What Is a Smart Speaker and Why Do You Need One?
October 04, 2021

“OK Google, turn the lights on”. “Alexa, play music”. 

 

These are some increasingly common phrases uttered in homes around the world - and they’re all directed at smart speakers

 

But what is a smart speaker exactly? 

 

In a nutshell, it’s your very own personal assistant. You simply use voice commands to ask your speaker to do things for you in your home, like turn appliances on and off, or tell you what the temperature is outside, to make everyday life easier.

 

As the appetite for these handy devices grows fast, so has the range of speakers on offer and the variety of features they have. Read on to find out why you might want to buy a smart speaker, what exactly they can do and which one would benefit you the most.

Smart speakers vs Bluetooth speakers: What’s the difference?

A Bluetooth speaker lets you play music from your smartphone via the speaker, whether it’s a Spotify playlist or a live stream on YouTube. You simply need to pair your phone with it by selecting the device when you access the Bluetooth system, which is normally just a tap or two away on your phone. They’re great if you don’t have internet access, so you can take them with you wherever you go for listening to at parties or on holidays.

Like a Bluetooth speaker, a smart speaker lets you play music from your smartphone, but also does a huge amount of other things, like interacting with other smart devices in your home and carrying out your commands. However, they need an internet connection and for this reason remain in your home rather than offering you portability.

How do smart speakers work?

Smart speakers are always listening out for their activation words, such as ‘OK Google’ or ‘Alexa’. When they hear these words, they switch into full listening mode in order to enact the command that follows. 


There are different systems you can choose from, such as Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and Apple HomeKit. If you have one you prefer, you need to make sure that, when choosing a smart device, it’s compatible with your chosen voice command service. Some devices may only be compatible with Amazon Alexa for example. Often they’re compatible with multiple systems.

You also need a decent internet connection. If yours is weak, it could be a problem for some products that require a good signal, but you can use signal boosters or WiFi extenders – such as the TP-LInk WiFi Range Extender to reduce the impact. Alternatively, you could move to a better provider.

What can a smart speaker do?

The amount of things your smart speaker can do depends on how many other smart home devices it’s connected to. If you have smart light bulbs it can activate them; if you have a smart kettle, it can boil it for you whenever you ask it to. It can also help you manage your day-to-day tasks such as shopping lists or your daily planner, enjoy your playlists or catch up on the latest news. You can get real-time answers for all your questions including weather, traffic reports or local businesses and their opening hours too.

 Does a smart speaker work with a smart TV?

Yes, you can pair a smart speaker with your smart TV, like you can with any smart device. Simply use your voice to command the speaker to do tasks, e.g. “Alexa, turn on the TV and play the new Spiderman film”. You can tell your speaker to turn the volume up or down, change the channel, and other similar commands. 

Some smart speakers are designed to work with their own branded content - for example, the Google Home Smart Speaker is designed to work seamlessly with Chromecast so that you can stream shows and films on your TV.

Some smart speakers are designed to work with their own branded content - for example, the Google Home Smart Speaker is designed to work seamlessly with Chromecast so that you can stream shows and films on your TV.

Which smart speaker should you buy?

If you’re new to smart home devices, a great way to start would be to get a smart speaker, such as a Google Home Smart Speaker, as then you can follow it up with products that are compatible. Even if you’re not new to the concept of smart home, this iconic and popular speaker is well worth investing in. With powerful sound for your music as well as the ability to enact all your commands, it’s perfect if you’ll be using it to help you with everyday tasks as well as listen to your playlists.

The Google Nest Mini is essentially a smaller version of the Google Home and is ideal if you primarily want to use it as a voice-enabled assistant.

If you’re after something more visually interactive, the Google Nest Hub Max comes with a 10” screen. This enables you to use it for video calls, watch TV and films, see your documents (“Hey Google, show me my shopping list”), get help with your cooking (“Hey Google, show me how to make pastry”) or even show you video footage from your smart security devices (“Hey Google, show me the front door”).

Like what you hear? Browse our full range of smart speakers and enjoy the convenience and ease they’ll bring to your everyday life. You’ll never look back!