Apple’s HomePod Set to Barge Into Hot Speaker Market

2018.01.26 01

HomePod, Apple’s long-awaited entry into the torrid smart speaker market, will be available Feb. 9, the company announced Tuesday.

The HomePod, which is not quite 7 inches tall, will be offered in white and space gray. It can be pre-ordered at Apple’s website for US$349 starting Friday.

Unlike other smart speakers, which support a variety of music services out of the gate, HomePod will support the Apple Music subscription service exclusively.

Although Apple Music has a catalog of 45 million songs, that limitation could curb initial sales of the product, noted Ross Rubin, principal analyst at Reticle Research.

Apple’s HomePod Set to Barge Into Hot Speaker Market

Amazon’s ‘Echo Show’ Gives Alexa the Touchscreen It Needed

2017.05.13 02

THE AMAZON ECHO is a stupendously powerful device. It can control your lights, play Ed Sheeran jams, keep a to-do list, check the weather, order pizza, tell guests your Wi-Fi password, and so much more. But as you embrace this chatty-computer future, you begin to see its limitations. Sure, you can book a flight with your voice, but it’s so much easier when you can see the price chart. You can set six timers, but can you remember which one just went off? Voice-only games are fun, but not as fun as a game you can see and touch.

Hype aside, voice control is not a replacement for screens, but a complement to them. As Apple’s Phil Schiller recently said, “There’s many moments where a voice assistant is really beneficial, but that doesn’t mean you’d never want a screen. So the idea of not having a screen, I don’t think suits many situations.”

That’s what makes Amazon’s newest Echo, the $229 Echo Show, a smart move. It’s an Echo … with a screen. The Chumby lookalike exists mostly to talk and listen, but glance at the screen and you’ll notice that as it reads your calendar events, it displays them, too. When it announces that the Warriors won, it shows you the box score. It lets you interact with almost everything by touch or by voice, using whichever one you find most convenient. The speaker gets loud enough to rattle the kitchen counter, you can see the 7-inch screen from anywhere, and the far-field microphone array works just as well as the Echo. Plus, the setup couldn’t be simpler. Plug it in, connect it, done.

Amazon’s ‘Echo Show’ Gives Alexa the Touchscreen It Needed

10 of the best things you can do with the Amazon Echo

2017.05.12 04

If you’re considering buying an Alexa device (including the new Echo Show or Echo Look) or got Amazon Echo as a gift, there’s a lot to learn. There’s a lot Alexa can do, but here are the 10 best tips and tricks to get you started.

1. Make phone calls (basically, landline calls)
2. Control your smart home
3. Get cooking ideas and tips
4. Get the news
5. Entertain your kids for hours on end
6. Learn about more features
7. Get fit (or try to)
8. Control your TV
9. Use Spotify to play music
10. Train Alexa to do practically anything else

10 of the best things you can do with the Amazon Echo

Google Plasters Its Name on a New Hardware Collection

2016-10-10-02

Google on Tuesday unveiled a new smartphone and home hub that squarely aim at products from market leaders Apple and Amazon.

The company’s new branded smartphone, called “Pixel,” marks a departure from past efforts. Up to now, Google’s Nexus phones were made by a variety of manufacturers that sold them under their brands.

The Pixel has a 2,770 mAh battery, while the Pixel XL’s is 3,450 mAh. Both batteries have a quick-charge feature that gives the phone seven hours of runtime on a 15-minute charge.

Pixel users who want to dabble in virtual reality will be able to do so with another new product introduced at the Google event. Daydream is a fabric headset that allows Pixel to be used as a VR screen. It will sell for $79 starting in November.

Google also rolled out a competitor to Amazon’s Echo home hub. Called “Google Home,” the unit is voice-controlled and can play music, communicate with other devices in the home, provide anticipated information, and assist in everyday tasks like creating shopping lists, making dinner reservations and buying concert tickets.

“The search on Echo is no way near as effective as plugging into Google search,” he told TechNewsWorld. “When it comes to search, there is really no one better than Google at it.”

Google Plasters Its Name on a New Hardware Collection

Google: There’s No Hub Like Home

No longer willing to let Amazon have the space to itself, Google on Tuesday officially launched Google Home, its long-awaited wireless hub. Google Home is an interactive personal assistant and entertainment center that takes full advantage of the company’s deep advantages in Web search, AI and machine learning.

The Google Assistant technology will allow the Google Home device to bring a much more personalized experience to the user than Amazon’s devices can provide, and Google’s technology has greater capabilities in terms of recognizing and deciphering nuances in language, handling unstructured queries, and being available to users across different platforms.

“It’s shortfalls are that it currently lacks the Echo’s ever-more-robust ecosystem for home automation, it doesn’t support multiple users, and not as many people use Google Music as use Prime Music,” he told TechNewsWorld.

In addition, Google Home is only one device, Enderle noted, while Amazon’s Echo is part of a growing family of devices, including the Amazon Tap and the Echo Dot, which is a relative bargain at $49.95.

Google: There’s No Hub Like Home

The Best Smart Lights You Can Buy

2016.08.29 08

Smart home gadgets can make your life way more convenient. The trouble is, a lot of them aren’t very good — and they can become more of a headache than a convenience.

That’s particularly true for smart lighting. If you know what to get, smart lighting can be surprisingly helpful and do some pretty cool things: turn off when you leave the house, turn on when you come home, make lights warmer or cooler throughout the day, and flash to notify you of events or new information, making lighting even more useful than normal.

But it’s really, really important that you pick out the right system. A good smart lighting system is easy to install, easy to use, and gives you plenty of options for how to set up your home. A bad system, on the other hand, might fail all of that and be a pain day after day. And once you buy into a lighting system, you’re more-or-less stuck with it, so you’d better make the right choice.

Fortunately, there’s one clear standout for best smart lights.

The Best Smart Lights You Can Buy

Alexa Takes On Smart Home Security Responsibilities

2016.08.07 01

Millions of customers using Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant technology now can add locks that can be controlled remotely to the growing ecosystem of smart home capabilities.

August Home last week announced that Amazon’s line of voice-assisted products, including the best-selling Echo, now support its smart products, allowing users to lock and unlock their front doors and other points of access using simple voice commands.

August product line includes the August Smart Lock, the August Smart Keypad and the August Smart Doorbell Cam, which allow customers to secure and keep track of home security using a smartphone app.

The ability to remotely control home security marks the latest series of capabilities for Alexa voice-command products, which now have about 1,900 third-party skills from a range of companies, including Kayak, Lyft, Honeywell and others.

Customers are using Alexa-enabled devices to listen to music, set alarms, get news, shop online, order pizza, and perform a variety of household talks including controlling lights and window blinds.

Alexa Takes On Smart Home Security Responsibilities