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The Smart Home Speaker Guide Christmas 2022

A Complete Guide to The Best Home Smart Speakers

The year 2014 was a pivotal moment in the world of home audio. For it was the year Amazon shook up the market with the release of the Echo. With it, homeowners were suddenly presented with a real-life personal assistant ready to keep tabs on shopping lists, make purchases, play music, stay up to date on the latest news stories, and even control home lighting with a simple command. Like a contemporary genie granting simple wishes within reason, these tableside companions were embraced quickly by smart home enthusiasts the world over.

And now, just four years later, the smart speaker market has expanded greatly with the likes of Siri, Google Assistant, and Cortana joining in with Alexa to provide first-class service at a moment’s notice. Just like any other product dynamic, however, with choices come opportunity — or peril — that depends heavily on ensuring the smart speaker you choose best fits your purposes, whatever that may be. So, because we understand the importance of such decision making, what follows is a brief guide to the best smart speakers currently available. These range from Siri to Alexa to Google in their capabilities, each offering the same idea at its core, but accomplishing that idea in unique ways.

Automated Assistants The Future is Now

Toward the end of 2017, NPR and Edison Research published a report claiming upward of 39 million Americans — or 16% of the U.S. population — owned a smart speaker of some kind. Mind you, this is a mere three years since the first smart speaker was introduced by Amazon. And in the short time since then, we’ve seen Apple, Microsoft, Alibaba, Google, and Samsung all pitch in and join the party. But where did it all start? And what’s the intended purpose/implications of catering to such an on-demand lifestyle?

Well, while that is what some would call a loaded question, we’ll do our best to address the answer as briefly as possible. To start, if we’re to address voice-assistants in general — speakers aside — we see that it was back in 1962 when IBM introduced the very first digital speech recognition tool dubbed the IBM Shoebox. And over the decades that followed, Microsoft introduced their speech recognition feature for Office XP, Apple unleashed Siri into the world via the iPhone, Google Now dropped in 2012, and Cortana was introduced at a developer conference in April of 2013.

Then in November of 2014, as stated above, Amazon released Alexa as the first portable smart speaker for the home. And from there, well, you get the idea. As for the second half of the question, it would appear that just like any other technological advancement we’ve seen, the intended purpose is that of convenience. On-demand music, controlling your smart home with your voice, keeping tabs on intended purchases — basically handling the menial day-to-day tasks we’d rather outsource than take care of ourselves is what makes smart speakers so special.

Siri vs. Alexa vs. Google Assistant Who's Right For You?

With three big players in this space, we can say there’s some much-needed deliberation to determine which AI system is best suited for your needs and expectations. It’s from here where we’ll work to compare them using a litmus test complete with what we consider as the primary differentiators between them. That is, voice recognition, making phone calls, music services, general interaction, and smart home connectivity/integration.

Starting with the basics, voice recognition is dominated by both Alexa and Google Assistant smart speakers in that they boast voice differentiating capabilities, unlike Apple’s HomePod. Meaning, anyone who drops a “Hey Siri,” will get a response from the device — which could be a good or bad thing really — while voice recognition with Alexa could prevent any unwanted purchases/shopping list additions. Much-needed deliberation is needed in order to determine which AI system is best suited for your individual needs.

Next up? Making phone calls. And while most of us would use our smartphones for this sort of task, nothing really beats an on-demand call from your smart speaker. However, out of the three options, only Google Assistant speakers can dial out while Alexa can only receive calls. HomePod can’t do either, though you can use the device to send text messages to friends and family. All three can also be used as speakers for phone calls made on your smartphone. A little mix and match between the three but helpful in their own ways nonetheless.

And what about music? Possibly the most sought after or utilized feature for smart speakers, integrated streaming services for smart speakers is a huge bonus — it just depends on which service you’re after. Apple, for example, works to keep you in their ecosystem by only offering streaming via Apple-approved music services. Alexa and Google Assistant, however, allow for syncing of third-party music services like Spotify without any issues. Not all is lost though. For if you wish to play a Spotify song through the HomePod device, you can via their Airplay service. You’d just have to manage everything from a smartphone.

Finally, for those looking to streamline other smart devices in their home, each of the “Big Three” smart speakers has benefits and limitations to consider. Regarding the HomePod, as long as each of your smart home devices are HomeKit products, the setup and linkage for this is insanely simple since the HomePod automatically receives your preferences and device info during the setup process. What results is a “Hey Siri, turn on the lights” protocol that many will find enjoyable. The HomeKit lineup is just limited in nature so the versatility here is as well. As for Alexa and Google Assistant, you’ll need invocation words to interact with devices outside of the ecosystem such as having Alexa ask the other smart device for a status or task. Not ideal, we know, but with a larger library of compatible options, it is a solid workaround to say the least.

