Close
Date TimeOctober 06, 2017
Voice

All you’re hearing out of the voice activated “smart speaker” market is static. You wish you could ask Alexa or the Google Assistant to help you sort out this burgeoning business, a space in which the biggest names in tech are all crowding around to grab your attention.
You wonder how much to spend. Mini, Max, Plus or original? Whether to choose a speaker with a screen? And must you commit to one virtual assistant over another?
The latest noise came with Google’s unveiling Wednesday of new Google Home offerings built around the Google Assistant. Only a week earlier, Amazon announced the expansion of its own line of Echo speakers, featuring its voice-driven virtual assistant Alexa.
Meantime, Apple is readying its HomePod speaker activated with Siri, best known from the iPhone. Harman Kardon (owned by Samsung) is doing the same with the upcoming, yet-to-be priced, Invoke speaker that houses Microsoft’s Cortana assistant.
Alexa continues to branch out into other devices, too, including speakers made by the likes of Sonos and Lenovo.
The smart speaker market really got going in 2015, when Amazon introduced consumers to Alexa as part of the original Echo speaker. Amazon has remained the clear leader since, controlling about 70% of the market, eMarketer says, and now boasting north of 20,000 Alexa “skills.”
Here are the key questions to help you get smarter about smart speakers:

What makes a speaker smart?



These aren't the dumb speakers of yesteryear but rather connected speakers that leverage the Internet and artificial intelligence.
You engage them by calling upon one of the aforementioned cloud-connected virtual assistants by barking out a wake word—notably “Alexa” in the case of an Echo.
Amazon and Google have each lined up partners to work with the speakers, and the kinds of things you can accomplish with the devices continues to mushroom.
There are the basic, and yes useful, things you can do: asking for the weather, a wake-up alarm or kitchen timer, for example. Or getting the speakers to deliver news, podcasts or music on command—limited by the available services you subscribe to.
The speakers can respond to financial queries and answer queries related to trivia or your kids’ schoolwork. You can use them to make calls, too.
There’s also a growing emphasis on home automation: using your voice to control lights, thermostats, doorbells and other items around what tech companies are banking on will become your increasingly intelligent home.

What are the main buying decisions?
In simple terms: design, price, and any steadfast loyalty you might have for one ecosystem or digital assistant over another.
Alexa may help you shop (through Amazon of course). A Google advantage comes through search and the company’s vast reservoir of knowledge. If you’ve got an iPhone you’re probably most comfortable with Siri, though many pundits believe Apple’s assistant must play catch-up to the others.

Amazon and Microsoft announced recently that Alexa will talk to Cortana and vice versa, though it is unclear how smooth (or useful) such interactions will be. Meanwhile, don’t hold your breath waiting for the other virtual assistants to become chums anytime soon.
Why such a disparity in price—from around $49 to $399?

Google Home, Amazon Echo, Apple HomePod— or all 3? How to choose a smart speaker

In general terms, you’re paying for speaker quality, though there are other factors like whether the device has a screen or built-in smart home hub.
Let’s start at the low end. Amazon sells the $49 Echo Dot, a price matched by the just- announced Google Home Mini. The pint-sized Dot speakers are adequate for Alexa or the spoken voice generally but not for music mavens seeking richer, louder and purer sound. Though I haven’t tested one yet, the same can surely be said for the Google Home Mini.
You do have options if you want a better music experience, however. In the case of the Echo Dot, you can connect optional headphones or other speakers by running a 3.5mm stereo cable to the jack on the unit. Or you can connect Dot wirelessly to a range of Bluetooth speakers.

Google Home, Amazon Echo, Apple HomePod— or all 3? How to choose a smart speaker


There’s no such 3.5mm jack on the Home Mini or Bluetooth support But in keeping things within the Google ecosystem, you can connect Google Home Mini wirelessly to Chromecast Audio-capable speakers.
At first blush, the new stone-shaped Home Mini is better looking than the Dot. It comes in three colors, is covered in fabric and is meant to blend in nicely with your home décor. But either the Dot or Home Mini can be helpful bedside or kitchen companions.
The benefits of stepping up?

Google Home, Amazon Echo, Apple HomePod— or all 3? How to choose a smart speaker


You get better sound, for starters. And Amazon did recently lower the price of the full-size Echo to $99.99, where it competes against the full-size $129.99 Google Home, which is now on back order.
Amazon also just unveiled a $149.99 Echo Plus with a smart home hub inside, a price that under a temporary promotion includes a free Philips Hue smart light bulb. Setting up smart home devices can be exceedingly complicated but Amazon insists Echo Plus makes it a breeze to do so, a claim we’ll have to put to the test.
Since Apple, Google, Samsung and others have a vested interest in pursuing a smart home strategy, don’t be surprised to see speakers that follow suit down the line. Even without a dedicated hub, you can use your voice and these speakers to control many of the smart devices you may have in your house.

