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What Are Your Smart Speaker Options for This Holiday Season?

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With the Apple HomePod now delayed, you might be wondering what your other options are if you want to get a smart speaker before Christmas.  As I mentioned in my other post, if you’re a die-hard Apple fanboy, you might not want another option.  Which means this delay is going to bring you a lot of disappointment this holiday season.  There are other options out there.  And in some cases, they might be even better than the Apple HomePod.  Yes, I said it.  The HomePod is unique as it offers Siri integration, which also acts as a virtual assistant for things like HomeKit control and music playback.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s bad, I just think there are other options out there.  It’s unknown when the HomePod will be available.  Apple is saying early-2018, but what that means is anyone’s guess at this point.

What are your other options?

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Sonos

One option is Sonos.  They are currently a leader in the home audio system game.  They are pricey though.  But you’re paying for a system that’s easy to use and works nearly flawlessly with Apple’s ecosystem.  See?  There is another option out there.  Sonos offers several different speaker options, but most recently the company introduced the Sonos One wireless speaker.  This particular model marks the first speaker to offer built-in voice control with Amazon Alexa integration.  Further, the Sonos One will eventually get AirPlay 2 (when it’s available) and Siri support.  You can order the Sonos One from Amazon for $199.  Follow this link to find all of the Sonos smart speakers available from Amazon.

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Ultimate Ears

Ultimate Ears is not as well known as some of the other options on this list.  But their new Blast and MegaBlast speakers are definitely competing against the HomePod.  And, these are the first Ultimate Ears speakers to offer integration with Amazon’s Alexa.  These smart speakers offer “bold and immersive 360 degree sound”, while at the same time remaining compact and portable.  Both options can be run using a wi-fi network, which means that Alexa can be accessed whether or not your smartphone is around.  The Ultimate Ears Blast will cost you $229 from Amazon.

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Google Home

One of Apple’s biggest competitors in the smart speaker industry is Google.  There are a lot of people who think that the Google Assistant is way better than Siri, which is what makes the Google Home (and some of their other versions) stand out from the crowd.  Of the versions available, the Google Home Max is Google’s high-end smart speaker.  The Google Home is a more affordable option, while the Google Home Mini brings the Google Assistant to you in a portable and affordable way.  None of the Google products support Apple Music streaming.  But you can use Google Home as a traditional Bluetooth speaker.  If you subscribe to YouTube Music, Pandora, Spotify, Google Play Music, TuneIn or iHeartRadio, then this might be the best smart speaker for you.  The Google Home starts at $179, and you can order one through the Google Store.

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Amazon Echo

If you are interested in a smart speaker that will integrate with your Apple products, then this is the one for you.  In addition, there’s an Echo product on the market that will fit into almost any budget.  Amazon’s second generation Echo offers several improvements over the first generation.  In addition to the sleeker design, you will get sound improvement thanks to Dolby technology.  Amazon Echo supports smart home control for a handful of devices, including products from companies like WeMo, Phillips, Nest, and Ecobee.  Not only that, but the Echo Plus offers more advanced smartphone control.  In addition to the standard Echo experience, you will get an integrated ZigBee smart home hub.  This will obviously integrate with the ZigBee products including lights, locks, and plugs.  Coming soon is the Echo Spot, which is an Alexa-powered smart home assistant, but it comes as a small, circular device.

Amazon has more products in the Echo line – including the Echo Show.  The Echo Show has a 7″ display that allows you to video chat or watch videos.  It also comes with dual 2.0-inch speakers.  Last, but not least is the Echo Dot, which will cost just $50.  This small device is capable of turning any 3.5 mm headphone jack into a smart speaker with Alexa controls.  It can also act completely independently of another speaker as everything is contained in the Dot itself. The new Amazon Echo will cost you $99.99 and comes in a variety of color finishes. 

Final Thoughts

While none of these options will fully integrate with the Apple ecosystem, it does suggest that you have other options.  But if you really need the HomePod, you are going to have to wait until sometime in early 2018.   If you’re itching for a smart speaker sooner than that, any one of these listed above would be an incredible choice.  Not only that, the Amazon and Google products come in a variety of budget options.  The HomePod is expected to debut at the higher end of the price scale, so if you are looking to save some money, you might want to pass on Apple’s version.