Can You Use Alexa (or Google Home) Without Buying a Smart Speaker?

When individuals ask me what good residence machine they need to purchase first, I normally recommend a good speaker. Its comfort is plain, particularly for setting timers, listening to music and making fast measurement conversions within the kitchen. You also can discover good audio system on any price range.

But the killer function is the huge ecosystem of appropriate units that simply work with Alexa and Google. Smart audio system are nice good hubs. Or is one thing else at work?

Alexa and Google Home transcend good audio system

smart speakers on wooden fence smart speakers on wooden fence

Smart audio system are solely a small a part of the good residence equation.

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Smart audio system are the general public face of Alexa, Google Home and Apple Home, however they’re surprisingly minor elements of their respective good residence ecosystems. They could seem to be good hubs, however they’re enter units for voice instructions, extra akin to keyboards than CPUs.

In actuality, many main good residence platforms rely closely on the cloud — apart from a number of native integrations like Bluetooth, Matter, Thread, Zigbee and Z-Wave — together with good hubs like SmartIssues and Ezlo. It all boils right down to Wi-Fi’s reputation and ease of use.

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If a wise machine makes use of Wi-Fi, there is a excessive chance that just about each motion, schedule, routine, notification and setting depends on a central server as a substitute of your telephone.

The vocal proponents of the native good residence, e.g. the Home Assistant crowd, would rightly level out that cloud-based good residence integrations are ineffective with out an web connection. However, the ubiquity of the web means you need to use the cloud to create a wise residence with out good audio system or good hubs.

With that rationalization out of the way in which, this is the recipe for speaker-free good properties:

  • Smart residence units with entry to an web connection (immediately through Wi-Fi or not directly through a wise hub)
  • Login credentials for 2 appropriate good residence platforms
  • An app that acts as a digital good hub: Alexa, Apple Home, Google Home, SmartIssues, IFTTT, and many others.

Enter Echo-free Alexa, because of on-line account linking

screenshot of linking and using govee smart lights in the alexa app screenshot of linking and using govee smart lights in the alexa app

I linked my Govee good mild strips to Alexa with out an Echo machine in sight.

John Carlsen/CNET

I’ll restrict my examples to Alexa, however you need to use the same course of for different good residence platforms.

  1. Download the Amazon Alexa app and log in together with your Amazon account.
  2. Answer “no” when it asks if you wish to arrange a tool.
  3. Follow the directions to complete organising the app.
  4. Set up the good residence machine you wish to hyperlink to Alexa if you have not already.
  5. You can hyperlink accounts from the Alexa app or the opposite machine’s app. (If utilizing Alexa, you will seek for the machine’s model, like Govee or Hubspace. If utilizing the opposite app, there’s usually an “integrations” or “good residence” menu the place you possibly can choose Alexa from the checklist.)
  6. Sometimes the account linking display will ask a number of questions earlier than shifting on to the linking authorization. You will not must enter any login info offered you register to Alexa and the goal app beforehand, however it could request a password anyway.
  7. After authorization, the linked merchandise seem on Alexa’s units tab, the place you possibly can arrange teams, rooms and automation routines in your good residence system.
  8. Repeat steps 4 by way of 7 for extra good residence accounts.

Regardless of whether or not you utilize a wise speaker, you should not anticipate full performance from the opposite machine’s app to switch over to Alexa. This relies on how deep the producer chooses to make its Alexa integration.

For instance, after I hyperlink my Hubspace mild strip to Alexa, I achieve easy management over the colours and brightness however cannot entry any lighting scenes or modes. In distinction, Alexa helps virtually each function and mode on my Govee mild strip. While there is no choice to create customized lighting scenes utilizing Alexa, it may possibly see the customized scenes I made utilizing Govee’s app.

In any case, now you can management your linked units from the Alexa app as a substitute of leaping between a number of apps.

What do you lose by skipping a wise speaker?

smart-speakers-on-recycle-bin smart-speakers-on-recycle-bin

Not a lot if I’m being sincere. Still, a smart-speaker-free good residence is not practically as handy to make use of.

John Carlsen/CNET

The apparent drawback of counting on a server to hyperlink good residence units is that you’re going to lose cellular app controls and automation when the web goes down. While it is true {that a} good speaker (or good hub) additionally has this weak spot, it could present extra performance than a cellular app. Likewise, if a model ends assist on your good residence app, then you might want to return to their app.

At first look, a wise speaker could seem to be the one method to make use of voice controls in your good residence, however it’s straightforward to put in Alexa and Google Assistant on fashionable smartphones to make up for it. (Apple is an exception as a result of Siri and Apple Home are unique to Apple units.) Still, utilizing a voice assistant in your telephone is not as handy as a devoted good speaker.

The different perk you quit is a brilliant speaker’s capability to identify new units mechanically. An Echo Dot or Nest Mini can examine for appropriate units on the identical Wi-Fi community and recommend including them to your good residence system. This reduces set-up time and simplifies constructing out your good residence.

Smart audio system with built-in good hub tech nonetheless have their place

smart speakers on green grass with dry grass in background smart speakers on green grass with dry grass in background

The grass is not all the time greener on the opposite aspect.

John Carlsen/CNET

Despite the elective nature of good audio system in controlling a wise residence, fashions with built-in good residence radios are nonetheless sensible. The Amazon Echo (4th Gen) helps Zigbee and Thread units that in any other case require a wise hub. The similar applies to the newest Apple HomePod and Google Nest Hub fashions, which use Thread tech to hook up with appropriate units.

Built-in Thread radios additionally imply these audio system can perform as Thread Border Routers and Matter Controllers. In concept, Matter and Thread do not require an web connection, so you would management your good residence over a neighborhood Wi-Fi connection in case your hub helps it. In follow, this performance is not prepared for prime time, however I’m glad it is on the horizon.

Ultimately, you need to resolve if the Alexa or Google Home app is sufficient on your good residence wants. While a wise residence app is usually a good solution to check out an ecosystem earlier than shopping for an additional machine, the comfort and affordability of good audio system make them helpful instruments.

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