HomePod vs. Max: Spending even more?

Google Home, Amazon Echo, Apple HomePod— or all 3? How to choose a smart speaker

For now, the highest end of the smart speaker market means Apple’s $349 HomePod with Siri and Google’s $399 Google Home Max with Google Assistant, both not slated to ship until December. Such speakers still may not tickle the fancy of audiophiles, but these pricier options are meant to get music lovers jazzed.
Google says it will be able to deliver superior sound not just through tweeters and woofers but by employing artificial intelligence and machine learning. It has trained the Max speaker in thousands of different room configurations to fine-tune sound profiles based on the environment and can pretty much change on the fly as you move it around (though it still must be plugged in).

Google Home, Amazon Echo, Apple HomePod— or all 3? How to choose a smart speaker

Worth considering though if you’re a music fan is the Sonos One speaker that was also announced Wednesday, which features Alexa and a lower $199 price tag.
Since these are larger speakers more likely to be out in the open, you’ll want to pay attention to the aesthetics. That's a very personal thing  but Apple often comes on top when it comes to design.
Of course, the most important way to evaluate these speakers will be to listen to them.

Portable speakers?

Google Home, Amazon Echo, Apple HomePod— or all 3? How to choose a smart speaker

Though you can schlep Dots or Minis from room to room, these and most other speakers need to be plugged in. One exception is the Amazon Tap, a portable Bluetooth Alexa speaker that operates on a battery. And when it comes to portability, all these digital assistants live in your smartphone.
Do I want a screen?

Google Home, Amazon Echo, Apple HomePod— or all 3? How to choose a smart speaker

In short, maybe. For now, you have two options, and both are from Amazon. There's the $229.99 Echo Show ($100 off when you buy two), which has a 7-inch color touchscreen, and the $129.99 Echo Spot, which has a 2.5-inch screen. The latter won’t be available until December.
A show and tell Echo means you can eyeball song lyrics, watch movie trailers or other clips, peek at security cameras, and yes, make a “drop-in” video call to a loved on equipped with their own Echo Show or Spot.
Show is functional but but won't win any awards for beauty. The compact Spot is more appealing physically.

Google Home, Amazon Echo, Apple HomePod— or all 3? How to choose a smart speaker

It should be noted that through a recent spat between companies, Google recently removed YouTube videos from Echo Show.
Google hasn’t ruled out coming out with a Google Home unit with its own display, but for now, as Google exec Rishi Chandra told me, the company would rather “take advantage of screens you already have,” be it the phone in your pocket or the TV in the living room.
But Chandra says manufacturers are going to eventually build devices with every screen size imaginable to see which ones sticks and which ones don't.
Which means there’s likely to be a lot more noise surrounding your decision to choose which speakers down the road to buy.