The Goods The Best Smart Speakers On The Market

Now to the good stuff: the best smart speakers currently on the market. For this, we felt it beneficial to scour the market for all options — including those speakers outside the individual brand lineup like the HomePod, Echo, etc. Don’t get us wrong though, for we did include and support those options; we just wanted to expand the lineup so to speak.

Sonos One

With Amazon Alexa built right into the speaker’s interface, Sonos not only offers a premium listening experience but convenience you’d expect from Amazon. Here, play music on demand, remain updated with local and international news cycles, and control your smart home. The device also seamlessly connects with other Sonos Home Sounds System speakers for multi-room listening and hosts incredible sound thanks to a set of Class-D amplifiers and custom-built drivers for good measure.

Purchase: $199

JBL Link 20

Compatible with Google Assistant, JBL offers the same portable sound quality as previous iterations but now with a little hands-free voice control. Nothing beats a portable personal assistant, which is why we fell in love with the Link 20. Enjoy far-field voice recognition, simple setup with the Google Home app, and additional features like built-in Chromecast, high-quality 24 bit sound, multi-room playback, Bluetooth streaming, and 10 hours of playtime per charge.

Purchase: $150

Sonos Beam

In addition to the Sonos One, the Sonos Beam adds some serious sound quality to the home entertainment system. With it, upgrade your music listening, movie watching, and video-game-playing experience to professional quality. And with Alexa integrated seamlessly into the device, enjoy on-demand Fire TV remote-free control as well. We all know a home theater system is an end-game status to achieve, and fortunately, the Beam is here to facilitate just that.

Purchase: $399

Amazon Echo Show

Ideal for the kitchen, the Echo Show offers everything you enjoy about the standard Echo but now with a visual aid. Need to access some instructional videos for cooking up that five-star meal? Not a problem. You can also make video calls on the fly if your hands are busy, access security cameras around the home, and connect with other Echo devices around the home for total control from the hungriest room in the homestead.

Purchase: $130

Google Home Max

The big boy for the Google Home operating system, this smart speaker is built to turn your home into an arena-quality sound-infused party thanks to the likes of acoustically transparent fabric, dual 4.5” woofers, and custom tweeters for clear highs. And let’s not forget the helpful nature of the device — this is a Google Assistant after all — so just ask it for help and you’ll be granted.

Purchase: $399

Amazon Echo 2nd Gen

The second generation of the smart speaker that started it all, it was impossible to not include the Echo in this list. Anyone even vaguely interested in purchasing a smart speaker is somewhat familiar with this device but to cover the basics, Alexa can learn hundreds of individual “skills” to help make life a bit less complicated. Also, we can’t forget about Echo’s ability to play music, make calls, set timers, ask questions, and control smart home devices on the fly.

Purchase: $85

Apple HomePod

The newest member to the party, Apple just couldn’t help but bring Siri into the mix with the HomePod. Think most of the capabilities offered on the mobile version but with better sound quality and a more streamlined experience housed within a design-forward speaker that looks good in any room. Each device comes equipped with Bluetooth 5.0, multi-room speaker support with AirPlay 2, and instant connectivity to other HomeKit smart home devices. Not a bad addition to the Apple ecosystem if you ask us.

Purchase: $349

Lenovo Smart Display

With a little help from Google Assistant, Lenovo developed this appropriate response to the Amazon Echo Show. It’s with the Smart Display that all the benefits of Google’s AI come to life for your enjoyment. We’re talking features such as visualized alerts, how-to videos for the amateur chefs, connection to other in-home cameras, and hands-free video calling in addition to — you guessed it — a streamlined music-playing experience. By now we should have you sold that a hands-free life is something worth pursuing. And with the Lenovo Smart Display, we’re offered a solid step in the right direction.

Purchase: $199

Final Thoughts It's All About Your Ecosystem

A little long-winded we’ll admit, but we’re hoping this has helped a bit in your smart speaker search. Needless to say, one major takeaway is understanding the limitations each device offers along with how each piece would best suites the needs of your home. Not fully integrated into the Apple ecosystem? We’d suggest steering away from the HomePod. On the other hand, Alexa and Google Assistant devices allow for broader compatibility with other products making for a more user-friendly experience across the board.

Again, this is all about preference. Our advice? If you’re looking for Siri, Alexa, or Google Assistant compatible speakers outside of the brand lineup, opt for quality and don’t skimp for budgetary options. It’s also important to realize this is just the beginning. For as smart speakers continue to gain popularity, the user interface, experience, and product offerings will continue to improve as well. Today’s market is formidable and key brands understand the potential here, so there’s really only one possible outcome to consider in the near future. And it’s looking quite bright.

