Now that there are quite a few options in the smart speaker market, it can be quite confusing figuring out what the differences between them are. Four of the major products are the Amazon Echo, Sonos One, Harman Kardon Invoke, and Google Home. All of these smart speakers have pros and cons. Each have different AI software, but we are here to break it down.
The Amazon Echo which has sold 31 million devices as of January 2018. It is one of the most well known smart speakers. At its $99 price point, it is also one of the more affordable options. Sporting Amazon’s Alexa AI, it has become the industry standard on what a smart speaker can and must do. Compared to other AI software like Microsoft’s Cortana, Alexa has the most ‘skills’. Skills are another name for the apps that can be used. The Echo can sync with other Echo devices to create a wireless sound system.
Amazon offers an Echo Plus at $150 for even more features. The sound quality is slightly better (Look to the Sonos One if sound quality is of concern), but the biggest difference is its smart home hub. This allows the Echo to connect to other smart home devices such as a smart lock or smart lightbulbs.
The Sonos One comes in at a higher price of $199. With this premium comes a vastly better speaker quality. It too uses Amazon’s Alexa AI, but it is not turned on by default as a Sonos account needs to be synced with an Amazon account. This is not to be confused with the Sonos Play:1 which is largely the same speaker, but does not include Alexa and has physical buttons instead of a touch pad. A benefit of the Sonos is that they can be paired to create a stereo sound system. Although it has Alexa, it does not support some features like text messages or reminders yet as that will be available in a future update.
Google’s answer to Amazon is the Google Home. To compete with them, Google has created the Google Assistant AI, a similar software that is more defined by its wider understanding of natural commands rather than precise commands. The bottom stand/grill is removable for customization. Google sells six bases with different colored fabric and metal. Google Assistant’s apps are called actions and offers fewer options as compared to Alexa.
Harman Kardon has recently launched the Invoke using Microsoft’s Cortana AI. As with the Sonos One its best quality are the speakers, providing 360 degrees of high quality sound. As with the Echo, the Invoke has a ring on top for volume control and a touch pad for control. At its $100 price point, it has an edge over the Sonos One…somewhat. As compared to the Echo and Google Home, the Invoke has very few apps that it can use. It also does not have the ability to connect with other smart home devices. What it does have though is the ability to make Skype calls if that is of any consideration. Cortana also suffers from more voice command errors when compared to the Echo and Google Home.
The differences between all of these smart speakers comes down to how you will use it. If you are going to be using it mostly for music and care about sound quality, then the Sonos One is the one to go with. If you want a more multipurpose smart speaker then the Google Home, or Amazon Echo is a better choice. Those two offer a great value, flexibility, and a wide variety of apps. As for the Invoke it does not seem to have much of an advantage to any of the other choices apart from its sound quality. At that price, it would be wiser to go with a dedicated speaker and run it through an auxiliary cable to your smart speaker.