Google is at CES this year in a big way. One of the announcements is an Echo Show competitor.
It’s a new year, and as we’ve been thinking about what we’ll be covering on the blog this year, my mind naturally turned to smart home tech. 2017 was a big year for the smart home, with Google coming on the scene and quickly turning into a key player, an explosion in Philips Hue adoption, and more. I feel like an increasing number of my friends are getting into the game with smart lights, thermostats, and voice assistants.
But I don’t think we’ve reached “peak smart home” by any means. So what’s next? I decided to take a stab at what I think we can expect to see this year.
Google announced a product last week that a lot of us have been waiting for. It’s called the Google Home Mini, and it’s a miniaturized version of the Google Home smart speaker. It’s small enough to fit in the palm of your hand and costs only $50. This might be the product that really brings Google into the (smart) home.
If you’re a fan of the Amazon Echo, last week was Christmas in September. With almost no notice, Amazon held an event to announce a dizzying amount of new Alexa-powered hardware. I’ve taken a look at all of the new stuff and written down some thoughts here, along with my recommendations on which of these devices to pay particularly close attention to.
If you’re interested in jumping into the world of smart home technology, it can be a little overwhelming to figure out where to start and what to buy first. To help with that, I’ve come up with a short list of trusted product recommendations to bring your home into the 21st century. Welcome to the Smart Home Starter Kit!
If there’s one technology that needs to either die or radically change, it’s the TV remote. Have you ever stopped to think about how much of a usability nightmare the average remote control is? They have a million buttons–most of which you never use–and each one is laid out differently. If you lose the remote or it stops working, you lose access to the vast majority of your TV’s functionality.
It’s even worse if you have a full home entertainment system with a TV, speakers, and more. You’re forced to perform an elaborate sequence of operations to ensure everything is turned on in the right order and configured to the right input settings for whatever you are trying to watch. It’s crazy that we all just accept this as a fact of life. What other tech product do we use in 2017 that requires this much concentration to use on a daily basis?
I first got my feet wet with the Amazon Echo line of products with an Echo Dot in December of last year, and since then it’s become one of my most often used gadgets when I’m at home. Between using it to control my lights, checking the weather, and asking Alexa to play music, I find myself regularly using the Echo Dot. No, it doesn’t do anything that I can’t do with an app on my phone, but when I’m doing things around the house, the convenience of voice commands is great.
But, of course, the catch is that the Echo is only useful if it’s nearby and listening.
At the WWDC conference last week, Apple announced its long-awaited entry into the home voice assistant market: the Apple HomePod. In traditional Apple fashion, it’s beautiful and expensive. But unfortunately, it’s not going to be available until December. So the question is: should you hold out until the HomePod is released, or go with another option now, such as the Amazon Echo or Google Home?