Showdown Logitech Harmony
Google and Alexa showdown. Ladies and Gentlemen, no worries! It's only Infrared ...

Let’s find out, which of our assistants supports Logitech Harmony better. We will compare configuration, voice commands, and assistant specific smart home features.

Now, that we have thoroughly examined Logitech Harmony: a Hub and it’s Elite, Ultimate, Companion, and we looked into the setup of our two assistants, it’s time to compare them and draw our conclusions. Siri, unfortunately, couldn’t make it to the party and even if she would have come (on a Raspberry Pi project), I am afraid she wouldn’t be able to keep up with Alexa and Google Home.

If you are interested in the setup, review, and voice-commands of a particular assistant with Logitech Harmony, you can find the dedicated posts here:

Please note, Google supports now a new “blue” Harmony integration. I am therefore updating this post including the publishing date for your orientation. Thanks David for the reminder! =)

Comparison of the Two Assistants

As we are living in the exciting age of AI, any of the features below can change silently overnight, if Logitech, Amazon, and Google decide to improve and update.

Mobile Hint: tilt your smartphone for a better table view!

 Amazon Alexa - Harmony Red SkillAmazon Alexa - Harmony Blue SkillGoogle Home
Red Action (RETIRED)
Google Home
Blue Service (NEW)
Configuration: Supports larger setups (multiple Harmony Hubs)PARTLY: 2 Hubs through additional red skillPARTLY: 2 Hubs through additional red skillN/AYES: Through household sharing
Configuration: Imports and Displays Harmony ActivitiesYESYESYESYES
Configuration: Imports and Displays Harmony Favorite ChannelsYESYESPARTLY: Favorites are only displayed during linking PARTLY: Favorites are only displayed during linking
Configuration: Friendly Names for Activities and FavoritesYESYESYESYES
"ask Harmony" Voice Commands YESN/AYESN/A
Optimized Voice Commands
N/AYESN/APARTLY: Voice Focus currently inconsistent, you need to add e.g. "... on TV" for consistency.
Assistant Feature: RoutinesN/AYES: Blue skill Activities and Favorites appear as Scenes in Alexa Routines. You can define Alexa Routines to combine actions based on:
- Voice commands
- A time of day
N/AYES: Blue skill Activities appear as remote control devices. Favorites only during linking. You can define Routines to combine actions based on:
- Voice commands
- A time of day

So, how to read this table?

Still, as with every assistant comparison, and especially now, that Google has provided a new (blue) Harmony integration, most is a matter of personal taste. How do you like to set up, configure and talk to your voice assistants?

Configuration

You will find two columns for Alexa, as she supports two different skills, the red and the optimized blue skill. They are different in functionality and in case you have two Harmony hubs, you will need to install both.

The two columns for Google indicate a similar approach, now, that they have released a new blue Harmony service. However, Google’s approach is to retire the old red Action and replace it with the new integration. Google provides now also an updated Google Home app, which supports a “Household” concept, through which additional Harmony Hubs can be integrated.

If you like to tinker with 3rd party cloud services, you could also use Yonomi, and what have you, to support multiple Harmony hubs on both assistants. But that’s another layer of complexity and another cloud service which needs to be up and running to mediate between the assistants and Harmony.

Both Assistants import the Harmony activities and up to 50 favorite channel names you choose. Logitech has implemented the same brilliant configuration options for both, where you can select what you’d like to import and specify friendly names.

My personal conclusion is that Google has now a better concept to support multiple Harmony Hubs, while Alexa is better in presenting your favorites to you. You can always look them up in your Alexa App Scenes list, with Google you need to go through a lengthy and not so intuitive un-link/re-link process to see the list.

Voice Commands

The “ask Harmony” voice commands are equally supported by both assistants red Skill/Action.

Alexa supports streamlined voice commands through the blue skill, where we can omit the “ask Harmony to …”. Furthermore, with the blue skill Alexa’s common commands, like pause, resume, volume up/down etc. are handled by Harmony, when an activity is running.

Google has now a similar approach with its new blue Service. However, they fail currently with consistently supporting short commands like pause, resume, volume up/down, etc.  Logitech officially states (in the e-mail you receive when linking the service), that such short commands will only work sometimes and recommends to always append the device to your commands “OK Google, resume on the TV“.

Voice commands are for me the most subjective topic ever. What feels natural to me, might feel like the exact opposite to you. And this is where the future of AI will adapt individually to our preferences, rather than us having to adapt to technology, as we have to today. But I am digressing …

Personally, I have never seen such a smart voice integration like the Alexa and Harmony blue skill. Some might be confused and dislike, that the short commands time-out after some time, to me it feels natural. Google might have tried to reach this level, but all it left for me was a headache, when trying to understand what they mean by stating that my beloved short commands work only sometimes. But, that’s me.

Assistant Features

Both assistants offer extensive, so called routines, where we can define a voice command and let the assistants do many actions at once. For both we can alternatively define a schedule, when this routine should be executed. This way, we can combine Harmony activities and favorite channels with other smart home devices, like lighting, and set the perfect scene for an activity (remember our candlelight dinner routine?).

