2018 – what to look out for in Smart Speakers
In 2017 we saw the availability of a whole family of smart speakers launched, including Sonos One, Amazon Echo Show, Ultimate Ears Megablast and lots more. This year we expect more smart speakers to launch from even more manufacturers and here is a quick round-up of what to expect.
LG’s ThinkQ Smart Speaker
Due to launch in April, Google Assist powers the speaker for voice commands which allows you to play music by requesting an artist or song, change the volume by voice and ask Google questions on any topics.
The ThinQ will also be a smart hub for other LG products that you may have around your home, for example turning on your LG purifier with LG also teaming up with British high-fidelity audio specialists Meridian Audio to work on the sound – similar to what Amazon did with Dolby for the Echo Show.
Pricing hasn’t been revealed yet but it is expected that LG will aim at the premium end of the market where rivals such as Sonos One and Sony LF-S50G are which are about £200. Similar in design in a typical tall cylindrical shape.
Google Home Max
Google have had pressure to come out with something new since Amazon updated its speaker range with the Amazon Echo and the end of last year. The Google Home Max is aimed at being a more audio-focussed product that the Google Home, still controllable by Google Assist.
It is also one of the first smart speaks with stereo sound and has more powerful speakers than the Google Home with a new rectangular design which is more like a traditional speaker style but with curved edges – although it can be positioned horizontally or vertically to suit your choice.
It has launched in the US already with a price tag of $399 and comes with a free 12-month subscription to YouTube music for streaming. Due to launch in the UK soon.
Samsung’s Bixby-powered smart speakers
Samsung are entering the smart speaker market a little later than anyone expected with the launch of their first speaker being expected in late 2018. It will be powered by its own Bixby voice assistant and will be aimed at the premium market rather than competing with the lower priced Amazon Echo Dot or Google Home Mini.
It is currently suggested that the Samsung’s smart speakers could be released by introducing different pricing tiers, similar to the tiered strategy they use with their smartphones.
It is expected that their speakers will interface with Samsung’s SmartThings network which will also allow you to control smart home products around your use, for example Philips Hue smart light bulbs. The shape of the speaker hasn’t been confirmed but suspected that it will follow other smart speakers and be cylindrical in shape.
Facebook’s Portal smart speaker with screen
Mid 2018 will see Facebook enter the smart speaker market with two smart speakers which will have screens to rival the Amazon Echo Show. They will be far larger than the Amazon’s Echo Show’s 7-inch screen and will come complete with 15-inch laptop-size displays and will take the screen-speaker to the next level.
As expected they will be social media focussed with Facebook and video chat having prime position. Portal is anticipated to be one of their models which will have voice control and Face ID recognition which will allow access to Facebook.
Universal Music and Sony have already been signed up by Facebook to provide music sources which will feature on the first of their ecosystem of consumer video devices that Facebook plan to launch over the next five years.
Spotify hardware plans
Currently it is not clear if the Spotify will enter the smart speak market or not but it is their plan to get into audio hardware to support their position as the world’s most popular music streaming service.
This was made obvious by their job listings back in April 2017 when they were searching for a Senior Product Manager of Hardware, specified as working on a ‘category defining product akin to Pebble Watch, Amazon Echo and Snap spectacles’.
It was also indicated that the audio hardware would also include voice control with the specification for the Product Manager including being ‘responsible for the strategy and execution of Spotify’s voice efforts beyond our core apps including areas such as desktop, TV’s, speakers, cars, wearable and headphones’.
With more recent job postings it looks like Spotify are moving towards the hardware production stage. The move to hardware is an indication they are responding to many smart hardware rivals who are heavily promoting their own music streaming platforms – Apple has been the most aggressive with Spotify not being support natively on either its Apply Watches or HomePod smart speaker.
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