Mainstream smart speakers available on the market

Mainstream smart speakers available on the market
Smart speakers answer questions, set schedules, play music, tell jokes and control connected devices at home. This product category has opened up a new chapter in the consumer electronics market as well as the smart home market. It brings the power of voice to homes and creates a new interface for home automation.
 
Amazon sold 6.3 million Echo smart speakers in the third quarter of 2018 while Google shipped 5.9 million Google Home devices, according to research firm Canalys. The worldwide smart speaker shipments reached 19.7 million units, growing 137% year-on-year. Canalys’ report estimates that smart speaker sales worldwide will total 75 million units in 2018.

As smart speaker shifts from a new product category to gradually become mainstream, its form factors are seeing more varieties.

Entry-level options


Positioned as the more affordable option, both Amazon Echo Dot (third-generation) and Google Home Mini cost about US$50. Nonetheless, they do have differences in terms of tech specs.
 
Echo Dot features an array of seven far-field microphones, advanced Bluetooth audio support, 3.5mm audio jack and 1.6-inch speaker driver. Google Home Mini, on the other side, has 1.57-inch speaker driver and supports Bluetooth 4.1 and Chromecast Audio. It falls short for having only two far-field microphones and lacking the 3.5mm audio jack.
 
The two devices have very similar tech specs and offer great user experience for first-time users.

Mid-level options


Both running on the Alexa platform, the Amazon Echo (second generation) has slightly different features from the Echo Plus (second generation), targeting various customer bases.
 
They have similar designs with fabric covers, same seven far-field array microphones to receive user’s voice commands, and same dual speakers powered by Dolby. The Echo Plus’ speaker has 3-inch neodymium woofer and 0.8-inch tweeter, while the Echo’s speaker has 2.5-inch woofer and 0.6-inch tweeter. Lastly, the Echo Plus supports Zigbee, making it a more advanced smart home hub than the Echo. The Echo costs US$99.99 while the Echo Plus costs US$149.99.
 
Google Home speaker features 2-inch speaker driver, dual 2-inch passive radiators, dual far-field microphones for voice recognition. The sound quality is good, but it’s not powerful enough to be a party center. Google Home is available in various fabric colors for US$129.
 
Sonos, a U.S.-based audio company, offers the Sonos One smart speaker with better sound quality compared with speakers of Amazon and Google, thanks to Sonos’ audio technology. In addition, it supports multiple platforms - with Alexa built-in, AirPlay 2 support and soon Google Assistant. Sonos One is sold at a higher price of US$199.

High-end options

 
Almost each voice assistant has its high-end speaker option, offering better audio experience than other speakers. Some of them are made by professional speaker companies, and some by technology firms. But all of them cost more than the general options.

Alexa users can go for the US$249.95 Allure made by Harman Kardon, a speaker company owned by Samsung; Siri users can choose the US$349 HomePod made by Apple; and Google Assistant users can go for the US$399 Google Home Max or the US$1,750 Beosound 1 and US$2,250 Beosound 2 made by luxury audio brand Bang & Olufsen.
 


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