The Arabian Nights have always been a fascinating set of stories. It used to have a lot of imaginary content in them.
One of the best examples is the ‘Flying carpet.’ Similarly, other attractions make these stories fascinating. My perennial favourite is the little genie that pops out from the lamp whenever Alladin used to rub it.
This genie could do almost anything in the world. How do I wish I had such a companion in today’s world?
Wait, do you know that there is a device that comes close to this proverbial genie from the lamp?
Are you kidding? No, I am not.
The Smart speakers available in the market can do all the activities mentioned above without me having to move an inch from my sofa.
What are these smart speakers?
It is an intriguing question to ask. We shall look at what these magnificent devices are. We shall also understand how they function and the things that one should look for when venturing out to buy these wonderful assistants for our home.
However, before going into these details, we shall see some of the best smart speakers available in India at present.
Best Smart Speakers in India
1. Google Home
Playing your favourite music, viewing your calendar, or controlling your home environment is now child’s play with the Google Home smart speaker available at your beck and call.
You do not have to rub the speaker like the fellow, Alladin used to do to his lamp. All you have to say is “OK Google.” You get answers to anything you want.
- Do you want to know the latest cricket scores?
- What will the weather be like in the evening as you have to dress up for a wedding?
- What is happening in the city around you?
You have answers to all these questions from this smart speaker. Wait, this is not the end. Let us look at the exciting features of Google Home.
Listen to your favourite music
I am a self-confessed Kishore Kumar fan. Whenever I feel the need to listen to my favourite song, I order my smart speaker, “Play Phoolon Ka Taaron Ka,” and within seconds I can hear my favourite singer crooning out this number. Yes, this smart speaker comes with a pre-installed ‘Free Gaana and Saavn’ subscription.
Manage my day beautifully
This speaker helps me view my schedules, commuting routes, provide travel information, and so on. In case I misplace my Android phone, I can make it ring at full volume using Google Home. Broadcasting messages to all my devices connected to Google Home save me a lot of time.
Changing content on Netflix has never been more comfortable before. All I do is to use my voice and provide instructions to change channels, pause, play, or rewind. When you have this wonderful device to do all this work for you, who needs a husband?
Control your home electrical system
Control your compatible lighting systems and air conditioners with this speaker. There is no need for searching for the remote to switch off the AC when it becomes too cold in the night. Your smart speaker can do the job for you more efficiently.
This Google Assistant comes with a ‘Voice Recognition’ feature that can distinguish your voice from the others. Hence, use it to provide information that is relevant to you.
2. Google Home Mini
Smart speakers come in various shapes and sizes. If you find the Google Home a little too big or expensive for your comfort, you can go for the Google Home Mini.
It does the same job with the same degree of efficiency. Naturally, the size is smaller than the product described above. Let us look at some of the fascinating features of the Google Home Mini.
Get answers to your questions
Do you want directions to go to the beach in the evening? That should not be a problem because this smart speaker lets you use Google search, Google maps, and so on without having to enter the destination manually. Just say, “OK Google, Give me directions to Marina Beach.”
No need to maintain a diary
Right from waking you up in the morning to help you find your misplaced Android Smartphones or controlling the ACs and so on, this smart speaker is at your beck and call. It reminds you of your appointment with your doctor and notifies you when to take your medicines. In short, it caters to all your daily activities.
An ideal replacement for your remote
When you have children in the house, the chances of finding the remote control is itself remote. There is no need to worry at all. The Google Home Mini doubles up as a remote control unit allowing you to play, pause, or rewind your Netflix and other channels without using your hands.
Control your smart home with a few words
Have you forgotten to switch off your compatible lights before retiring to bed? You can switch it off with the help of your smart speaker. Similarly, controlling your compatible ACs is child’s play.
Personalization at its best
Personalize your smart speaker to distinguish your voice from the others in the house. It obeys all your orders unflinchingly.
3. Echo Dot
You need not reprimand your children every time they forget to switch on the lights in the hall or the bedroom. Any modern-day homemaker will concede that getting your children to do these tasks are next to impossible today.
Why waste your energy when you have Amazon’s Echo Dot to do these tasks and many more for you. Connect your Echo Dot to the Alexa Voice service and make calls, listen to your favourite music, get the latest information, and so on instantly and without exerting at all.
