We’ve been working on our own holiday gift guides, and I’ve seen a few others out there, but I’ve run into several conversations with people who keep asking what sort of gadgets they should buy during the holiday season. The answer is pretty simple, really. If your friends or loved ones don’t already own a smart home assistant, it’s time to get them one.
The one gift I think everyone should get this year is some form of the aforementioned assistant, whether it’s one of Amazon’s three Amazon Echo models or the Google Home. I still recommend the Echo over anything else out there, since the full-size model has a decent speaker. Still, the Amazon Echo Dot is priced so low it’s almost entering stocking-stuffer territory (for the wealthy kids, anyway.) And if you have a big Android fan in the family, the Google Home might be a nice gift for someone who wants access to Google Assistant, the option to cast to a Chromecast and more.
In fact, those features are just the tip of what these devices are capable of doing. The Amazon Echo has a massive library of third-party apps that can help you do anything from get the morning news brief to turning your lights on and off or tuning in to the latest episode of your favorite podcast. Heck, you can even control your thermostat or ask for a quick joke. If you’re on AT&T, you can even use the Amazon Echo to send text messages. I’m blown away more and more by what the Echo is capable of doing.
The Google Home is a tad more limited but it’s still a fantastic device. I bought one even though I have the Echo, and I love asking it to play music videos on my TV, to control some of my lights or to play music on-demand. Soon Home will let you cast Netflix movies to your TV, and you can already use it for things like booking an Uber ride with a voice command. Google just launched its Assistant API, too, so you can expect plenty of additional features that will bring it up to speed with the Amazon Echo very soon.
Really, you can get a Home assistant in any budget range. The Amazon Echo Dot is just $39.99 right now, and you don’t need the larger Echo to get started. And yes, it does have its own speaker and even a line-out for connecting to a different device. The larger Amazon Echo is on sale for $139.99 and now comes in white, too. Or, if you want Alexa on-the-go, you can opt for the portable Amazon Tap, priced at just $89.99. Google Home is just $129.99 right now, but was recently on sale for $99 during Black Friday. Perhaps we’ll see the price come down again.
If you’re stuck on what to buy a friend, boss or relative this year, consider these. You’ll be surprised by how much people end up loving them.