People, Not Tech Companies, Should Pick Their AI Assistant%E2%80%99s Personality

Of course, you're not just shopping for sound quality. A speaker's smarts are even more important than its audio capabilities, so the on-board AI assistant will also influence on your decision. Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant, and Cortana are all extremely capable—but that's actually irrelevant. The more important factor: Which company's ecosystem are you already locked into?

Increasingly, tech giants' hardware offerings work best with other software and hardware from that same manufacturer. Apple users can swap seamlessly between a MacBook and an iPhone; a Google Chrome browser runs Chromebook laptops and interfaces smoothly with the Chromecast streaming device; Amazon Fire and Kindle users have an advantage if they're also Prime customers. In some cases, one company's products don't work at all with competitors' lines—for example, you can't stream from the Amazon Prime app to a Google Chromecast. And this trend continues with smart speakers: The products you already own may determine which AI assistant you'll choose.

By design, Apple HomePod and Google Home speakers prefer other Apple and Google products. A Chromecast will only work with a Google Home device, for example, while an Apple TV only partners with an Apple HomePod. If you already chat with Siri or Google Assistant on your phone, a compatible device lets you carry on the same conversation with your speaker. The same goes for apps and services such as calendars, emails, and web browsers. While Google Home does let you link a Spotify account, the HomePod only lets you work with Apple Music, although it may add third-party services after it officially launches later this year.

The Amazon Echo line, and other Alexa-enabled speakers like the Sonos One, provide the most open ecosystem of the bunch. You can connect calendars from Google, Apple, and Microsoft, and add tens of thousands of third-party "skills" created by other developers. That said, Amazon does favor its own services as much as possible, preferring platforms like Audible for audiobooks and Amazon Music for tunes (although you can connect a Spotify account if you want).

All this means that, when you're choosing a smart speaker, you'll have the most seamless experience with the AI assistant you already know. While you can certainly try out more than one of these AIs, your favorite gadgets and services might not work with all of your assistants.

So you've got a checklist of four items: Size (and the related sound quality and price), compatibility, bonus features, and ecosystem. Work through each of those, make time to read a few reviews, and your best bet should become obvious. Happy listening!

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