Today, Amazon announced that users listening to music through the Amazon Music app can now cast their tunes to any Alexa-enabled speaker from their phone. The feature is called, unsurprisingly, Alexa Cast. These sorts of built-in controls for listening on external speakers have been sorely missing from Amazon Music and have held it back from becoming a true rival to services like Spotify and Apple Music. The Amazon Music listening experience was not seamless, unless you wanted to use your voice. But now, thanks to Alexa Cast, it's one step closer to being a full-fledged music service.
Apple is late to the consumer priced smart speaker market, but it finally joined Amazon and Google with the $99 HomePod Mini. Here's what you need to know: The Mini is way smaller in size than both the new Amazon Echo fourth generation speaker and Google Nest Audio. And while it doesn't sound as great for music as either of them, (it is way smaller, after all) in our unscientific home ears test, it probably doesn't matter. This is a really useful speaker for anyone living in the Apple ecosystem and it makes the Siri personal assistant way more competitive with Amazon's Alexa and the Google Assistant. The HomePod Mini sounds fantastic as a TV speaker.
Amazon has a new way that you can get an Echo Dot at a very cheap price. Right now, new Amazon Music Unlimited subscribers can get two months of the service and an Echo Dot for only $21. This is a great deal considering the Echo Dot is normally $50 on its own, and the last time it dropped to its all-time-low of $22 was on Black Friday. Aside from the Echo Flex adapter, the Echo Dot is the smallest Alexa device you can get from Amazon. The hockey-puck sized smart speaker earned a score of 87 from us for its surprisingly strong audio quality, easy to use hardware buttons and the built-in 3.5mm audio jack for connecting external speakers.
Smart speakers sit in our homes, quietly listening to everything we say and feeding what they learn back to the corporations that spawned them, like sinister Elves on Shelves. Still, some of us can't resist the shiny allure of being able to yell random questions into the void like a medieval despot and get an answer back. This raises the difficult question of exactly which servant/spy to employ in your smart home. The Google Home and the Amazon Echo are two of the most prolific smart speakers on the market, but at first glance there's little separating them. Both allow you to control your smart home, play music, and set timers by speaking.