The past decade has seen a huge leap in technology and its seamless integration into daily human lives. In the early 1990s, the concept of having a hi-tech home might have seemed like a distant dream. But about 20 years down the road, we have many hi-tech gadgets in our homes. Be it television, the phones we carry in our pocket, or even our refrigerators and coffee machines – our household appliances have now become ‘smart.’
And things are getting even better, as we can now control and manage all these devices with a ‘smart’ speaker. Gone are the days when ‘speakers’ referred to a device that could simply play audio. The modern-day speakers are more than just audio devices and essentially function as a virtual assistant.
In addition, there aren’t just one or two but a huge range of smart speakers available in the market. So, if you’re planning to but one for your home, it can be a tough decision with all the options in front of you.
In this detailed guide, we’ll breakdown all the things you need to consider before buying a smart speaker and help you choose the best one for your home.
See more: The Ultimate Guide to Smart Speakers
What Exactly Is A Smart Speaker?
It seems like the term ‘smart’ is used a lot often when referring to modern appliances these days. But what is it that makes a speaker ‘smart’ in the true sense? Simply put, smart speakers are audio devices that not only play audio but also allow you to perform multiple with voice control.
Having said that, keep in mind that it’s just a simple definition. There’s more to a smart speaker than just voice commands. Here are some things that make a speaker truly ‘smart’:
Voice assistants perform different functions, as we have already stated.
- An AI with some extent of humanlike features, such as the ability to answer questions, basic conversation with a human user, voice recognition abilities.
- Can integrate with other smart devices in your home, including, but not limited to your phones, television, and even the lights or alarm system of your home.
- Ability to analyze your activities and preferences and then use it to improve itself and provide faster results.
What Are Smart Speakers Capable Of?
There are different brands and manufacturers that make smart speakers, and they are always competing with each other to get more innovative. New features are being added, the AI is improving, and a few years down the road, such speakers will probably be capable of doing a lot more than what they do today.
But for the time being, a smart speaker should be able to do all the things below and perhaps even more.
- Play music and any other audio output from phones and television.
- Compatible with audio and video streaming services like Spotify and Netflix.
- Manage other devices in your home, such as turning the lights on or off, arming or disarming the alarm system, controlling your home thermostat, etc.
- Help you run web searches and surf the web, get weather reports, directions, make to-do-lists, place orders, and purchase products from online, etc.
- Make calls or send messages to contacts on your phone with voice commands.
Back in the early 2000s, all these things might have sounded like an excerpt from a science fiction story. But smart speakers have made it possible in today’s era. And the two biggest benefits of smart speakers are convenience and flexibility.
There’s no need to explain how these devices make our lives convenient and flexible. You can rely on the speakers and voice assistants to perform simple tasks while you are busy doing your own work. It allows you to multitask efficiently, comfortably, and of course, like traditional speakers, listen to your favorite music all along.
10 Things to Consider Before Buying Smart Speakers
You may wonder why it’s a big deal to consider different factors before choosing a smart speaker for your home. Perhaps you are planning to browse a few products, read some reviews, and order one that best fits your budget. That is the typical buyer’s mentality, after all.
But just think about all the things that could go wrong when you buy impulsively or without proper research. What if the product has manufacturing defects and you don’t get proper customer support? Or you don’t like the sound quality and have to go through the hassle of replacing it or returning it for a refund.
These are just a few things that could leave you on a bad note. If you are putting in your money on smart speakers, you must be sure that you’re getting a product that’s worth the price and will give you the best experience. That is why we’ve listed ten things that you need to look out for when buying the most suitable smart speaker for your home.
Even though smart speakers are capable of performing loads of functions, more often than not, you will primarily be using them as an audio output device. For most of the part, your speakers will be playing music and songs or audio from a television, computers, gaming consoles, etc.
So, the first thing you need to consider is the sound quality of the speakers. Take some things into accounts such as where you want to place the speakers, the size, structure, and interiors of your room, and if there will be any echo and reverberation.
Based on these things, you can decide which speaker has the best sound quality as per your needs. Reading product specifications and customer reviews will help you to get a good idea of the sound quality you can expect from a speaker.
But it would be even better if someone you know already owns a brand of speakers that you’re interested in, so you can get a taste of the sound quality it provides.
Size and Portability
The size and aesthetics of smart speakers may not make a huge difference in their performance. But it will surely be desirable if the speaker doesn’t occupy a lot of space and blends in nicely with your interiors. In fact, many speakers are compact and well designed so that they even double up as a decorative accessory when you place them in your room.
Along with the size, portability is also an important factor, but it depends on your needs. If you want a speaker for a single room, then portability is not an issue. But if you plan to use it outdoors or want to be able to move it around different sections of your home, you will need a speaker that can function on both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi and doesn’t need to be plugged in.
Or you can even opt for multi-room settings where the speakers themselves are not portable, but they are placed all over your home and interconnected to each other. And that also brings us to the next point.
Bluetooth vs. Wi-Fi
When it comes to Bluetooth and Wi-Fi compatibility, you have three options: Bluetooth only, Wi-Fi only, or both. Bluetooth speakers are portable, and you can carry them along wherever you go. But the downsides are that it will play all audio from your phones such as ringtones and alarms so you can’t enjoy uninterrupted music. And they also have a limited range of connectivity.
