We’re in the trenches of the smart speaker wars, and as Apple’s HomePod nears we’re seeing more and more attempts by Amazon and Google to get their own systems embedded in your home – and your routine – before Cupertino’s arrives. If you’ve been on the fence, today might be the day to pick up an Amazon Echo, with another promotion on both the original model and the smaller, Echo Dot version. However, it’s not through Amazon this time around.
This time it’s Best Buy‘s turn to offer a good deal. For one day only, the retailer says, you can pick up the original Amazon Echo – in either black or white – for $89.99, a saving of $90 off the regular price. If you’d rather have an Echo Dot, meanwhile, that’s also available in black or white, and priced at $34.99, a $15 saving over the normal price.
They’re the same savings you could’ve snapped up had you bought an Echo or Echo Dot on Amazon Prime Day back in July, in fact. Just as then, you can also get the Amazon Tap Bluetooth speaker – also known as “the Echo device everyone always forgets about” – at a discount. That’s down to $79.99, versus its usual $129.99.
To be sure, there are already plenty of homes that already have an Echo or Echo Tap on their kitchen counter, living room sideboard, or nightstand by the bed. Amazon’s hope, though, is that as well as bringing new families into Alexa’s fold, the virtual assistant will extend her hearing further through your home as people add extra units. Indeed, the promise is that Echo as a system has been designed with multiple smart speakers co-existing.
That’s certainly true, in part at least. In its favor is the ability for different Echo units to figure out which is closer to the person speaking, and only have the nearest respond. That way, when you call out for some music to be played, you don’t have it starting in the kitchen downstairs whereas you’re actually in the bedroom.
However there’s still plenty of room for improvement there. When you’re playing that music, there’s no support for multi-zone streaming: unlike, say, Sonos’ connected speakers, you can’t have the same thing played – and synchronized – across several rooms at once. Each Echo acts as its own, individual speaker.
Similarly there’s no way for Alexa to differentiate between users. Where Google Home can figure out who is speaking and offer up specific details from their individual calendars and other personal accounts, based only on the uniqueness of their voice, Amazon still only allows for a single set of accounts. That means everyone using the speaker has access to whatever calendar, music services, and anything else Alexa is signed into.
All of these are undoubtedly issues Amazon could – and likely will – fix, though they’re still rough edges on the Alexa experience for the moment. Nonetheless if you’ve been considering taking the plunge into smart speaker ownership, and you haven’t already taken advantage of one of the Google Home deals that have also run lately, now might be a good time.