Updated: Sep 16, 2020
Amazon's Alexa inside the Echo and Google Assistant inside Google Nest Mini (previously Google Home Mini) continue to dominate the Home Speaker market. These more affordable home speakers can be placed around the home, ready to a respond to simple voice commands. Popular uses include:
Calling for help when you can’t get to a phone.
Reminders to take your meds, check the stove, or take out the garbage.
Adding to shopping lists when you your hands are full and you can't write it down.
Searching the web for info or to calculate things and having the answers read aloud.
Controlling your home - turning lights on and off or locking the doors.
What You Will Need
Before buying a home speaker, make sure you have what you need to make it work. This will include:
One or more speakers.
A WiFi modem connected to home Internet service.
For Google Home App set-up, a compatible SmartPhone or tablet.
For Alexa set up, a compatible SmartPhone.
Note 1: The Alexa app must be set up through your mobile phone if you wish to make calls or use any feature that needs your contacts. If you do NOT care about making hands free calls or using Drop In (an intercom like feature) Alexa can be set-up through a compatible tablet or a computer.)
Note 2: The Smartphone does not need to be connected to mobile service to work for set-up.
Note 3: If you purchase an Echo speaker and you live in the United States, you can call 911 through Alexa by adding the Echo Connect to a home phone line. If you ask Alexa to call 911, the call will be routed through your home phone landline and 911 will accept the call.
Google Nest Mini (Previously Google Home Mini) $50 US, $70 CDN
Echo Dot $50 US, $70 CDN
Echo Connect $35 US (Only sold and supported in the US)
Both Amazon and Google have a range of speakers with different price points. I recommend trying one mini speaker to see how well you like it. Then decide if you'd like more mini speakers around the home or want to add different types of speakers that cost more but have additional value such as:
Battery powered models or base stations for portability, use outdoors.
Speakers with a screen for video calls, videos and other information display videos (seeing a face can help with hearing).
A larger speaker that's gives better sound for music, radio, and podcasts.
A Smart Home controller model to manage lights, locks and more with voice commands.
Many 3rd party devices and apps can also be found. You may wish to look for...
3rd Party devices that integrate Alexa or Google Assistant to help you manage their controls or active other features. (Most do not support calling features).
3rd Party Skills (skills are apps for home speakers). Some are made for both Google and Alexa, some just one or the other.
Voice Calling Limitations. Please take note!
The Echo and Google Home speakers cannot place calls to 911. 911 will only accept calls from regular phones lines - mobile or landline.
There is a work-around in the United states for the Amazon's speaker line. If you add an Echo Connect to your set up, you turn your Echo Dot into a speaker for your home phone. Alexa will then route a call to 911 over you home phone landline, making it possible to call 911 hands-free through you Echo speaker. (The Echo Connect is not yet sold or supported in Canada)
Blog Post. The Best Smart Speaker for Seniors
Blog Post. Best Tech for Falls and Getting Help (A comparison of Smart Speakers, Smart Watches and traditional Medical Alert services).
Printable. Comparison Checklist - Echo Dot and Google Nest Mini
Printable. Key Take-Aways (KTA) for this Post - Meet Alexa and Google Assistant: An Introduction to Home Speakers.
Wishing you all the best,