Buyers bought about 25 million smart speakers in 2017, with about 11 million of these sales coming in during the quarter containing the holiday shopping frenzy. Price drops were tremendous on base models, such as Google Home Mini and Amazon Echo Dot, dropping to $ 30.
This year, somehow, clever speakers are even cheaper. We're just in November, and Target has already unveiled the Black Friday ad, accompanied by Google Mini Home for just $ 25. Kohl, on the other hand, will sell the redesigned Amazon Echo Dot for the same price. This is cheaper than two movie tickets. In fact, it's pretty cheap so you can get one for your office Secret Santa-you know, this guy from the accounting department you've only talked about maybe twice in your life.
But tempting, as it may be to get someone a complete gadget as an occasional gift, is not the best move, unless you really know what you are giving and to whom you give it.
Here are some things to consider before giving the gift of a digital roommate who will never want to leave.
It can be a recurring gift
At the end of the second quarter of 2018, 25% of US households had at least one clever speaker at their home. And 40% of these homes already had more than a clever speaker at home. The mix is mainly Google Home devices and Amazon Echo with some Apple HomePods thrown in, although we do not know exactly how many of Apple's great, but limited and expensive speakers are out there.
Some predictions say half of US homes will have smart speakers by the end of 2018, so there is a good chance the smart speaker you will not be the first receiver. And if you do not know which one is already in use, your gift could be like buying a PlayStation game when all you have is the Xbox.
Many smart home products strive for a true agnostic platform, so they can play nicely in every connected home – and some take it away. Philips Hue – a line of connected lighting that has become a de facto smart home starter device – will work with almost any assistant you want to connect to. Other devices, however, are less flexible. If you want to get full experience from a thermostat or a Nest camera, for example, Google Assistant is a better option because, yup, Google owns the company.
Smart locks, like those from Yale, are often aligned with a single platform and do not work on brand lines. You can keep several assistants online at any time in your home if you like – I do this for product testing purposes – but I can tell you from the experience that it's not a great user experience to remember which of the invisible butlers is locked and what Turns off the lights.
Even seemingly agnostic devices do not always respond to the promise. Sonos One, for example, is one of the best models in the market and promises to work with both Alexa and the Google assistant. However, the company recently announced that Google Assistant's compatibility does not come until 2019 now.
If you are on a smart speaker as a gift, it is worth trying to find out if they already have one so you can give them something they can actually use with the current setting.
It is not an autonomous gift
Even if you are lucky enough to get someone your first smart speaker, it is a gift accompanied by strings. From the box, Google Home Mini or Echo Dot can make some stylish tricks such as telling you about the weather or playing secrets or memory games.
If you want a smart speaker to meet his music potential, however, he will need an extra subscription to a service like Spotify or another streaming provider. And if you buy a house on Google for someone who is already using Amazon Music for streaming, then they are not lucky as the two are incompatible. And Apple's HomePod only works with, you guessed it, Apple Music.
The same applies to the hardware. Surveys have found that 70% of people holding a smart gadget at home are planning to buy another. Locking them into a system affects these future decisions.
People still have problems of trust with some digital assistants
According to an Accenture survey earlier this year, about 20% of people actively avoid placing a digital assistant at home due to privacy concerns. And 48 percent of the respondents said they thought their devices were constantly listening so they could feed personal information to the merchants. (NOTE: you might want to say that def only hear about the word wake …)
Beyond privacy, there are also security issues. With Alexa, for example, Amazon hopes that users will enter credit card information to make purchases. Participating in this kind of personal information continues to emphasize users, especially when they feed it on a machine they have received as a gift and may not know much.
They can be a good gift if you do your job
Despite all these warnings, a smart speaker can make a good gift if you first put the work on. Try to get a general feeling of the person's feelings about smart homes. If they are particularly interested in privacy, they may not be a beginner. If they already use one, learn which platform they are using.