A quick guide to Smart Speakers

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Voice assistants were once limited to smartphones but now, there are countless smart speakers to choose from. There are several advantages of using a smart speaker, the biggest being, you no longer need to have your phone around to use a voice assistant. Some of the smart speakers are affordable too, so you don’t shell more than you would on a regular Bluetooth speaker. What’s more, these speakers can double as your everyday Bluetooth speaker. So not only can your smart speaker play music from your phone, if you use a music streaming service, you don’t even need to use Bluetooth to connect to it.

The novelty of using smart speakers is being able to use voice commands to tell the speaker what you want. The instructions could be asking it to play music from your favorite music streaming service, or for the latest weather and news updates, even traffic status on your route to work. This is only a gist of the possibilities of smart speakers. You can find the entire list of routines and automated tasks the smart speakers can achieve, on the manufacturer’s site.

There are all kinds of models to choose from, spanning a wide price range. You could choose to buy just one, or maybe a few smart speakers for different rooms. Some of the models even let you make and receive calls between rooms. Some may even let you even talk from a smartphone to a smart speaker.

The three popular voice assistants’ services are Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and Apple Siri. You can buy a speaker built by any one of these brands, but smart speakers made by their partner brands exist too. Some have the voice assistants built into them, while some others might use the voice assistant on your phone to operate them. You are likely to find TVs, even soundbars and multimedia, and Bluetooth speakers with voice assistants built into them. However, having a dedicated smart speaker lets you have them perpetually powered on all the time, without any dependence on other devices.

The size of the speaker tells you a bit about the sound output. Smaller speakers are perfectly fine for your desk or the kitchen, where you can listen to light music and podcasts, but if you want loud and clear sound, opt for larger speakers. Most brands have variants of their models for this purpose. Take for example, Google that sells their Nest Mini and Home Mini speakers, Amazon, their Echo Dot and Apple their HomePod mini. They are way more affordable than their larger counterparts. These are also ideal for keeping in every room, but perhaps your living room deserves something like the Google Home, Google Nest Audio, Amazon Echo or the Apple HomePod. These are much larger, and way more powerful. The kind of hardware inside them are meant for high-fidelity audio and music enthusiasts.

Smart speakers aren’t just for listening to music and answering voice commands, they are also used as the starting point for home automation. If you have heard of people automating their lights, power plug points, monitoring smoke and door alarms from their phones, many of these can also be controlled through smart speakers. Your smart speaker could tell you anytime someone rings the door bell, or you could give orders to your air conditioner to turn on and start cooling. These are the most basic of examples, but very impressive, truly futuristic solutions already exist. It’s up to your imagination to figure how you want to setup your smart home.

Most brands tend to support most smart home automation products, but it’s important to check. If you already own home automation devices, make sure that the smart speaker you are buying supports them. If you haven’t bought any hardware yet, make sure to buy smart devices that clearly mention they support Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa or Apple Siri. It can save you a lot of trouble in the long run.

Not all speakers look alike. Some brands also sell speakers designed to look like a wall plug. One good example is Amazon’s Echo Flex. It’s perfect for home automation and it has a built-in speaker that can be plugged in every room of your home. They also double as an intercom at home, that you can use to talk to others in other rooms.

Compatibility isn’t only limited to the hardware. It’s a good idea to know which services your smart speaker supports. For example, smart speakers support a specific set of music streaming services. If you’re using Spotify for example, you ought to get for a smart speaker that streams directly from Spotify without ever using your phone. That way, you can simply call out the song you want to play on the speaker, without ever touching your phone.

Some newer smart speakers also have built-in screens. These serve multiple purposes. They can be used as a photo frame and have photos streaming from your favorite photo hosting services on them. You can also use them to play videos from YouTube and other services. The main purpose however is displaying events and information that you ask for. This is handy since most other speakers only return information using the speakers. Models like the Amazon Echo Show and the Google Nest Hub have displays on them. Video calling is also possible on some smart speakers. They can also be a great terminal to access all your smart devices at home.

Most smart speakers use an array of microphones to detect voices even with music playing. Most smart speakers come built with as many as four microphones. These give you a flexibility to call out voice commands from a distance from anywhere in the room, with background noise.

There have been many smart speakers launched over the years, so choose the latest generation. The newer models are likely to have better audio quality, although most models receive all the software feature updates like the newer ones.

Reliance Digital is a great place to find the latest smart speakers. There is a wide assortment to choose from, and you can have a smart speaker delivered to your doorstep if you order now from reliancedigital.in. You could also walk into your nearest Reliance Digital store if you want help on choosing the best device for you. We also sell home automaton solutions ranging from smart lights, plugs, security cameras and more so don’t forget to check those out.

The Smart Home Speaker Guide Christmas 2022

Audio | Gift Guides | Smart Home Technology

5 minute read

It is nearly Christmas time, and everybody has their decorations up around the home, the tree is lit and the turkey is in the fridge, the Christmas spirit is well and truly flowing. But something is missing, something that every home should have at Christmas time, Christmas music. It is no secret that Christmas music is one of the most important things about Christmas because it sets the tone, creates an atmosphere, and gets everyone into a festive mood. Here at DID, we stock a massive range of smart home speakers that will play all of your Christmas favourites at your command.

