Buying a smart speaker: What you should know – Times of India

Smart speakers are one of the most advertised audio products in recent times in India. While the thought of talking to a device and getting replies sounds cool there are certain things you should know. Understand that if the thought of talking to an AI-enabled voice mesmerises you, then you can do the same thing on your smartphone as well. But if you want to control other devices in your house then a smart speaker makes more sense. The fact that you are reading this article means somewhere you are not sure enough about the utility of smart speakers. Here are things you should know before you buy your first smart speaker.
Most smart speakers are under-utilised and you should have a plan to keep you excited enough to keep using them.
There are three types of smart speakers available with three different AI voice assistants in India that make sense. Buy an Amazon Echo device for Alexa or a Google Nest device for using Google Assistant and finally to use Siri, you can get the Apple HomePod. In case you want both Alexa and Google Assistant support, then opt for third-party speakers. Of course, there’s Microsoft’s assistant called Cortana but there are very few speaker options like the Harman Kardon Invoke.
What can smart speakers do?
There are two broad use cases of a smart speaker. If you are just going to buy a smart speaker then you could use voice commands to change music, change volume, listen to news, ask questions, get directions, set reminders or alarms, get weather updates, listen to podcasts and more. You may not even need to touch your phone to get these activities done.
The second use case is where you can actually use your voice to control lights, fans, AC and other appliances in your room. It doesn’t matter whether your appliance is smart or not. But to do this, you would need to buy an universal remote like Oak Remote or buy sensors and other smart switches. This is the scenario where buying a smart speaker makes complete sense as you will be able to get the most out of it.
Just imagine you walk into your kitchen and say, “Alexa, turn on the kitchen” to your Echo Dot speaker. This simple voice command can carry out multiple functions like switching on the lights, turning on the electric chimney, music of your choice and may even pour a cup of coffee, if programmed.
Taking another instance, say you have an old AC model and regular tube lights in your home connected to an universal remote like Oak Remote. With a smart speaker, you can control these lights and appliances with voice. Just say “Alexa, set AC to 19” and the job gets done. Note that you do not need to buy new appliances to make your home smart. Simply buying an universal remote along with smart switches and a smart speaker can add voice support to almost all appliances.
If you are looking to get things done in house by just talking to a speaker then it goes without saying that a smart speaker can work wonders. On the other hand, if you are not keen on making your home smart then the use cases are limited.
Alexa or Ok Google or Hey Siri


If you are looking at a smart home setup then getting an Alexa or Google Assistant enabled speaker is a reliable bet. The capabilities of Siri are limited. In fact, the debate is mostly restricted to Alexa or Google Assistant. While the features are similar, Alexa supports more smart home devices and it is easier to use Alexa commands. Google is trying to catch up but Alexa offers a reliable experience.
Now, if you don’t want to configure your smart home, opting for the Siri-enabled Apple HomePod or HomePod Mini makes more sense if you are looking for quality audio that is assuming that you are already familiar with the Apple ecosystem. If you don’t own an iPhone it goes without saying that you don’t buy an Apple smart speaker. For Android phone users, you can either opt for an Amazon Echo or Google Nest speaker. Both offer a very similar experience when it comes to getting basic things done. But in case, if you ever plan to add voice to everything in your home, getting an Alexa speaker makes it a better deal.

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Sagar Biswas

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