One part speaker, one part virtual assistant, smart speakers are designed to make your life easier than ever. These little sound boxes give you the ability to quickly look up information, schedule calendar invites, play music, control your smart home, online shopping, and so much more … all with just the power of your voice.
Almost every smart speaker can do the above in one form or another, but each of them handle things a bit different. So which smart speaker is the one for you? Good question.
Amazon Echo, Google home, and Apple HomePod – the big 3
In 2018 you have quite a few smart speaker options, though there are three smart speaker product lines that tend to dominate the pack. The latter of three listed is significantly behind the curve for now, though it’s worth mentioning simply because Apple fans tend to be fiercely loyal to Apple products. It’s also worth noting Samsung is hoping to break into the market eventually with its recently announced Samsung Galaxy Home.
Amazon Echo family
- Runs the Amazon Alexa virtual assistant
- Available in prices ranging from $50 to $230
- Integration for Amazon shopping, great smart home support, and more!
Google Home family
- Runs the Google Assistant virtual assistant
- Available in prices ranging from $50 to $150
- Arguably the best when it comes to intelligent and contextual smart speaker responses, thanks to tight integration of Google Search and more.
- Great sound quality
- The only option for Siri fans
- Built with Apple fans in mind.
- Arguably the least impressive when it comes to smart functionality.
Looking for even more options?
Most users are going to want to stick with something from the Amazon Echo or Google Home product lines, or Apple’s HomePod if you’re a major Apple fan. Still, more options aren’t a bad thing. Smart speaker buyers have three additional paths at the moment: a Google Assistant-powered speaker, an Amazon Alexa-powered speaker, or a Microsoft Cortana-powered speaker.
- Google Assistant powered speakers: JBL, Lenovo, Sony, and other manufacturers produce a number of speakers that run on Google Assistant. Yes, that’s the same virtual assistant as the Google Home family. This means any of these speakers will have essentially the same core features as the Google Home series, with differences being sound quality, design, and other hardware differences.
- Amazon Alexa powered speakers: JBL, Lenovo, Sony, and other manufacturers produce a number of speakers that run on Amazon Alexa. Yes, that’s the same virtual assistant as the Amazon Echo family. This means any of these speakers will have essentially the same core features as the Amazon Echo series, with differences being sound quality, design, and other hardware differences.
- Cortana powered speakers: Microsoft’s Cortana is a major underdog in the virtual assistant space, so much so that Harman Kardon’s Invoke is the only smart speaker option running Microsoft’s assistant. Frankly unless you are a massive Microsoft fan we recommend giving this one a pass. It’s not horrible, it’s just that other options are so much better that it’s just not worth the money.