Smart home devices are a hot gift this holiday season, just take a look at the sales at many online and brick and mortar stores and you’ll find deals on
However, gifting someone a smart home product can feel intimidating because there are a lot of factors at play. Are they team Amazon or Google ?
A smart home device can be a great gift, just as long as you do your homework first. Don’t worry though. In this guide, we’ll cover the right questions to ask, plus the key facts to know before you spend.
Which smart home devices make great gifts?
Today’s most popular smart home products include:
- Google Home Hub
- Amazon Echo
Amazon or Google?
Picking the right smart speaker to gift starts with figuring out if they require accounts with Google and Amazon, services your gift recipient uses.
Do they have an Android phone and/or use Google for their email, calendar, maps and more? A Google speaker is a great fit and set up will be easy because they already have a Google account.
If you’re buying a smart speaker for someone who shops on Amazon frequently, the line of Echo speakers is a good choice. They can use it to buy items from Amazon, plus a whole lot more.
Maybe your gift recipient has a speaker setup they love, and doesn’t want a new smart speaker. You can gift them Alexa in the form of the . This small device gives all of the same features as an Echo on their existing speakers.
Which phone do they have?
Smartphones play a big roll in setting up and using any smart home device, so it’s worth considering which phone the person you are shopping for has. A particular connected home device might not work as well on an Android handset versus an iPhone . One version of a product’s app may have bugs galore, or missing features.
There might not even be an Android or iOS application at all. For instance, the smart coffee scale lacks an Android app (iOS only). And the has an Android app that barely works, while its iPhone software is quite stable.
Check which phone the receiver of your gift has. Then confirm there’s matching, and problem-free, software available for your smart home gadget present.
We spent over a year living with the voice-controlled speakers Amazon Echo and Google Home, listening to music, asking foolish questions, getting news reports, and begging them to turn the lights off. Both models are pretty good at playing music when you ask them to, but the Echo’s two-year head start means it can do more things, especially for controlling smart-home gear. But the best smart speaker for your home can vary depending on your priorities, the stuff you already have, and the services you already subscribe to.
If you care at all about smart-home controls, or if you’re a frequent user of Amazon Prime, Amazon’s Alexa platform is the best option for your home. Among Alexa-enabled speakers, the category-defining Amazon Echo is the best. We prefer the Echo, now in its second generation, over the Google Home for its depth of capabilities, wide smart-home device support, ability to play the most popular music streaming services, and slightly superior sound quality. In addition to its built-in features, the Alexa platform includes a growing list (more than 15,000 at last count) of “Skills,” akin to apps on a smartphone, that unlock capabilities such as reading recipes, ordering pizza, or calling an Uber. Not all of its Skills are useful, but the Echo still does far more than the Google Home does. The Echo is not the all-capable computer from Star Trek, but it is a smart digital assistant that’s constantly improving as Amazon adds more abilities to it.
The Google Home has the advantage of Google’s search and voice-control expertise (and the ability to tie in to multiple Google accounts, so you can check your calendar for the day, set and manage reminders in Keep, and report traffic conditions on your commute using Maps data). When you use it with more than one account, the Home can even differentiate users by the sound of their voice. But the “Google” portion of the Google Home isn’t quite as capable as we’d like. It generally provides more detailed answers than Alexa, but in day-to-day use, it’s not noticeably more capable at performing simple tasks—for example, the process to add events to your Google calendar is needlessly awkward. And while it has some smart-home integrations and third-party “Actions” comparable to Alexa’s Skills, it has fewer of either than Alexa does, although it is catching up. The one indisputable advantage of the Home is its ability to serve as a controller for a Chromecast Audio multiroom audio system. This means you can use voice commands to stream the same song or podcast to several synchronized speakers in different rooms simultaneously. While Alexa recently added similar capabilities, Chromecast still boasts more options and a better track record.
Think about their home network
A smart home device linked to bad home Wi-Fi isn’t much use. Make sure that special someone you’d like to gift also has an adequate network.
Even a basic Echo Dot or Google Home Mini can’t run on slow . The same is true for weak signals in far-flung basements or upper floors.
If you know the person you’re shopping for is excited about smart home devices, and will keep getting new ones, consider getting them a mesh Wi-Fi system. They blanket an entire home with a strong Wi-Fi signal, so that every smart device has the reliable connection it needs to work. and are two such systems we like.