It’s now more affordable than ever to add a smart speaker to your home, which not only acts as a high-end speaker system, but more importantly, works as a virtual assistant for users, helping to make everyday tasks like answering phone, sending texts, playing music, browsing for information, and ordering food a hands-free, voice-activated experience.
Using Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity, smart speakers have a seemingly endless list of attributes, from playing music to helping users easily search for information or connect with friends and family through text messages. Running late and want to check the weather? Ask your smart speaker. Need to set a timer for the oven but your hands are covered in food? Tell your smart speaker to set it. Did you finally get comfortable in bed, only to realize you forgot to turn off the lights? Your smart speaker can do that as well. Most smart speakers work with other smart home technologies, including products by Philips Hue, TP-Link, Sony, ecobee, WeMo, SmartThings, Insteon, Lutron, Nest, Wink, Honeywell, creating a home that is perfectly customized to your shifting needs.
Not only do smart speakers pack huge convenience factors for users, but they’re also ideal for people with mobility issues. Whether you have problems with walking or with using your arms, or if there are areas of your home, like the corner with the thermostat, that you have difficulty reaching, smart speakers can be a literal lifesaver. For the elderly or anyone who has an accident at home, smart speakers’ voice-automated commands mean that you can call for help, whether that means sending a text to a friend or loved one or getting in touch with 911 during an emergency. If you have sight issues or just want to listen to audio books or get a rundown of the day’s biggest news stories, smart speakers have access to apps like Audible and NPR.
If you’re looking for a new speaker for your home or you’re ready to add the convenience of a virtual assistant, we have three smart speaker options that will make anyone’s life feel and sound better.
1. Echo Dot (2nd Generation)
With the ability to access more than 50,000 skills sets that allow users to do everything from order a pizza to answer a phone call simply by voice commands, the Echo Dot 2nd Generation is the standard in smart speakers, packing a huge amount of value into a small device with an even smaller price tag.
Pros: The benchmark of all smart speakers, the Echo Dot 2nd Generation has an incredible list of abilities. The voice-activated speaker works with Alexa to play music from streaming services like Amazon Music and Apple Music, control other smart home devices like the Nest Thermostat, answer and make phone calls, send text messages, and access more than 50,000 skill sets, which include everything from playing Jeopardy to ordering a Lyft. The Echo Dot 2nd is strong enough to hear commands from across a noisy room and can be paired with other Bluetooth speakers for a richer sound.
Cons: The Echo Dot 2nd Generation has a 1.1-inch speaker with the sound traveling through small holes around the unit, which can cause some distortion. It’s also not as loud as the second two options on our list.
Image courtesy of Amazon
2. Sonos Play:1
Built with a rich and powerful sound, the Sonos Play:1 is a smart speaker for those who want convivence with a focus on speaker quality. The wireless WiFi-enabled speaker is able to work on its own or be paired with other Sonos speakers to create an immersive listening experience. The Sonos Play:1 can be connected to Alexa or run through the Sonos app, with the ability to sync music, podcasts, or audiobooks throughout the home or play different tracks in each room with additional Sonos speakers.
Pros: The Sonos Play:1 is humidity resistant, which means it can handle all climates, including being placed in steamy areas like the kitchen and the bathroom. The small speaker (it measures 4.69 x 4.69 x 6.36 in) packs a huge audio punch, with a pair of Class-D amplifiers and custom-built drivers delivering a rich acoustic experience. The Sonos Play:1 can be placed on a flat surface or mounted the wall.
Cons: The Sonos Play:1 is voice controlled when connected to the Alexa device, but if you want to stream music or connect the speaker to your TV, you’ll have to use the Sonos app on your phone. The Sonos Play:1 works best when paired with the entire Sonos home speaker system, which can get pricey.
Image courtesy of Amazon
3. Echo Dot (3rd Gen)
With a vastly improved sound quality over the 2nd Generation, the Echo Dot 3rd Generation features all the impressive Alexa functions as its predecessor, including voice-activated calling, messaging, browsing and music play, with the ability to connect to other Echo Dots or Bluetooth speakers for a surround sound speaker experience.
Pros: The Echo Dot 3rd Generation is more visually appealing than its predecessors, featuring a fabric finish instead of plastic, making it more conducive to doubling as a piece of technology and home décor. The 3rd Generation is available in three colors, including Charcoal, Heather Gray and Sandstone. In addition to looks, the 3rd Generation also features a huge improvement in the sound, with the larger 1.6-inch speaker featuring a 360-degree immersive sound experience. The 3rd Generation has a different microphone arrangement, which increases the volume by up to 70 percent and delivers a crisper and clearer sound quality.
Cons: The Echo Dot 3rd Generation is more expensive than the Echo Dot 2nd Generation and does not include any improved Alexa functions.
Image courtesy of Amazon