Place it anywhere
The beauty of Echo Dot is that you can place it anywhere, and it blends beautifully with the surrounding. Set it up in the bedroom to use it as a morning alarm clock. Use it to control your compatible AC units and lights. The Bluetooth technology allows you to add voice control to your come stereo system.
Play the music you love
With Echo Dot, you need not search through thousands of songs to play your favourite one. Just name your song, and Echo Dot does the searching for you within no time. Switch from your favourite songs of the 1960s to the latest ones with the greatest ease.
Play your music anywhere in the house
Have you placed the milk on your gas stove? Are you worried it will boil and spill over as you get engrossed in listening to your favourite song? Banish such worries from your mind. Set up Echo Dot to play the same song in the kitchen. It will abide by your commands like the most obedient friend you can ever hope to have in the house.
Hands-free calling and messaging
If you are kneading your dough for making your chapattis, and realize that you have to make an urgent call, you can rely on Echo Dot to dial the number for you in an instant. Connect your Echo Dot to the Alexa app and enjoy hands-free calling and messaging.
Alexa comes with an advanced ‘Far-field voice recognition’ system that can recognize your voice from almost anywhere in spite of the entire din around. It has seven microphones that use
Welcome to the smart home
We are living in the age of smart devices. You have the smartphones and so on everywhere. Make your home smart as well using the Echo Dot in combination with the Alexa. Control your lighting and other electrical equipment with the Echo Dot.
As skilful a companion as you can get
Do not restrict the use of your Echo Dot to listening music and controlling your electrical appliances. It has numerous other skills such as ordering your favourite snack from the restaurant or summoning a cab using the popular mobile apps in the respective niches.
Use other services of Amazon
Get access to Amazon Prime, an ad-free music streaming service. Also, use the Echo Dot to order the products you need for your daily consumption from Amazon. Use the smart speaker to track the shipment for you as well.
4. Echo Plus
Use your voice to full effect by connecting with the Echo Plus smart speakers. You will not get a better voice assistant to provide you entertainment, guidance, information, and be at your beck and call every time you summon it.
Are you surprised that your husband has stiff competition? In fact, the Echo can surpass him in many respects because it never disobeys you any time. Let us look at some of the salient features of this smart speaker.
All-in-one entertainment device
Play your favourite songs from channels like Saavn and so on by just naming the song or the film or even the name of your favourite singer. Control your Amazon Prime Music channel without using your hands in any way.
Play music in any room
Attend to your chores in the kitchen or elsewhere without having to compromise on the enjoyment of listening to your favourite music playing in the background. The Echo Plus can play the music wherever you want.
Control your lighting and AC, and so on
Bid goodbye to your remote controls as you can use your voice to good effect to provide instructions to the compatible appliances. Shut off your AC without having to grope around for the remote control in the darkness. Switch on the lights before you get down from your bed. Isn’t that a great idea?
Call your contacts without having the phone in sight
Connect your smartphone to the Echo Plus using the Alexa app and make calls from anywhere in the house without having to search for the phone and dialling the numbers. Say ‘Call Hubby’ and the Echo plus connect you within no time.
Order your favourite food
Use the Echo Plus to order your Pizza from your favourite restaurant using a compatible app like Zomato. Order your cabs using apps like Uber without having to key in details of destination and so on. Your words are enough to do the job for you.
5. Echo Spot
The Echo Spot is an improvement on the Echo Dot and Echo Plus in the sense that you can make video calls using this device. At the same time, this appliance does all the work that you extract from the Echo Plus and Echo Dot.
All you need is an Alexa app and your contact on an Alexa compatible smartphone. Look at some of the enchanting features of this smart speaker.
Not just do, but show things
The Echo Spot goes one step further than the other smart speakers in the sense that it not only does things but also shows them as well. You can see the weather and news bulletins, watch videos of your favourite songs, play music, and set alarms.
Make video calls to your contacts
Now, when you use this smart speaker to make a call to your hubby at his office, you can very well see what he is up to. Jokes apart, this smart speaker allows you to make video calls to all your contacts. Echo Spot has four microphones.
Hence, it can hear you when you call out the wake word “Alexa” from wherever you are in spite of the entire din in the room. This feature is advantageous when you have more than one smart speaker in the house.
The Echo spot uses Echo Spatial Perception (ESP) to respond to your calls. The speaker nearest to you responds to your calls.