Wi-Fi speakers have greater range, allows you to connect multiple speakers to the same Wi-Fi and create a system, and it filters out other audio from your phone. But all of it comes at the cost of portability as you can only use such speakers in your home.
Not to mention that you will be unable to operate them when the Wi-Fi is down. Then, some speakers can connect to both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi and provide the best of both worlds. But obviously, such speakers are going to have a bit higher price tag.
So speaking of price tags, we move to the next topic, which is:
Pricing and Budget
Everyone has their own budget, and that decision is entirely in your hands. But there are a few things we want you to think about.
First of all, if you want the best buy within your budget range, you must do some comparative research. Make a list of the highest-rated products that are within the price limit you have planned. List their features and compare them, mainly focusing on features that you are mainly looking for.
Which brand offers the best multi-room setting? Which product offers a better bass boost or stereo sound? Do they offer compatibility with the streaming services I use the most? These are just some examples of what comparisons you should be doing between different products of similar pricing.
And secondly, you should always check out products that are both slightly above and below your budget. Perhaps you could find similar features for a lower price, or much better features for just a couple of bucks more.
Streaming Service Compatibility
Most smart speakers are offering compatibility with as many streaming services as they can. Manufacturers are including popular music streaming services such as Spotify, Google Play Music, SoundCloud, etc. as well as video streaming such as Netflix, Hulu, and Disney Plus.
So, you should check in advance if the speaker you are planning to buy is compatible with the streaming service you have subscribed to and use the most.
Multi-room speaker systems are growing very popular these days. They are a system of multiple speakers placed in different areas of the home, all connected to the same Wi-Fi. They can be controlled separately or all at once. And you can start with a single speaker and add as many or as few speakers you want later on.
The benefit of multi-room speakers is that it turns your entire home into a smart setting. You can perform voice commands from anywhere in your home. And you can play different audio with each speaker in different sections of your house or play the same audio from all speakers.
Of course, they are going to be more expensive to set up throughout your house. Since there are quite a lot of brands that manufacture multi-room speakers, you will need to go through some reviews and do a bit of research to pick the best system for your home.
Compatibility with Other Devices and Smart Assistants
One of the most decisive factors when buying a smart speaker is its compatibility with different devices and voice assistants. If you’re already using a voice assistant like Google Home or Amazon Alexa, you must narrow down your choices to speakers that are compatible with those. Google Home and Amazon Echo are smart speakers themselves as well.
But if you don’t already own a voice assistant device, you can also find many brands that offer speakers with inbuilt Amazon Alexa, or can seamlessly connect to both Alexa and Google Assistant devices to offer more flexibility.
Needless to say, you also need to check in advance if the speaker you wish to buy is compatible with all the various smart devices in your home. You can do this easily by contacting the dealer or manufacturer.
As with any device or product, you must have an idea of the overall user experience that you can expect from smart speakers. Since you have not bought and used the product yet, you won’t get a perfect idea of the user experience of the product. But the product specifications and user ratings should give you a decent idea. Look out for certain things in the product specification such as:
- Whether it’s compatible with multiple streaming services, all voice assistants, and a wide range of devices so you have maximum options in hand.
- What are the total functions you can control with voice commands?
- What are the hands-on features, such as buttons and controls on the speaker?
- How long is the battery backup (if it runs on batteries) or how much power it consumes (if it needs to be plugged in)?
And of course, reading customer reviews will certainly give you better insights into the product as well as the manufacturers and their customer service quality. After all, even when a product is defective or not up to the quality at times, good customer service from the manufacturer’s end can improve the overall experience significantly.
So, you should not limit your research to the products but also do a background check on the brands and manufacturers.
Lastly, you need to review all the bonus features that different smart speakers provide. All the points we have mentioned above apply to all smart speakers in general. But there will be plenty of bonus features that distinguish individual products from each other.
Take, for example, the popular range of Sonos speakers, which have a few unique features you won’t find on other speakers such as Trueplay – a feature that auto-calibrates the speaker’s sound based on your room and its surroundings.
So, after considering everything we have explained so far, you need to have one last look at what extra features you can get in different speakers. Not all of them may appeal to you, but you may find a product that has an interesting feature you won’t find in others and that too within your budget.
A Final Note
Smart speakers have become extremely versatile these days. They are loaded with features, and there are many different brands to choose from. Many buyers often follow the trend and buy the speakers that are most popular in the market.
And even within a single brand, there are many products and models available. But you need to know that what suits many other people may not necessarily suit you. You may end up with an unsatisfied purchase if you just buy what’s trending.
That is why, before buying a smart speaker for your home, you need to be sure that it suits your needs and preferences. And that is why we have put up this guide to help you zone in on the most important factors which you need to consider when buying smart speakers.
We recommend you to consider each of those points and check the boxes for all of them one by one. That way, you will be making a smart and well-informed purchase, and your smart speaker will not just be a fancy accessory for your home, but a long term investment worth your money.