Lady Gaga Had an Interesting Reaction to Bradley Cooper Being Snubbed by the Oscars
TSLA: Wall Street goes after Tesla at a critical time
Serena Williams’s Australian Open Comes to an Abrupt, Bizarre End
Phillip Schofield Insists He And Holly Willoughby Aren't In Trouble Over Gemma Collins 'Dancing On Ice' Comments
Jonas Mekas, titan of underground filmmaking, dies aged 96
Speaker Nancy Pelosi stands firm: No State of the Union address in the House next week
Venezuela: Trump recognises opposition leader as president
Johnny Depp Claims He Has Evidence to Disprove Amber Heard's Domestic Violence Allegations
Miley Cyrus's Bold New Tattoo Is Totally Miley
Comedian and co-creator of 'Rel' Kevin Barnett dies at 32
Four men accuse Bohemian Rhapsody director Bryan Singer of sexual misconduct
Pete Buttigieg forms exploratory committee to run for president
Santander to close 140 branches across UK, putting 1,270 jobs at risk
PMQs verdict: Corbyn leaves May sounding defensive on Brexit
No Brexit deal means hard Irish border, EU says
‘Still here’: Tom Brady isn’t going anywhere. And he’s going to let you know it.
Cardiff City’s Emiliano Sala was on missing plane, French authorities say
Drake UK tour 2019: How to get tickets as dates to nationwide Assassination Vacation shows announced
Why the conversations between black men in ‘If Beale Street Could Talk’ feel so rare
Oscars 2019: Biggest snubs including Bradley Cooper, Emily Blunt and 'Crazy Rich Asians'
American singer Chris Brown detained in Paris after rape complaint
Oscar Nominations 2019: Olivia Colman, 'Black Panther' And 'A Star Is Born' Lead Academy Award Nominees
Lady Gaga Says Mike Pence Is 'Worst Representation' of Christianity During Las Vegas Show
Emma Stone Debuts Drastically Darker Hair at the Producers Guild Awards
Cardi B Gets Into Twitter Beef with Tomi Lahren Over Politics
Gemma Collins Furiously Accuses 'Dancing On Ice' Judge Jason Gardiner Of 'Selling Stories' On Her
Chris Evans on Virgin Radio – same show, different station
Arsenal confirm Sven Mislintat will leave club on 8 February
Pence links Trump’s push for border wall to Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy
Kamala Harris officially enters US presidential race
Ariana Grande Sends Message to Mac Miller on His Birthday
'SNL': Pete Davidson appears to joke about Instagram post that prompted wellness check
Stefanos Tsitsipas stuns Roger Federer in four-set Australian Open thriller
Sterling and Sané ensure Manchester City cruise to victory at Huddersfield
Victoria Beckham admits rocky marriage rumors are ‘frustrating’
Kim Kardashian Effectively Makes Peace With Taylor Swift by Listening to Her Music
US, China to Share, Publicly Release Data From Dark Side of the Moon - NASA
Ariana Grande accused of copying latest song '7 Rings' from rapper Princess Nokia
Charity renews call for elderly driver eye tests after Prince Philip crash
'Glass' Review: It's not Perfect, But It Says a Lot About Heroism
Maggie Rogers: Heard It in a Past Life review – Alaska hitmaker's debut lacks edge
Trump reportedly told Michael Cohen to lie. His own attorney general pick testified that’s a crime
TV tonight: ‘Frankie and Grace,’ ‘The Punisher’ return on Netflix
Ariana Grande drops '7 rings'
Hailey Baldwin and Justin Bieber Are Marrying in L.A. and Their Guest List Includes Kylie Jenner and Travis Scott
Pelosi only gives Trump a bigger audience by canceling State of the Union
Miley Cyrus shuts down pregnancy rumors in 'egg-celent' way: 'Can everyone leave me alone'
Hitachi scraps £16bn nuclear power station in Wales
Rudy Giuliani: 'I never said there was no collusion' by Trump campaign
Louisville to rename airport for Muhammad Ali
American service members killed in Isil blast near US patrol in Syria's Manbij
Pelosi asks Trump to move State of the Union address
Who ya gonna call? Ivan Reitman sends son Jason to direct Ghostbusters 3
Hitman guilty of murdering Salford 'Mr Big' Paul Massey
Ariana Grande to Headline Lollapalooza 2019 (EXCLUSIVE)
Alicia Keys to Host Grammys 2019
Kim Kardashian defends Kanye West from reports
Gillette’s ad is not PC guff, Piers Morgan – look beyond the macho stereotype | Gaby Hinsliff
Carol Channing, star of Hello, Dolly! on Broadway, dies aged 97
'Spider-Man: Far From Home' trailer: Watch the first look here
Watch The 'Game Of Thrones' Season 8 Teaser Here
Meghan Markle reveals her due date: report
Lady Gaga Rushes Home After Critics' Choice Awards to Be With Dying Horse: 'I Am So Very Sad'
Trump says 'I never worked for Russia,' calls claim 'a whole big fat hoax' after explosive report of FBI probe
Toyota brings back the Supra sports car after more than 20 years