Setting up the Echo Spot is easy
You have to plug in Echo Spot, connect to the internet, and ask for it to deliver. Alexa is the brain behind the Echo Spot. Alexa connects to the cloud. Hence, it is always getting smarter day by day. Ask Alexa to do something for you, and it responds instantly.
Play your favourite music anywhere
Alexa plays music from various sources like Amazon Prime, Saavn, and TuneIn on your Echo Spot.
Get info at a glance
Do you want to know the latest cricket scores? All you have to do is to pop the question to Alexa. You get the most recent scores along with all the relevant statistics in no time.
Echo Home makes your home smarter
Set up a camera in your baby’s room and watch its activities from anywhere using your Echo Spot. Of course, you have the routing controls like switching the lights on and off, controlling the AC, and so on.
A skilful partner
Echo Spot can use thousands of skills. It is also capable of ordering you can from Ola, order your snacks from Zomato, and even read out your future from GaneshaSpeaks. Connect it to Amazon Prime, and order your products online using your voice commands.
6. Sonos All-new One-Voice Controlled Smart Speaker
The Echo series are small speakers when you compare it with the Sonos. The Sonos can do the same job that the other smart speakers do but more efficiently. Listen to your favourite songs even while you are busy in the kitchen.
At the same time, check out the traffic in your area as you have to go to school to pick up your little one.
The Sonos All-new One-Voice controlled smart speaker is one hell of a talented appliance. You can start and manage your music with just a few voice commands. Alexa is a built-in feature in the Sonos.
Be abreast with the weather and traffic
As you listen to your songs, you can also check out the weather updates and traffic. One command can make this speaker switch over to delivering weather updates.
Get the benefit of Alexa’s intelligence
Ask Alexa to play music from different sources like Pandora, ihearradio, TuneIn, and SiriusXM, and so on.
Connect wirelessly to other home theatre systems
This smart speaker allows you to connect wirelessly to other home-theatre systems and play music in every room if you wish to do so.
7. Harman Kardon Allure Wireless Speaker System with Amazon Alexa
When the discussion is on speakers, how can you leave Harmon Kardon behind? Therefore, you have the Harmon Kardon Allure Wireless Speaker system in our list.
This system is indeed a smart speaker as Harmon Kardon teams up with Amazon Alexa to deliver the best in class audio.
All round sound
With Harmon Kardon and Alexa together, you get 360 degrees sound. There are three placement optimized 1.5-inch mid-range tweeters that deliver ultra-low distortion sound output.
Hands-free voice control
The four microphone array and digital sound processing engine provides high-quality voice recognition whereby you can control the speakers as well as your other appliances without using your hands at all. Your voice does all the talking.
Support from Alexa
Alexa ensures that the Allure will hear you every time flawlessly whenever you call out Alexa to provide wholesome entertainment within no time.
Far-field voice recognition
This feature ensures that your Allure smart speaker hears and recognizes your voice in spite of the various disturbances in the room. The Allure recognizes your voice and obeys it to the ‘T.’
Best Smart Speakers – Buying Guide
There was a time when we used speakers only for listening to music. You had to connect them with wires to your central music appliance (home theatre system). Now, things have changed with wireless speakers available in the market.
They either work on Bluetooth technology or Wi-Fi. As they can connect to devices, they earned the name smart speakers.
Let us now see what smart speakers can do before going on to the buying guide.
Smart speakers are nothing new. You have them on your smartphones and tablets. You call them virtual assistants or digital assistants.
Some of the prime examples of such digital assistants are Siri from the iPhone (Apple), Google Assistant from the Android phones, and so on. Another familiar digital assistant is Alexa from Amazon.
What is a digital assistant?
A digital assistant is a cloud-based software system that understands natural language voice commands. It performs tasks and fetches information for you from the internet without you having to type out your instructions using the keyboard.
Here are some things that these smart speakers do.
- Stream music over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth
- Work with Chromecast devices such as televisions
- Control your compatible TVs using a universal remote
- Stream music to multiple speakers (placed in different rooms)
- Play games and stream video content
News and Information
- Provide news headlines, weather reports, and traffic notifications
Manage your schedules
- Serve as an alarm clock, provide reminders
- Maintain to-do lists, set appointments
- Recite recipes, get measurement conversions, and nutrition information
- Set multiple timers and maintain shopping lists
Contact friends and family
- Make and receive video calls
- Send text messages
- Use it as an in-house intercom
Control home appliances
- Switch on or off your lights, dim them
- Adjust the smart thermostat
- Adjust temperatures in your smart AC
- Equip your home security system
- Stream video content from home security camera
How do these smart speakers work?
