What Is a Smart Speaker? Here’s Everything You Need to Know

We’ve recommended smart speakers for a wide range of purposes in home automation – now is the time to take a step back and tackle some of the big questions: What is a smart speaker and why is it such an important part of the home? modern smart? ?

We’re tackling all the questions you might have about smart speakers and popular brands, starting with the basics. Here’s everything you need to know before you buy!

What makes a smart speaker smart?

The ability of a speaker to connect to mobile devices like smartphones and other smart devices in your home is what makes it smart. That means you can the speaker to your Wi-Fi network and use an app on your phone to control it, as well as send audio like music or podcasts, usually over a Bluetooth connection, but sometimes streamed over Wi-Fi as well. -Fi. .

Those are the basics, but many speakers go beyond that. For example, today’s smart speakers often have a built-in voice assistant that you can control with your voice. This allows them to search the Internet, make lists or reminders, and interact with a wide variety of voice assistant skills, games, pranks, and guides. Your apps can often be connected directly to music services like Spotify or Apple Music so you don’t have to use your mobile device to stream music to the speaker. They also often have the option of calling friends and family from their contacts, like a hands-free phone.

Beyond this, smart speakers come in a wide variety of designs and sizes. The smaller versions are designed to sit at your desk as a personal assistant, or perhaps serve as a smart alarm clock. The larger versions are designed to reside in a central location on a counter or shelf where they can fill the room with sound. The mobile versions are battery operated and are generally designed to resist dust and water.

What’s the point of a smart speaker?

Smart speakers have two big advantages for the average smart home. First, you can control them anywhere via an app, which is extremely convenient for people who manage music on their phones.

Second, they combine a host of smart features in one hub for easy access. That includes voice commands and voice chats, the ability to control the smart home with access to specific devices, connections to existing televisions or speakers, and more. They are always available to provide a wide variety of answers or complete basic tasks, from weather updates to setting timers, making them a great complement to other smart devices.

Who makes smart speakers?

There are many names in the game. Amazon and Google are two of the biggest players, while Apple also has its HomePod line. Then there are a wide variety of Bluetooth speaker brands that add a lot of smart features to their models, like JBL, Sonos, and Bose.

Are smart speakers wireless?

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Smart speakers can be wireless, but it is important to define what we mean by wireless. All smart speakers are wireless, as you can stream audio via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi – you don’t need to connect these speakers to an audio for them to work.

But many smart speakers still need a wired connection for power, a cable that connects to an electrical outlet. Fully wireless speakers use a built-in battery and are designed for portability, often including hooks or handles. These models tend to be smaller, which means sacrificing sound quality and other capabilities for a completely wireless experience.

Is Alexa a smart speaker? What about the Google Assistant?

Alexa and Google Assistant are voice assistants, which means they can hear and respond to commands. Voice assistants can reside in apps on your phone or computer, as well as on various smart devices around the house (including televisions and even thermostats). Since smart speakers typically have Wi-Fi (sometimes Bluetooth) connections, speakers, and microphones, that makes them one of the best places to include access to a voice assistant. Stationary smart speakers almost always have a voice assistant built in.

There are three main examples of this: Amazon’s Echo speakers, which always come with Alexa, Google’s Nest speakers, which always include Google Assistant, and Apple’s HomePods, which use Siri. Smart speakers from other brands may also include Alexa or Google Assistant.

Can smart speakers control other devices?

Smart speakers with voice assistants can create connections with compatible smart home devices, so you can use voice commands or create routines to control your smart home more organically. For example, you could say “Alexa, turn off the dining room light” or “Ok Google, start my morning routine.” Smart speakers work especially well with certain devices, such as security cameras with built-in audio so you can speak into them.

However, devices must be compatible with specific voice assistants for this feature to work. Alexa generally has the widest compatibility with other devices, followed by the Google Assistant, then HomeKit compatibility for Siri. We expect compatibility to be less of an issue in the future as standards improve, but for now, it’s always good to double-check when you buy a new device.

What is the best smart speaker to buy?

For that, we suggest you check out our guide to the best smart speakers available. We include picks from Sonos, Amazon, Google’s Nest line, and more. If you’re looking for something that’s more portable, check out our guide to the best wireless smart speakers.

What is the price range of smart speakers?

Smaller speakers typically cost between $ 40 and $ 50. Larger speakers tend to start at $ 100 and can go as high as $ 200 or more. There are a few exceptions: Apple’s HomePod Mini, for example, is a small speaker that starts at $ 100.

Are smart displays better than smart speakers?

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Smart displays add one more feature: a touch screen that can display information or serve as a voice chat option via an included camera. That makes smart displays very versatile – you can use them to watch informational shows or videos, show slide shows of your photos, play interactive games, search for recipes, and more. They can also be configured to provide visual data on the weather, temperatures, important notifications, and of course the time. The video chat capabilities are also good if you like to talk face-to-face, and can also be used to get live broadcasts from your security cameras.

In return, smart displays require a location where the screen is highly visible and its speakers are often more restricted. Some users don’t want another screen in their home either. So choosing between a smart speaker and a smart display comes down to what’s important to you.

How do I connect my smart speaker?

You will manage settings and connections through your smart speaker app. For more information, check out our guide on how to set up an Echo or set up a Nest device. You may also want to take a look at our smart speaker troubleshooting guide if something goes wrong.

Are smart speakers private?

Smart speakers have microphones that listen for voice command activation words. They can also save commands for later analysis. These settings can be easily adjusted – you can manually turn off the microphones on the latest smart speakers and change whether you want any of your voice commands to be saved in your history and for how long. Here’s our guide on how to change the privacy features on an Amazon Echo.

Can anyone else contact me through my smart speaker?

Your app-based contacts (which you can manage) can try to call you on a compatible smart speaker, but you don’t have to answer, like a regular phone. The exception is Alexa’s “Drop In” feature, which gives special people permission to automatically start talking / listening through Echos.

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