'So happy you said yes': Chris Pratt engaged to Katherine Schwarzenegger
Mayor of Gdansk dies after being stabbed on stage at charity event
Gareth Johnson: Tory Tasked With Getting Other MPs To Vote For May’s Deal Quits – To Vote Against It
Andy Murray out of Australian Open after losing what could be his last match
Katy Perry Is Glad She "Made the Right Choice" With Orlando Bloom
Neil Warnock on Brexit: ‘I can’t wait to leave. To hell with the rest of the world’
'The most insulting thing I've ever been asked': Fox News' Jeanine Pirro asks Trump if he's ever worked for Russia
Americans blame Trump and GOP much more than Democrats for shutdown, Post-ABC poll finds
Megyn Kelly, NBC News reach separation agreement
SpaceX will lay off 10 percent of its staff to fund projects
The partial government shutdown is now the longest ever as Trump border wall fight rages on
Paris bakery 'gas explosion' kills two firefighters
Tulsi Gabbard: Democrat says she will run for president in 2020
Tim Tebow Is Engaged to Miss Universe 2017 Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters
Sen. Kamala Harris teases a presidential run to Stephen Colbert, predicts how the shutdown ends
Dianne Oxberry, BBC weather presenter, dies aged 51
Andy Murray: Sporting great and champion feminist retires
Jayme Closs, 13, found alive three months after parents' murder
Meghan Markle's Royal Patronages Have Finally Been Announced and There Are FOUR
Lady Gaga apologizes for 'poor judgment' over R. Kelly song, vows to pull 'Do What U Want'
Jeff Bezos' Relationship with TV Host Lauren Sanchez Led to Divorce
Jaguar Land Rover is slashing 4,500 jobs
Corbyn says Labour may delay Brexit if it wins snap election
This Awesome Shot of Earth Was Taken From 70M Miles Away
[VIDEO] Donald Trump Primetime Address: Jimmy Kimmel Speech Reaction
BAFTA Awards Nominations 2019: Complete List
MPs force Theresa May to table plan B if she loses Brexit deal vote
John Bercow's decision endangers the office of Speaker, and our democracy | Anne Perkins
Rod Rosenstein, who appointed the special counsel investigating Trump, expected to leave Justice Dept
Amazon Becomes World's Most Valuable Company
New trailer offers more footage from ‘Captain Marvel’ (VIDEO)
Susan Boyle makes emotional appearance on America’s Got Talent
Celebs celebrate Cyntoia Brown clemency decision
Prime-time Trump faces credibility crisis
Stoke City sack manager Gary Rowett after eight months in charge
Scottish government acted unlawfully over Alex Salmond claims, court rules
Padraig Harrington feels trepidation at being Europe’s 2020 Ryder Cup captain
David Bowie Is ... app review – the freakiest show on your smartphone
Golden Globes 2019 Winners List
Cornered: Trump escalates shutdown crisis
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Says There's 'No Question' About Trump's Racism
What was the deal with Christian Bale's accent at the Golden Globes?
Carol Burnett reflects on her iconic career as she receives new Golden Globe award
Tory MP Anna Soubry Called 'Nazi' By Chanting Protesters Live On BBC News
Crystal Palace goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey denies Nazi salute
Pete Davidson and Machine Gun Kelly Take Their Friendship to a Basketball Game
Video of Drake With Girl, 17, Resurfaces, to Internet's Horror
'The Greatest Dancer' Is The Fresh Talent Show 'X Factor' Wishes It Could Be
US withdrawal from Syria depends on conditions, John Bolton says
Murder charge filed in death of 7-year-old Jazmine Barnes in Houston
Theresa May Refuses To Rule Out Holding Multiple Votes On Her Brexit Deal
Trump gives Kanye West a shout-out after rapper tweets his praise
Emma Watson talks of 'optimism' on Time's Up anniversary
California shooting: three people killed at Torrance bowling alley
Chelsea vs Nottingham Forest line-ups: Fabregas captain on final match, Hudson-Odoi starts
Kate Middleton Reportedly Felt Meghan Markle "Used Her to Climb the Royal Ladder" and Told Her So at Christmas
Ellen still wants Kevin Hart to host the Oscars
US economy added 312,000 jobs in December, blowing past expectations
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez dancing in college – video
Lifetime Defiant After R. Kelly Threatens to Sue Over Documentary
1st PHOTO of moon’s ‘mysterious’ far side taken by Chinese probe
Golden Globes 2019: Who will win – and who should?
Kim Kardashian & Kanye West Hire New Surrogate to Deliver Baby No. 4
Bob Einstein, comedy writer and Curb Your Enthusiasm actor, dies aged 76
Coachella 2019 lineup: Ariana Grande, Childish Gambino and Tame Impala to headline
Michael Schumacher turns 50, FA Cup third-round shocks and sneaky drinks
Bristol-Myers Squibb to buy Celgene in $74 billion deal