The smart speakers work with the help from digital assistants. They use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to do a variety of tasks. Google Assistant, Siri, and Alexa are examples of such AI-powered software systems.
Using AI, these virtual assistants can understand natural language, recognize faces, identify objects, and even communicate with other smart devices. Let us see how to use a virtual assistant.
Popular Virtual assistants
You find the Google Assistant on all Android devices. You can communicate with Google Assistant by using the words, ‘OK Google.’
You can then place your request or command for the Google Assistant to carry out. Sometimes, there will be simultaneous interaction. For Example, if you ask Google Assistant to book an Ola or Uber cab, it will ask you for your destination. Google Assistant can determine your location using Google Maps.
You can also order your food from Zomato and other food retail chains using Google Assistant. You get a variety of information using Google Assistant. It includes directions to your destination, weather information, latest news, traffic congestions in your area, and so on.
Alexa is to Amazon what Google Assistant is to Google and Android. Alexa is available on the Echo series of speakers as well as brands like Sonos and Harmon Kardon.
You can ask Alexa to search for almost anything on the internet. You can name your favourite song and leave the rest to Alexa. It will explore the web on sites like Saavn and get back to you with your song within seconds.
You can also use the services of Alexa to control compatible home appliances. Contacting your friends and family using Alexa is easy, but your contacts should also have the Alexa app on their devices.
Some of the latest Alexa-powered smart speakers come with video calling facilities. You can also link these speakers to your home security cameras and watch the activities if required.
How do you choose the appropriate smart speaker?
Know your ecosystem – Every smart speaker needs the help of the virtual assistant. Hence, you should be aware of the systems in your home. If you have Android devices, you should go for the smart speakers that use Google Assistant.
Similarly, you can also go for Alexa if you have a penchant for Amazon. Therefore, ascertaining your eco-system is vital.
Go for high quality sound
You are buying smart speakers that can play back information or songs to you. Naturally, you need good sound quality. At the same time, you have to communicate with them frequently. Hence, they need to have high-quality microphones.
The Echo series has four to seven microphones in each of their smart speakers to enable them to understand your commands.
Personalization is essential
Your smart speaker should be able to recognize your voice distinctly from the hundreds of other disturbances. The Echo series of speakers have this ability because of the high-quality microphones they have.
If you have multiple speakers in your house, you can place them in different rooms. The Echo series of smart speakers have a unique system known as Echo Spatial Perception that enables the nearest speaker to respond to your commands.
The Sonos intelligent speakers have these multi-room capabilities.
Look toward the future
The technology is improving day by day. Hence, your smart speakers should have the capacity to upgrade whenever a new version becomes available on the market. Google Assistant and Alexa are continuously upgrading their content.
Your speaker should be compatible to absorb these updates. After all, these speakers are expensive.
Smart speakers jargons
AirPlay can access content from your Apple devices and also from computers having iTunes installed on them. Android devices can also use it but through a third party app.
DLNA, DTS, Play-fi
These are standard terms when you buy smart speakers. They usually work with iOS and Android devices. You can also use them with some Mac computers and PCs.
Heos and Sonos
These are also standard terms. They are compatible with both Android and iOS devices. Therefore, if you see these words on your smart speaker specifications, you need not worry about them.
Where will you place your speakers?
Your room size determines the smart speakers you buy. Small and closed rooms with walls on all sides are not suitable environments for installing large speakers. You can face a lot of distortion. At the same time, large and spacious rooms can make the small speakers look insignificant.
If you wish to place your speakers inside your cabinets, you should opt for speakers that do not play Bass over 80 Hz. It can bounce off the cabinet walls and cause echo.
Placing speakers in corners
Placing speakers in corners can cancel out the bass effect. You can do with subwoofers. Similarly, hard surfaces are not compatible for placing speakers on them. You need some smooth surfaces for the sound to reflect as it can enhance the hearing experience.
Your speakers should blend with your furniture in the room. They should not stand out like a sore thumb. The Echo series and the others we have discussed above are excellent to fit with any décor.
We have seen how smart speakers work. We have also discussed the activities that a smart speaker can do.
Also, we have reviewed some of the best smart speakers available on the market. It should be easy for you now to get the smart speaker of your choice just like Alladin had his genie in the lamp.