The Amazon Echo is a really cool product: it’s a voice-controlled smarthome controller that lets you activate and manage your smarthome devices just by talking to it. In addition to that, though, it’s also a digital personal assistant that uses artificial intelligence to answer questions for you, and it serves as a wireless speaker that can fill your house with music.
When the Echo was announced, it seemed like a groundbreaking idea, but now that it’s been around for a while, there are a lot of alternatives. Many of these are still in the preorder phase, but a few have hit the market, and there are some exciting products out there. Whether you’re looking for a smarthome controller, a voice-activated personal assistant, or just a smart wireless speaker, you can find some great options in the list below.
Here are the coolest Amazon Echo Alternatives
1. ivee ($100)
Although it’s still in the pre-order phase, the ivee smarthome controller and wireless speaker definitely looks to be one of the best options out there. It connects to a wide variety of smarthome devices, including Nest, Hue, SmartThings, WeMo, Iris, Wink, and Logitech. It can also connect with Spotify to play music via voice command, and it will soon be able to call you an Uber, make dinner reservations, and order takeout food. With a 15-foot “hearing” radius, you don’t need to be right next to ivee to get her to work, and the smartphone app lets you take control from even further away.
Another device that hasn’t hit the market yet is Cubic; its pre-release reviews have been fairly positive, though, and Cubic Robotics, the company behind the system, has shown some pretty cool capabilities. For example, the home-based device can look up TV show schedules, order food, answer questions, and control your smarthome devices. The mobile app can help you get directions, control your home devices from afar, remind you where you parked, and keep track of your exercise. As far as digital personal assistants go, Cubic is certainly one of the most versatile. I’m definitely looking forward to getting my hands on one of these!
3. Athom Homey (€299)
The Homey’s open platform makes it one of the most customizable smarthome controllers out there—and the fact that it can communicate via wifi, Bluetooth, Zigbee, Z-Wave, infrared, and NFC makes it even more so. By using seven different radios, the Homey communicates with all of the devices in your house, and its natural language processing abilities let you speak normally to control them. The app also lets you exercise your control when you’re away from home, and will help you monitor thermostats, cameras, and locks from afar.
If you want a more affordable or compact alternative to Amazon Echo, the company itself offers a couple of variants in Amazon Tap and Echo Dot. Talking about the Amazon Tap first, the device is a little smaller when compared to Echo but its wireless design makes it a stand out against Echo. The smart home speaker can be taken anywhere with you and Amazon claims the battery can play 9 hours of music and stay 3 weeks on standby. While it lacks the “Alexa” hotword trigger, you can talk to it by pressing a button, which bodes well if you are wary of devices listening to you all the time. Another unique feature is the device’s ability to stream music from your phone via Bluetooth. Other than that, the device is identical to Echo, with the same Alexa features.
Coming to Echo Dot, which is a way more affordable and compact version of Echo. The difference between Echo and Echo Dot is the fact that Echo Dot does not feature the high-quality speakers and instead packs basic speakers, which work just fine to listen to Alexa. Unlike Echo, Echo Dot also packs in a 3.5 mm jack along with support for Bluetooth, so that you can play music with the device over your external premium speakers. Like Tap, Echo Dot comes with all the Alexa features and unlike Tap, it supports the hands-free “Alexa” hotword. However, the Echo Dot is only available to be ordered by Amazon Prime members through Alexa Voice Shopping, which means devices like Echo & Tap.
5. CastleHub ($499)
CastleOS is a smarthome-focused operating system that works with many existing smarthome devices, including big names like Nest, Insteon, Sonos, WeMo, Hue, GE, Ecobee, Kwikset, Yale, and Enerwave. The team behind CastleOS created the CastleHub to take advantage of the power of the operating system to run your entire house with voice commands. The Hub packs Windows 10, a 30GB SSD, 802.11ac wifi, gigabit ethernet, Bluetooth, seven USB ports, and a host of other great technologies. You can even run apps like Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and Spotify on it. And its ability to work with Microsoft Kinect means you can use a multi-microphone setup to take advantage of voice control throughout your entire house!
6. Mycroft (~$150)
In a space that’s quickly becoming crowded, Mycroft sets itself apart from other smarthome voice controllers by basing its hardware on the Raspberry Pi and Arduino single-board computers. And because of the huge community based around both of these computers, it’s safe to say that Mycroft will likely be very popular and highly customized by a lot of at-home hackers. Like the other controllers, Mycroft controls all of your smarthome devices, but it also allows you to control a few other things that the alternatives don’t, like posting to social media, specifying where your music is played, controlling a Roomba, and even firing up a 3D printer.
7. Google Home (Upcoming)
The recently announced Google Home smart home device aka speaker is aimed to take on the Amazon Echo, which is a fact even Google acknowledged at the launch event. While Google did not give out many details around Home like its price, availability, technical specs etc., we did get a good idea as to what to expect from it when it arrives.
When it comes to the looks, you might find Home better looking when compared to Echo. The more rounded design of Home looks great and the four LEDs on top do add an extra zing. Moreover, it features interchangeable base covers, if you are looking to add color to your device.
On the functionality front, the device will come with the brand new Google Assistant, which you can trigger through the usual “Ok Google” or “Hey Google” hotword. It will be using Google’s vast Search data and Google Now experience, so we can expect great results. Similar to Echo, you will be able to play music, control home devices, read weather info and news with Google Home. However, Home will also let you cast content to your TV, book an Uber and more. Overall, things are going to get tough for Echo when Google Home launches.
8. HAL ($0–500)
The Home Automated Living (HAL) system is unique in this list in that it doesn’t have a hardware component: it runs solely from your computer. After installing the HAL software, you can use voice control to interact with your smarthome devices, including lights, thermostats, appliances, sensors, and security devices. There’s also a web-based interface that you can use when you’re away from home, and you can even activate the software with a phone call! (Which is great for when you’re in your car and can’t use a complicated app.) HAL also has the huge benefit of having a free basic version, though the $250 “enthusiast” version, and $500 “techie” version, pack increasingly more control possibilities.
9. Apple HomeKit and Siri
Apple’s HomeKit technology allows you to easily control compatible devices with your iPhone, making your phone the unifying factor that makes your smarthome devices work together. And while the list of compatible devices isn’t huge, it does contain some of the big names in the business. One of the best things about HomeKit is that it lets you use Siri’s voice commands to control those devices, from lights to locks to smart bridges and CO2 detectors. Although HomeKit doesn’t have nearly the wide-ranging compatibility of some of the other devices on this list, it does have the advantage of being able to run right from your iPhone, with no expensive hub to coordinate your devices and receive voice commands.
10. Sonos Play:1 ($195)
If you’re looking for a wireless speaker that you can stream music to, but you don’t care about the ability to control your entire house with it, the Sonos Play:1 is your speaker. It can stream your entire music library as well as connect to a number of streaming services, including Prime Music, and is controlled by an app on your smartphone. With Sonos’s experience in making speakers, it’s a safe bet that the Play:1 will sound a lot better than the other options out there.
SEE ALSO: 10 Amazon Echo Accessories Worth Buying
The Smarthome Revolution Begins Now
2015 was largely considered to be the year of the smarthome, but 2016 is shaping up to see the release of all the products that were announced last year—and the way we interact with our homes will truly start to change. The smart devices above are great examples of the new ways in which we’ll start to take control of our devices in new ways.
What are your favorite smarthome controllers? Do you like the idea of using voice-activated control, or are you worried about privacy concerns? Share your thoughts below!