trivia.
Ask either Alexa or Google Home for the scores to football games you’re not currently watching, and they’ll be able to tell you who’s winning.
Your voice assistant can help find nearby restaurants, though you’ll still have to call to see if they’re open.