Smart speakers are the next evolution of portable speakers. These generally compact devices are primarily designed to make life easier inside the home—though there are models that work outside, too—by combining audio output with a digital assistant. For outdoor smart speakers, factor in battery life and weather-proofing.
Depending on your preferences, smart speakers tend to fall into one of three ecosystems: Google, Amazon, or Apple. While certain models like the second-generation Sonos One let you choose between Google Home or Amazon Alexa digital assistants, if you see “Amazon”, “Google”, or “Apple” in front of a smart speaker name, the chances are it’ll only support the digital assistant from that specific ecosystem.
In practical terms, the digital assistant is there to listen for specific instructional phrases and then to respond. Typically, an issued voice command is met with verbal acknowledgement from the speaker before the requested task is performed. You can, for instance, ask your smart speaker to play or pause music, check the weather in your area, or ask it for dinner ideas.
Because smart speakers are constantly listening for voice commands, they need to have either a power outlet connection or battery power to function properly. Certain smart speakers also support interconnectivity so, for instance, your tunes can follow you throughout the home.