Apple has had a busy few months. The tech giant has held multiple press conferences to announce a handful of new tech, including the 5G-capable iPhone 12 line-up, a new iPad, and of course, the Apple HomePod mini. The latter is available to pre-order starting today (Nov. The $99.99 asking price of the HomePod mini is just what the speaker needed to finally be competitive with the Amazon Echo and Google Nest smart devices (the original HomePod was a whopping $350). While half the size of the original, the HomePod mini still brings powerful, clear audio to the table and all the quality-of-life features you'd expect a Siri-enabled smart speaker to provide.
The latest version of the Iris, a smart mood lamp from Signify-owned Philips Hue, cannily improves on the elegant original, upping its brightness, improving its translucent light diffuser and spiffing up the power cable, while adding a Bluetooth radio in the bargain. Capable of working both with or without a hub, the $100 Iris can cast a soothing shaft of color or tunable white light on a nearby wall, while its translucent diffuser glows inside the lamp's clear shell. A cinch to set up and compatible with Alexa, Google Assistant, and (if used with a hub) HomeKit, the Iris makes for an easy and inexpensive way to warm up a room. While the Iris has a list price of $100 (or $99.99 if you want to get technical about it), the recently released lamp is only now finding its way into retail channels, so don't be surprised if you see inflated prices from third-party resellers. While it's rated for up to 570 lumens, or twice as bright as its predecessor, the Iris isn't really meant to light a room or illuminate a workspace.
Light strips are a fun and easy way to add smart lighting to just about anywhere in your home, like under kitchen cabinets, around TVs, along baseboards, and more. To get the job done right, you need a light strip that's fast and simple to set up, stays securely in place, and comes loaded with fun and useful features to light up any room. For these reasons, the Lifx Z LED Strip 6.6' Kit is the best smart light strip you can buy. In what felt like a blink of an eye, we had these dimmable lights connected to Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri. They also work with IFTTT, SmartThings, Nest, Arlo, Flic, and more.
The Bose Home 300's sleek design fits in well with most decor. We weren't sure what to expect upon opening the Bose Home 300 for testing, but we were pleasantly surprised on almost every level. While the sound quality can't quite compete with the (much larger) Echo Studio, the Bose Home 300 allows users to choose between Alexa or Google Assistant; it has handy preset buttons on the top of the speaker; and it can stream audio over Bluetooth, AirPlay, WiFi, or via an old-school auxiliary cable. Through its app and smart assistants, the Bose Home 300 can play music from a large number of streaming services, such as Spotify, TuneIn, Amazon Music, Tidal, Pandora, and even Apple Music via Airplay or Bluetooth. The compatible music and podcast sources will vary a bit depending on which smart assistant you choose (you can only use one assistant at a time, however it is very easy to switch in the Bose app). Though not any larger, this speaker is much louder than most of the other smart speakers we included in this roundup.
Users around the world can now use Google's Assistant to play and control Spotify podcasts in English, Spotify has confirmed to Engadget. Until now, the voice assistant has only supported its own Google Podcasts, with third-party services limited to music streaming only. However, recent rumors suggested that the third-party podcast support was coming, starting with Spotify. You can enable the feature by heading to your Assistant device's settings in the Google Home app (on a smartphone or tablet) and choosing Spotify as the default podcast provider. You'll be able to find more information here from Spotify once the news post goes live.
Apple has rolled out HomePod Software 14.1, adding intercom functionality and a handful of other updates to its devices a month before the launch of the HomePod Mini. The 14.1 update allows the speakers to work as an intercom system, sending announcements to other HomePods in the house. Messages can be sent to specific rooms or zones on your network. Today's update also brings new Siri features to HomePod, including the ability to stop alarms, timers and media across devices. Siri suggestions will now appear in Maps after asking HomePod about a location, and search results can be sent from the HomePod to your iPhone. Podcasts are getting voice recognition support for multiple users as well.
The debut of the Always Home Cam proved that Amazon is still willing to fly in the face of convention as well as potential home intruders. However, as I noted when I wrote about the home security drone last month, Amazon's 2020 device launch provided a stark contrast to previous years' events when Alexa's steward pushed boundaries into novel products like clocks and eyeglasses. Indeed, Amazon recently began shipping Day 1 Editions of one of these products: The Echo Loop ring, a $130 black titanium chunk of an extremity accessory that connects to smartphones via Bluetooth. It allows users to issue Alexa commands by pressing a button prior to speaking closely into it as well as hear responses by holding its back up to one's ear. It can thus act as an impractical Bluetooth headset.
Google's influence in our lives is overwhelming, which is perhaps one of the reasons the Department of Justice and several state attorney generals banded together to file an anti-trust lawsuit against the company. But just how wide is Google's reach? We decided to take a look, and the results may surprise you. Start with the fact that Google ads are all over the Internet, and despite the initial stated goal of "organizing the world's information," the Alphabet unit is designed to have more ads appear, to keep the earnings up. In its most recent earnings, Alphabet reported $38.30 billion for Google.
You might not have to depend on Google Podcasts if you're asking Assistant to play your favorite serialized audio show. Android Police and its readers have discovered that Google is adding support for third-party podcast services, starting with Spotify. You just have to visit podcast settings in Assistant to choose your provider. We've asked Google if it can comment on the feature's rollout. AP's writer had trouble getting it to work, though it may be due to regional issues.
Google promised an Assistant driving mode for phones would arrive in mid-2019, but that clearly didn't happen -- over a year passed without any sign of it. It appears to be ready, though. XDA-Developers has discovered (via Android Police) that Google Assistant's driving mode is at least partially enabled for Android users. The interface has changed considerably from the I/O 2019 demo you see above, but the concept remains the same with large buttons and text that let you chat, message and play music while keeping your driving distractions to a minimum. The rollout appears to be server-side, and might be part of a test.