The Holidays are well upon us and it’s time to wrap up that shopping list. It’s getting down to the wire and I thought you guys could use some great gift ideas. No matter if you’re buying for a well seasoned techie, or someone who doesn’t know what Alexa is, this list will having something for everyone.
We’re going to kick off the list for those who haven’t joined the virtual smart assistant club yet (or maybe your loved one just needs to upgrade to an Echo Show?).
Amazon Echo – Alexa Smart Speakers & Displays
We have seen a tidal wave of voice assistants and synchronized devices since the idea of smart homes came into being, all of which are intended to make our lives easier. Whenever you’d like to groove along to some tunes, switch to some mood lighting or stream live content, all you need to do is call out, “Alexa, [enter command]”.
Amazon (arguably) has the most prominent line-up of smart speakers that not only have pristine voice recognition, but is also compact enough to comfortably sit in a corner on your tabletop.
Echo 4th Generation
The Spherical Master of Beats
This is the newest version of Amazon’s Echo Smart Speaker. This is a fun gift, even for the technically illiterate. All you really need is a WiFi connection. Without even getting into third party smart devices, this is an entertaining device all by itself. You can ask Alexa who won the 1992 World Series, what the weather will be in your town tomorrow, today’s news or tell her to play your favorite song.
There is no monthly fee for most basic functions, but subscriptions can be purchased if you’d like to use things like premium music streaming services (Amazon Prime Music, Spotify, etc) or maybe listen to audiobooks on Audible (you could purchase an Audible Gift Subscription here).
The 4th generation Echo has 7 microphones to hear what you have to say and noise cancellation to filter your voice through all the background noise. Other specs include Dolby audio, omnidirectional 360 degree output, supreme bass response, multi-room synchronized sound and compatibility to multiple streaming services like Spotify, Pandora and Amazon Music, iHeart and SiriusXM.
Perhaps the most popular reservation against smart home devices is that they are perceived as difficult to set up. However, the Echo is ready to use within minutes. Just install the Alexa app, sign in and plug its power adapter into a nearby wall outlet. Once you’ve synced the device with an internet connection, you can perform a celebratory dance by asking Alexa to play your favorite tunes.
Echo “Dot” 4th Generation
A More Compact Smart Listening Companion
The Echo Dot breaks packs all of Alexa’s smarts and personality into an affordable, slightly smaller package. While it still sounds great for its size, it doesn’t pack quite the punch of the larger baseline “Echo”. You can however plug a more powerful speaker into the Echo Dot using a 3.5 mm Aux Cord.
Just as with any Alexa smart speaker, you can use her to control compatible smart products in your house, or just enjoy her as a stand alone device.
Amazon Echo Show
Add Touchscreen Video To Your Alexa Experience
Take all the capabilities of Alexa’s echo smart speakers and add touchscreen video along with a front-facing camera. The result is the Echo Show.
The 8-inch Echo Show is our pick and probably the most popular of the Echo Show line. In terms of audio performance, again, don’t let the size of Amazon devices fool you. It sounds great for its size, which is convenient since it easily fits on top of your typical nightstand or work desk. Additionally, the crystal clear HD video allows you to throw a movie on or video chat with your inlaws (not a requirement, however).
Speaking of movies, the Echo Show allows you to stream content on Hulu, Amazon Video, Food Network and more. Coupled with a Ring Doorbell, Alexa can even show you who’s at the front door. The addition to video allows for the compatibility of many more skills and third-party devices.
To put it simply, and elegantly, the Echo Show help brings about the new-age of smart audio and video experience.
Other Smart Home Gadgets
Maybe your loved one already has Alexa in their house and you want to grab them the hottest new accessories? Maybe you’d like to grab them an Echo and a smart home device to pair with it? Once connected, smart appliances, smart security systems, smart doorbells, and whatever else catches your fancy will form a network across their home to make their life easier. In some cases, more secure.
