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Smart Speakers for Your Home

When you look at the list of a smart speaker’s capabilities, it’s easy to understand why it’s the first smart device purchased by many people for their home.

Want to have a new recipe read aloud to you? Your smart speaker has you covered.

Want to review what’s on your Outlook, G-suite, or iCloud calendar while both hands are busy dressing the kids? Your smart speaker is happy to help—with reading aloud your appointments, that is.

Need a weather update in the morning, or a timer set for your workout? You guessed it, your smart speaker can do that, too. All of this on top of playing music, setting/reading reminders, and reporting the traffic on spoken command.

It gets even smarter when you pair the speaker with other home automation devices. Using a combination of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and other wireless protocol standards, the speaker allows you to control smart light bulbs, door locks and garage doors, thermostats, TVs, and more—all through verbal commands given to the speaker, which acts as your smart home hub device.

At the moment, the three product leaders are the Amazon Echo, Google Home, and the Apple HomePod. Each company offers a range of products at different price points. For those just getting started with smart home devices, you can purchase the Amazon Echo Dot or the Google Home Mini for a reasonable $50.

Here’s a helpful breakdown of these leading smart speakers for curious buyers.

Amazon Echo with Digital Helper Alexa

If you think a smart speaker will be the first of other smart device purchases, Amazon has the widest range of compatible devices—there are even third-party smart speakers that use Alexa, allowing you to integrate non-Amazon products while keeping the same digital helper to run them all.

The largest speaker, the Echo, is great for delivering quality music, especially in larger rooms. The smaller Echo Dot is ideal for the kitchen or bedroom, acting as timer, alarm clock, or speaker for podcasts. The Echo Spot and Echo Show have built-in screens, great for weather reports, photos, a digital clock, or even streaming TV or other online videos.

Color options include fabric and wood covers. But you’d better like the sound of Alexa’s voice, because she is the only digital helper voice option.

Alexa possesses the very useful capability of understanding multiple user profiles—meaning multiple people can interact with her, although you do have to specifically ask her to switch user accounts, so she can only listen to one person’s commands at a time.

Google Home with Google Assistant

Google’s smart speaker collection includes the Mini, Home, and Home Max. None of these speakers have a screen, like the Amazon Spot or Show, but you can connect them to your smart phone or TV with Google Assistant-enabled TV implementation.

Top reviewers agree the Google Home mini is cuter than its competition, the Echo Dot, and that the Home Max is the best-sounding speaker out of the bunch. Google’s range of speakers can also interact smoothly with free-form internet queries and questions, whereas Alexa requires very precise question syntax for optimal operation.

Google Assistant can understand multiple user profiles—up to six people’s voices. This allows the speaker to answer calendar queries or play music based on each user’s Google accounts. You have the option of a male or female Google Assistant voice.

Apple HomePod with Siri

Apple only offers one smart speaker, the HomePod. It’s an obvious addition for those who already own a suite of Apple devices, but overall it has limited smart device capabilities when compared to the Amazon Echo and Google Home.

HomePod does deliver higher quality sound without distortion when played at high volume and in large spaces. It’s the only smart speaker that can play Apple Music. And while it can control your smart lights, that’s about the extent of its broader smart home capabilities. For now.

As far as aesthetics, the HomePod comes in grey and white and offers male and female voice options, but it can’t understand multiple users.

Hopefully now you feel better equipped to decide if and what smart speaker is right for you and your home.

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