US enters new phase as women change the face of Congress
Kylie Jenner channels Meghan Markle on New Year's Eve
Kim Kardashian West roasted over 'Bird Box'
Miley Cyrus Spends New Year's With Liam Hemsworth's Family After Surprise Wedding
Pete Davidson Reveals ‘Sad’ First Reaction To Ariana Grande’s ‘Thank U, Next’
Tesla shares fall on price cut, soft Model 3 deliveries
Madonna Delivers Rousing Speech As She Spends New Year's Eve At The Historic Stonewall Inn
Kobe Bryant announces he and wife Vanessa expecting fourth baby girl
Harry Reid: Trump Is 'The Worst President We've Ever Had'
Mitt Romney: Trump's biggest failure is a lack of character in leading 'divided' nation
Greggs launches vegan sausage roll
Christian Pulisic joins Chelsea from Borussia Dortmund for £58m
Kate Middleton Reportedly Waited Until Meghan Markle Left Before Joining Royal Family Hunt
Volunteers Prepare Flower-Decked Floats for Rose Parade
Dry January might be bad for your health
Why Trump Reigns as King Cyrus
Jamie Vardy punishes dismal Everton as Leicester start new year in winning style
Tokyo car attack: Driver hits New Year's revelers in city's Harajuku district
Hubble telescope 'mother' Nancy Grace Roman dies
Comedian Louis C.K. mocks Parkland shooting survivors in leaked audio
U.S. Citizen Arrested In Moscow On Suspicion Of Spying
NFL coaching picture: Dirk Koetter, Todd Bowles fired; Dolphins’ Adam Gase awaits his fate
Elizabeth Warren announces 2020 run for president against Trump
Peter Thompson, former Liverpool and England winger, dies aged 76
Is Selena Gomez Sending Cryptic Messages With Her Graphic T-Shirts?
Bre Payton, 26-year-old conservative writer, dies following sudden illness
Gavin and Stacey actor Mathew Horne 'hit by train after night out'
John Kelly blames Jeff Sessions for 'zero tolerance,' family separations along border
Rashford learns from master at Solskjaer's finishing school
'Bird Box,' starring Sandra Bullock sets new Netflix viewing record in its first week
A Vegas star is born: Lady Gaga stuns, soars in Sin City debut
Sears Holdings announced another round of store closures
Mega Millions jackpot grows -- with next drawing on New Year's Day
Ryan Jack gives Rangers deserved Old Firm victory over Celtic
Alastair Cook knighted, Gareth Southgate, Harry Kane awarded in New Year’s honours
Kim and Kanye buying $14M luxury condo in Miami
Kevin Spacey ‘Let Me Be Frank’ YouTube Video Tops 8 Million Views In 3 Days
Tesla names Larry Ellison and Kathleen Wilson-Thompson to board after SEC settlement
Angelina Jolie open to move into politics
HMV Administration: Thousands Of Jobs At Risk As Retailer Collapses For Second Time In Six Years
KTLA anchor Chris Burrous dies at 43
Instagram update 2018: What is the new Instagram update, is it coming back?
Nationwide internet outage hits CenturyLink customers
Israeli novelist Amos Oz dies aged 79
'Black Mirror: Bandersnatch': Here's What Critics And Fans Are Saying About The New Game-Changing Episode
NASA wants you to celebrate New Years with its New Horizons space probe
Kim Kardashian slammed over North West's lipstick
Putin Says 'Invulnerable' New Hypersonic Nuclear Missile Is Ready For Deployment
Miley Cyrus confirms secret wedding to Liam Hemsworth
Secret new ‘Black Mirror’ movie now has a trailer, release date
Ariana Grande FaceTimes With Her Estranged Father on Christmas
Box Office: 'Aquaman' Hits $106M; 'Holmes & Watson' Gets D+ CinemaScore
How your holiday travel plans will be impacted by the partial federal government shutdown
Liverpool goes six points clear in EPL as Man City loses at Leicester
Russia: Hole drilled from inside Int'l Space Station capsule
Meghan Markle, Prince Harry join Kate Middleton, Prince William for Christmas Day service amid feud rumors
Kendall Jenner Has A Hilarious Response To Being Left Out Of Kardashian Christmas Card
Trump asks 7-year-old, 'Are you still a believer in Santa?'
Us trailer: How to watch the trailer for Jordan Peele's new horror movie
SpaceX closes out year with successful GPS satellite launch
Pete Davidson gets VIP treatment at Machine Gun Kelly concert a week after disturbing post
Miley Cyrus Sent Ariana Grande the Sweetest Text After Her Split from Pete Davidson
Kourtney Kardashian And Sofia Richie Look Like They're Best Friends On Christmas Vacation Together (PHOTOS)
Stocks plummet after Steven Mnuchin's odd statement fails to calm markets
Box Office: 'Aquaman' Opens to $67M; 'Mary Poppins' Edges Past 'Bumblebee'
Rihanna Gives Fans An Album Update
President Trump not going to change mind on Syria, even after resignations: Mulvaney
Carl Frampton not ready to make a hasty decision on his boxing future
Close