Amazon’s Echo triplets may be the first speaker-based virtual assistants, but they certainly won’t be the last. Google has already begun promoting its talking speaker, called Google Home, which is due to arrive by the end of this year. Google says it will feature Google Assistant, a smarter, more conversational version of the one already available to Android smartphone users.

Talk to the Home speaker, which vaguely resembles a giant air freshener, and Google Assistant will deliver weather reports, stock quotes, and other info gleaned from Web searches and apps linked to your Google account (such as the places you’ve visited using Google Maps). Like Alexa, Google Assistant will be able to control automated lights, thermostats, and more.

But Google’s speaker promises one critical advantage over Amazon’s Echo: It will work in conjunction with your Android smartphone. According to Google, if you ask the speaker to tell you about traffic on the way to the airport, it will not only answer you verbally but also queue the directions up in the Google Maps app on your phone.

Google says its Home speaker will be able to communicate with a Chromecast streaming media device plugged into a tv—essentially giving you voice control for playing movies, YouTube videos, and other content. It will also work with Google Play Music and other music streaming services.

Apple hasn’t yet announced a talking speaker, but the operating-system updates it is planning for iOS 10, due this fall, include a smarter, more conversational Siri. That assistant will be liberated from the iPhone to work on Apple devices such as Apple tv and laptops. Siri could become more like Alexa or Google Assistant, with more control over third-party apps for everything from giving directions to making shopping lists.

What’s more, you’ll be able to use Siri to turn on and adjust lights and appliances through a new mobile app called Home. A number of companies already sell products that will work with Home; right now they are controlled through separate apps on the iPhone, Apple Watch, and other Apple devices. You can set things up so that if someone rings your doorbell, a door camera sends his or her image to your iPhone or Apple tv. You can also have the system turn on the living room lights and adjust the thermostat by the time your car pulls into the driveway. Once ios 10 is here, you’ll be able to control those functions with voice commands.

Those tricks may be easy for Google or Apple, but some of them would be tough for Amazon, which has no significant presence on people’s phones. By this time next year, Alexa could be busy playing catch-up to some fierce, futuristic competition.

Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the September 2016 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.