With that sorted out, let’s quickly dive into some more interesting smart home devices that are compatible with Amazon Echo, however, they can be used with or without Alexa. Your wish is their command.
Ring Video Doorbell 3
Your Prized Smart Home Security Ecosystem
Ring has managed to manufacture the best smart home ecosystems for home-security. The Ring Video Doorbell is, perhaps, the most sensible and inexpensive form of self-sufficient monitoring.
After having owned one of these devices, I think everyone should have a video feed of who’s at their doorstep. Luxury aside, this gives you a much better sense of security. Motion detection allows the built-in camera to start recording as soon as someone is in range. You can also set it to alert you on your phone when there is motion at your door.
When someone rings your doorbell, Alexa alerts you in the home along with a push notification on your phone. You can can view the video and even talk to them from your smartphone or echo show.
This feature amplifies your home security by keeping an eye on everything and everyone that sets near your front door. Of course, you can use its in-app wizard to shrink or extend the motion detection arc to mask false alerts or if you prefer.
You can even ask Alexa to set your Ring Video Doorbell to a ‘People Only’ setting so you aren’t alerted when a harmless animal sets off the motion detection feature. In either case, your mobile device will automatically be updated with 4-seconds of forensic evidence for whoever comes knocking at your door, so to speak.
Ring also has indoor and outdoor cameras to work in conjunction with your new smart home security system. To put it plainly, your home protection is taken care of, whether you are at home or miles away.
Schlage Encode Smart WiFi Deadbolt
Your ‘Key’ to a Truly Smart Home
The Schlage Encode allows you to throw out your old cylinder deadbolt and to replace it with a professional-looking outdoor-facing panel featuring a push-button keypad. Not only that, but Alexa users can unlock the door with their voice (verbal code required)!
Within a few minutes, anyone can set-up the Encode Smart Deadbolt if they have a few minutes to spare and a Phillips-head screwdriver. Initial app setup is pretty straightforward as well and once your lock is fully online, you can begin setting up your 4, 6 or 8 digit codes for entry. You can set up as many as 100 codes for entry for different people, all of which can be unique for a particular time window.
Let’s say you’re worried about the kids skipping school while you’re at work. Or maybe you want to know they are home safe at a certain time every day. You can set your app to notify youy when they enter their custom codes. If you’re expecting guests while you’re away, you can now assign temporary ‘virtual keys’ to anyone who downloads its app.
You can also use this in conjunction with your Ring Doorbell to allow someone in by unlocking the door from anywhere on your Schlage App.
If you still prefer to use a physical key, you can do that too. Smart features need to be independently enabled for security reasons.
Fire TV Stick – 2020 Edition
A Universal Smart Entertainment Solution
Maybe they are running out of things to watch? Amazon’s Fire TV Stick is an inexpensive solution that will fill their entertainment void. Many of you will know what this is or may even own one. Everyone can think of someone who could use one though!
Once the Firestick is connected to the TV (and their WiFi), they can skim through a short Amazon account set up to your favorite movies and shows on Hulu, Netflix, Prime Video, YouTube, Disney+, HBO Max, Apple TV, and the list goes on.
This particular device fits perfectly into any smart home ecosystem because you can flip through to your choice of entertainment for the evening by pressing the voice search button on the provided remote. However, the remote on its own has robust functionalities such as the ability to control your sound system or TV’s volume. In fact, this particular feature is what sets the 2020 edition apart from its predecessors. (Note: this is a feature long overdue.)
Other than its usability, the Fire TV Stick was programmed to be compatible with 60 frames/ second, which in other words, means you can now watch live sporting events without anticipating any lag. What’s more, if you don’t plan to betray your budget with a 4K streaming dongle, you’ll be delighted to find that this TV stick maxes out at 1080p comfortably. There is also a 4k version!
Smart home gadgets make great gifts for the holidays. It’s very possible to upgrade your friend or love one’s lifestyle with smart home features at a reasonable price point. Why not do so?