Skeptical of Smart Speakers?

Two questions to ask if you're considering an Echo or Google Home:

Do you enjoy music or radio?

Do you want a hands-free experience?

If you answered yes to these, try out a smart speaker! 

Below you'll find the many reasons why I’m no longer a skeptic.

Hands-free is huge.

Whether you’re getting dressed, doing dishes, rolling out pizza dough or journaling, you don’t have to be bothered with cords, screens, batteries, buttons or volume knobs.

Searching for the new sound

Google Home speaker

Google Home

I sat next to someone on a plane who didn’t care for music. (What?!) Okay, he admitted to reading a lot of books. That’s fair, not everyone wants to be constantly listening to music. I welcome a variety of music from all genres into my home.

For test driving new music, Google Music is a great way to explore and is free on Google smart speakers.

To identify a song you want to remember, check the app or ask the speaker “Hey Google, What’s playing?”

Then, check the library catalog for the artist’s full CD. Or go to Freegal Music and download to keep 5 songs a week.

Live radio?

Yes, they’ve got that. I’m sure you’ve heard promotions if you listen to NPR radio for “Hey Google, Play WBEZ.” One of my longtime favorites is WDCB after 7:00 pm for their folk and bluegrass.

Audiobooks on the Echo?

Yes, you can with the Hoopla Digital Alexa skill. Neat! I’ve also used the Insignia smart speaker, a Google Assistant device, as a bluetooth receiver for podcasts and Libby Overdrive audiobooks.

Apps and Smart Homes?

These speakers are “smart” is for a few reasons.

They use AI to understand voice commands and they also talk to the internet of things: network connected devices throughout your life.

Setup can be a small hurdle, but the result is delightful.

“Alexa, turn off living room lights.”

They're for the curious, engaged mind

Are you into history? Or maybe technology? Are you a gamer or maybe a small business entrepreneur?

There’s an Alexa skill for that.

The Alexa flash briefing or Google news can play news sources in a series.

Amp it up

Take advantage of a bluetooth speaker or the aux-out port on an Echo Dot to easily attach a better speaker output. The Echo Dot's speaker is tinny and poor quality for music.

Insignia speaker with clock LED display

The Insignia smart speaker allows for Bluetooth connection

Make Phone Calls?

Yes, but not emergency calls. You need to import your contacts for this, which I have not tried for the sake of maintaining tighter privacy.

Games for parents and kids

The Question of the Day and Spongebob Challenge Alexa skills are great ways to entertain family or friends.

Rest easy (with your data)

You might wind down with Amazon Music's relaxing nature sounds or a warm fireplace crackle.

For me, winding down and resting easy means having knowledge about where the data lives.

A healthy skepticism helped me realize that everything which is recorded is made available to you, the user.

Within the app, which should be password protected on your phone, you may see commands issued, listen to what was recorded, and erase voice activity. Only audio recorded after a "wake word" is kept.

For extra peace of mind, find the microphone mute button which is on every device.

Alexa Book cover

Alexa: 2018 Essential User Guide for Amazon Echo and Alexa

For Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, Amazon Echo Show, Amazon Spot, Amazon Alexa

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