What is a Smart Speaker?

Smart Speakers have been growing in popularity since 2014 when Amazon captured our imaginations by unveiling the Amazon Echo. Using your voice alone to control everyday tech was once reserved for science fiction but has since become a reality and the capabilities of smart speakers improve every day. 

smart speakerToday when most people refer to smart speakers they’re talking about a freestanding wireless speaker with built-in voice control. Technically a speaker that does anything beyond playing sound (including Bluetooth or speakerphone capabilities) could be referred to as smart, but it’s the integration of artificial intelligence software that turned these simple devices into today’s must-have tech.

Best smart speakers come in all sorts of sizes with a range of price tags attached however they all perform the same basic set of functions. Your smart speaker connects to the internet using your wi-fi connection and then waits for a preset trigger word or phrase to start listening (like “Okay Google…” or “Alexa…”). After hearing the trigger phrase the smart speaker will listen to your request or question, interpret what you’ve just asked using its onboard AI, and if it understands you it will speak out the answer over the speaker or carry out what you’ve requested within a matter of seconds.

What is a Smart Speaker capable of doing?

Smart speakers share a lot of the same functionality regardless of the maker or which flavour of AI is built-in. The standard repertoire includes general queries like “will it rain tomorrow” or “who won gold at the 100m olympics in 1988“. You can ask your smart speaker almost anything (provided you speak clearly!) that could be answered manually with a google search and have it give you the answer in seconds without touching a computer or your phone.

Beyond serving as your own table-top Oracle smart speakers are also packed with a host of other useful features. Picture yourself in your kitchen preparing a meal, potatoes go into the oven and now you’re juggling the other pans and dishes when you realise you forgot to set a timer… “Okay google, set a timer for 22 minutes“. Now you’re serving up dinner… “Okay google, play my dinnertime playlist“. Handy huh! You can think of a smart speaker as your very own personal virtual butler.

Size, shape and colour aside, interfacing with other apps and third party services is the most major difference and it varies significantly between devices. Depending largely on which AI you have inside your smart speaker, almost all models work with major apps like Spotify, Nest and TuneIn Radio. The most capable smart speakers though (in terms of third party apps and services) are from Amazon.

What is a Smart Speaker from Amazon capable of?

Amazon’s AI assistant Alexa can work with all of these services to become a very capable virtual butler:Amazon Echo smart speaker

  • Just Eat “Alexa, ask Just Eat to re-order my last Chinese“, “Alexa, ask Just Eat where’s my food?
  • Uber “Alexa, ask Uber to call me an Uber X from work.
  • Fitbit “Alexa, ask Fitbit how many steps I’ve taken.
  • iRobot Home  “Alexa, ask Roomba to start cleaning.
  • Any many more!

What is a Smart Speaker from Google capable of?

google home smart speakerThe Google Assistant powered smart speakers may not have as many add-ons but they are still very capable devices. By leveraging the world’s biggest search engine it provides more useful and more accurate answers and generally has a better understanding of what you ask it.

The smart speakers Google offers also work great with other Google services like the calendar or Gmail and more third-party apps (like The Food Network) are being added constantly. One of our favorite features though is with Chromecast. If you’re using a Chromecast unit in your home, adding a Google smart speaker will allow you to control Youtube and Netflix with your voice which feels positively futuristic!

What is a Smart Speaker from Apple capable of?


In comparison, Apple’s smart speaker, the HomePod, sits on an island in terms of third-party connectivity. This may not surprise you if you’re familiar with any of Apple’s other products as this closed ecosystem approach underpins all of their tech. However, in the interconnected world of smart speakers and smart homes, this leaves us somewhat wanting.

That being said if you’re firmly in the Apple camp and have your HomeKit set up, use Apple Music, and have Apple TV it makes sense to go with the HomePod as it interfaces with all of these other Apple products very well.

Hopefully, that’s helped you understand what is a smart speaker and you have a better idea of the differences between the makes and models on offer.

What’s the Best Smart Home Speaker for Playing Music?

Let’s be truthful here… Those of you including myself who are using a smart home assistant know that the quality of the music they can play is not that vibrant and cannot compare to a home sound system. That being said the beauty of these smart home assistants with built-in speakers is there very convenient and portable and will play music.

Of all the wireless home sound systems “Sonos” stands alone and is easy to use and works with Alexa to combine your home automation system with your music. If you’ve ever had an opportunity to hear one of these mini home speakers with its awesome sound you’ll be really impressed.

What Makes The Sonos Speakers Different From Others?

They can interface with Amazon, Apple Music, and many others. They have mastered how you listen to your music; you have the option of listening to different music types wherever you have a speaker, so you can listen to your favorites while the kids listen to their favorites in another part of the house.

And to make it even simpler it can be all controlled from your smartphone… No more searching for remote controls, the technology being used in the Sonos One is unequaled by any other smart home speaker and will work with Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri. That’s pretty awesome and it’s ready to go right out of the box!

What Options Does Sonos Have in Smart Speakers?

Let’s take a look at the options and then you can decide if any of these Sonos speaker systems will fit into your lifestyle. You will have two color choices, black and white and this will let you choose which color will best fit in with your décor.

1] Standalone Speakers

If you only need a single speaker and want a big sound then one of these 4 speakers will be the perfect solution. Fast and easy to set up using your home’s Wi-Fi.

– Sonos One… Get better quality sound than any normal Bluetooth speaker or if you’re using a smart assistant the sound quality will be much better. The Sonos One comes with Alexa already built-in and lets you get into the world of home automation at an entry-level price.

– Sonos Play 1… The only difference from the Sonos One is it doesn’t have Alexa, you will still have the same quality of music, and will be less expensive than the Sonos One. This is a great choice for a smaller area and you won’t have the option to control it with voice commands.

It will still be controlled with your smartphone or other device using the app, and if you’re looking for a less expensive option this may be what you looking for.

– Sonos Play 3… This is a mid-sized wireless speaker that works with Alexa. It has a tweeter as well as 2 mid-range and a bass radiator. For the hardcore music lover, lets you stream music from Amazon Music, Pandora, Spotify, and others. Produces crisp clear sound and adds a second smart home speaker to have high-quality sound in a bigger room.

– Sonos Play 5… If you need some mega sound then the Sonos Play 5 will rock your socks! Has 6 amplifiers and 6 speaker drivers. Add this to your current stereo system and boost the sound even louder, ideal for use in a large open concept area to get concert-quality sound. 5-minute set-up and has built-in touch sensors to control volume and track without using your smartphone app.

2] Sonos Speaker & Home Theater Sets

If you just love your music then you’ll agree that having more than one of these smart home speakers is not out of the question. Having your music playing in different rooms is such a bonus and Sonos has some pretty sweet home theater sound systems too.

– Sonos One Sets… These are great speaker sets and you can get them in 2, 3, or 4 speaker sets. These work with a smart assistant and are very compact in size, don’t be fooled by the size they give incredible sound in any room. These are worth every penny if you love listening to your music in more than one room in your home.

You can also get a Sonos Play 5 system with a built-in smart assistant which are great if you’re going to have a party.


I am convinced that Sonos has the best smart home speaker and offers a full line of products that are sure to please everyone. While not everyone may be in a position to afford these high-end speakers, there are more cost-effective ones like the Amazon Echo and the Google Home that offer voice control and can play your favorite music.

If you’re looking into a home automation system using a voice assistant you’ll be quite happy with the performance of Amazon and Google devices for the price. And you’ll be on your way to having a great speaker system while seeing how home automation works at the same time.