Below, we have a list of 6 of the most popular smart home speakers in our collection that we are sure will be playing all of your festive favourites in no time.

An ideal Christmas gift thanks to its excellent price tag, the mini-Nest is a prime example of how companies can fit a small device full of exciting features. With bass that is twice as strong as the original Google Nest, more enhanced voice recognition, and a stylish LED light that will illuminate your room with the Christmas spirit, there is no denying that the Nest is a perfect option for anyone looking to get a brand-new smart home speaker on a budget this festive season.

Google Nest Mini Bluetooth Smart Speaker - Chalk | GA00638-GB €34.99 Bigger, richer sound Google Nest Mini has 2x stronger bass than the original Mini. Made with the environment in mind Durable fabric top made from 100% recycled plastic bottles. Improved voice recognition Ask for help from across the room. Hang… read more

If you are looking for something that will offer smart connectivity this Christmas season, then look no further than the third-generation Chromecast from Google. With the Chromecast you don’t only have access to thousands of television shows, but with a range of song app connectivity options, you have access to millions of songs too. Stream the latest and most exciting festive content with 1080p HD quality and mirror your phone screen if you have an Android, the Nest lets you of it all with ease. And at just €40, it is an absolute steal.

Google Chromecast Third Generation - Charcoal | GA00439-IE €39.99 Google Chromecast Third Generation, An easy way to get video, music and games to your TV Connect your life! Your phone is a simple, powerful remote. Open the mobile apps that you already know and love to quickly access things… read more

This outstanding speaker is normally €100, but it is currently on sale for the Christmas season. The Nest smart speaker offers room-filling sound, a sleek and stylish design, and the ability to control and command it using ‘OK Google’. What makes it such a good option for my home? You might be asking, well it is simple, with audio that is nearly twice as loud as the Google Home and bass that is more than 50% stronger to boot, you can listen to all of your festive faves as loud as you wish.

There are a host of other great features included too for good measure, and with built-in privacy settings, the ability to connect to your Google Home app, total portability, and an accessible price tag, we see no reason not to consider making the Nest smart speaker your newest purchase.

Google Nest Audio Bluetooth Smart Speaker - Chalk | GA01420-GB €74.99 Amazing sound. At your command. Meet Nest Audio, the helpful speaker that’s all about sound Just say “Ok Google” Google is a huge help around the house Experience room-filling sound Stream your favourite music, radio and more Control your smart… read more

The same idea as the Nest that we spoke about above, but this speaker comes in a stylish charcoal colour. So if you are shopping around to find a colour that might match the scheme or the theme of your kitchen or living room and you want something a little darker, then this might be for you.

Google Nest Audio Bluetooth Smart Speaker - Charcoal | GA01586-GB €74.99 Amazing sound. At your command. Meet Nest Audio, the helpful speaker that’s all about sound Just say “Ok Google” Google is a huge help around the house Experience room-filling sound Stream your favourite music, radio and more Control your smart… read more

Ah Yes, the same speaker as our coveted option one but in a sleek charcoal colour instead. We love the stylish circular design that Google has created with this mini-nest, and we are sure that with its crystal-clear audio, its simple functionality, and its versatility, you will be blaring out all of your favourite Christmas tunes in no time.

Google Nest Mini Bluetooth Smart Speaker - Charcoal | GA00781-GB €34.99 Hang it on the wall The integrated wall mount makes it easy to put in any room. Exclusive Frozen 2 stories Bring some Disney magic into your home with tales from Anna, Elsa, Kristoff and Olaf. Sustainable materials Fabric covering… read more

Last but not least on the list we have the Google Nest Hub. At a whopping 45% off, this is one of the best-value smart speaker systems that we have in our collection. With the ability to provide you with the latest news and weather, play, pause, and find the latest music, broadcast messages to your family like ‘Christmas dinner will be ready at 3’, or set alarms and timers for the Christmas food in the oven. The Nest Hub has it all and we think that for just €55, it is a steal in the lead-up to the festive season.

Google Nest Hub 2nd Gen with Google Assistant - Charcoal | GA01892-GB €54.99 Meet the new Nest Hub, the centre of your helpful home Entertainment made easy Catch up on Netflix shows, watch YouTube videos, listen to music on the enhanced speaker and more The centre of your helpful home With just a… read more

On a budget this Christmas?

We know that money can be tight during the festive season, which is exactly why we havepayment plans and procedures in place to make things a little easier. WithHumm Finance, you can buy a brand-new smart speaker now (minimum spend €80) andpay for it later on in instalments. This is an ideal payment solution for anyone who is short on cash or would prefer to spread their payments over time.


February 08,2023

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