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The best smart speakers of 2020

USATODAY - Tech Top Stories

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.


Google Assistant can now play Spotify podcasts on your Nest speakers

Engadget

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's HomePod gets its new intercom feature today

Engadget

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.


Amazon's Echo Loop discreetly wraps Alexa around your finger

ZDNet

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 antitrust: Just how much do you actually use it? Way more than you think

USATODAY - Tech Top Stories

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.


Google Assistant will play podcasts from third-party services like Spotify

Engadget

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 Assistant's driving mode for Android is nearly ready, one year later

Engadget

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.


Apple unveils the $99 HomePod mini smart speaker, coming next month

PCWorld

The follow-up to Apple's $300 HomePod has finally arrived, with the smaller, spherical HomePod mini, complete with onboard Siri and a new "intercom" feature. The new smart speaker is slated to arrive next month. Unveiled alongside the iPhone 12 during Apple's "Hi, Speed" event on Tuesday, the $99 HomePod mini (pre-orders begin November 6 for shipping on November 16) takes a page from Amazon's revamped Echo speakers (or is it the other way around?) with a ball-shaped, fabric-covered industrial design. Set to arrive in white and space gray flavors, the HomePod mini has a backlit touchpad on top with integrated volume and playback controls. The new HomePod mini comes equipped with a full-range driver and dual passive radiators, while the speaker itself is powered by Apple's S5 chip. Inside the 3.3-inch shell is a full-range, neodymium magnet-powered dynamic driver, a pair of force-cancelling passive radiators, and an acoustic wave guide at the bottom that's designed to deliver 360-degree sound.


Amazon's Alexa is driving IT managers crazy

ZDNet

Tech companies like to believe they're inherently fascinating. All Android devices are different, but they all come with some basic security and privacy features. Here are the important tweaks to get started. Everything they do carries with it a large portent of the future. They perform research to back up their case, often coupled with a dramatic headline.


Forget a 5G iPhone 12, I care more about a $99 HomePod Mini

ZDNet

Apple is set to announce the iPhone 12 during its Oct. 13 digital event. Given the event's "Hi, Speed." While Apple's first 5G phone will certainly be the star of the show, I'm much more interested in one of the other possible announcements, an updated HomePod and a rumored $99 HomePod'Mini'. Because our phones may be the gateway to us as individuals, but voice-enabled smart devices (like the HomePod) and the data-driven networks behind them are the gateway to our homes. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying the HomePod will make up more of Apple's revenue than the iPhone any time soon.