With Alexa we can integrate Harmony activities and favorites through scenes into our routines, e.g. we can turn on the scene “Discovery”. Google displays here more flexibility, as we can type in the command we would say, eg “switch to channel Discovery on the TV”. Alexa supports additionally Echo Buttons to activate routines and is going in the direction of supporting contact and motion sensors to trigger routines (limited devices as of now).

Google’s bilingual support, where we can set a second language is technologically impressive. Unfortunately only some Harmony commands are working in a second language, as of now.

Personally, this is an exciting area, where we continuously see updates on both sides. I’d call it a draw.

My Very Personal Conclusion

  1. Congratulations Alexa! You are my winner in this Logitech Harmony competition.
  2. Google, you are now so close with your new blue Harmony Service, please fix the open bugs.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this “showdown”. You can find more competitions here:

Now it’s your turn: Which integration do you prefer? What are your favorite features and voice commands? Looking forward to your comment below!

13 COMMENTS

  1. Your article was very helpful while deciding which one to buy. Thanks for sharing the reviews . Keep updating us with latest technology trend.

    • Dear Alisha! Thank you for your kind words! I just updated this post to reflect the recent developments. To summarize: Alexa and Google are now very, very close! It’s really a matter of personal taste. Now more than ever. But no matter which Assistant, I am sure we are going to see many improvements and new features in the future, which makes this technology so exciting!

  2. I saw something to the effect that the “Google Home App” now lets anyone control the devices in the home regardless of what account they are signed into.

    I’m hoping maybe that extends to Google Home and the ability to control the Logitech Harmony remote. (see our conversation up above) Is there any chance you can determine if that is true or not? I’m dying to switch over to Google Home, but can’t do it until I can replace Alexa’s control over our entertainment system.

    My comment is in reference to this article:
    https://www.androidpolice.com/2018/10/10/google-home-app-gets-smart-home-controls-intelligent-actions-household-sharing/

    • Just tested the “household” feature and unfortunately it does not share the Harmony link or related routines. It gives only access to devices which show up in the home control services (lights, cameras, thermostats in my case). You’d need to re-link and re-create routines for every household member.

      Unbelievable, that the announced update is still not out, I’d expect Harmony in the home control services, shared together with other smart home devices. I am still checking – at least weekly – if there are any news and will update this post as soon as this is released.

      Thanks for the heads-up! With all these changes in the Google Home app, there’s definitely a bigger update needed on the related posts!

  3. Can you answer a question for me? We have had Alexa working with Harmony for quite awhile and are very happy with it. However, we recently introduced Google Home into our household. I attempted to set up Harmony with Google Home but ran into an issue that is either a misunderstanding on my part or what I consider a severe limitation. Can you confirm if this is correct?

    – Google Home is more personalized – it knows who is talking to it. It appears to require that each person that interacts with Harmony have the Harmony app installed and configured on that person’s cell phone in order for Google Home to carry out the commands to control Harmony. Is this correct?

    The reason I consider it a severe limitation is that, right now any guest (or even family member without a cell phone) in our household can ask Alexa to turn the TV up or down, on or off, etc. But if the above requirement is true, then only household members that have taken the time to install and configure Harmony on their own device can control it.

    It’s just that with Alexa, it seemed like Alexa was doing all of the work to control Harmony. But when I tried setting up Google Home it seemed more like Google Home was handing off the work to my phone and making my phone control Harmony.

    Please let me know. Thanks.

    • Hi David!

      Thanks, your question is great input for follow up posts on multi-user configurations for Alexa and Google Home!

      Google has a “voice match” feature to identify which account should be used for personal requests.
      Alexa has multiple “voice profiles” to support the same functionality.

      In theory these features should not interfere with smart home controls, but from experience in some cases they do and thats why we are currently not using them. We will test this in follow up posts!

      From what I’ve observed with Harmony the implementations for Google and Alexa are quite different:
      – Google supports home control services. These are the services listed, when you tap the “+” in the Home Control section, like Philips Hue, WeMo, Netatmo, Nanoleaf, etc. Google claims that the “voice match” feature does not interfere with these services. In the Harmony case however, they implemented a regular Google action. It seems that this difference is causing that every “voice match” profile user has to link Harmony again and recreate routines etc. On 2018-05-03 Google announced that they are working with Logitech to create a regular home control service, which – in theory – should fix this and also make it possible to omit the “ask harmony to …” part. It has not been released yet.
      – Alexa supports regular skills and smart home skills. Harmony has been implemented as smart home skill (blue and red). “Voice Profiles” have no impact on smart home controls, as they only affect personalization around calling, messaging and voice shopping.

      I assume your experience comes from using Google’s “voice match” feature and until they come up with the new Harmony implementation the only workaround seems to be to disable this feature.

      Please let me know if this helps!
      Thanks and Cheers!
      K.

      • Thank you! Is there any way for an outsider like myself to be informed as to when Google and Logitech release their update?

        • Usually the Google features are announced a couple of months earlier and silently get released, so it’s really difficult to figure out unless you actively search for the new features. I do this from time to time and as soon as I find the announced feature released I update my posts. If this is good enough for you, you could “subscribe” (even without commenting) at the bottom of the original post: https://www.smartenlight.com/logitech-harmony-google-assistant/ and would automatically receive an email, as soon as I’ve updated the post (I will drop a comment then). You should be able to manage your “notification” subscriptions with this feature. Please let me know if something does not work as expected.
          Hope this helps! =)

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