Smart speakers with built-in virtual personal assistants appear to be the current gadget darlings of the consumer tech world. Since Amazon Echo's debut in 2015, the smart speaker product category has exploded in popularity, spawning similar gadgets like the Google Home and the upcoming Apple HomePod.
In fact, research data from Gartner shows that spending for smart speakers will balloon to $2.1 billion by 2020 with multiple brands competing for the consumers' attention.
IFA Trade Show 2017
Case in point, at this year's Consumer Electronics Unlimited (IFA) trade show in Berlin, a variety of third-party smart speakers from various manufacturers are set to be unveiled. These new speakers, which are not made by Amazon or Google, will have Alexa or Google Assistant built in. Since Amazon and Google have opened their respective virtual assistants to third-party developers, the smart speaker frontier is wide open at this point.
One of the first smart speakers to be unveiled at IFA is Sony's smart speaker that has Google Assistant built-in.
Dubbed the Sony LF-S50G, this 360-degree (ala Amazon Echo) smart speaker will house a full range speaker, a subwoofer and an "omnidirectional two-stage diffuser" that will distribute sound in all directions of a room.
You can also control it via gestures, skipping a song or controlling volume by waving your hand near the top of the device, for example. With its built-in LED screen, it will also double as a digital clock.
And of course, you can activate the Google Assistant by using the key phrase "OK, Google" to ask questions, control smart appliances or control music playback.
The Sony LF-S50G is set to be released in December with a $299 price tag.
Harman Kardon Allure
Harman Kardon, the audio component maker, is also launching its Alexa-equipped smart speaker dubbed the Allure.
It is equipped with a four-microphone array, 360-degree speakers, Bluetooth connectivity and ambient lighting that changes in time with the music it's playing.
It is a matter of taste, but some are saying that the Allure looks like a coffee maker or a food processor. Maybe that's the point? Make it blend with other kitchen appliances perhaps?
The Allure is set to be released later this year as well and it can be yours for $249.
JBL's Link smart speaker line is also set to be unveiled during IFA 2017. These smart speakers will feature Google Assistant and will be available in three models - LINK 10, LINK 20 and the LINK 300.
The Link 10 and 20 are portable waterproof versions that are meant to be enjoyed even outdoors while the Link 300 is the higher-output home version meant for your living room or bedroom.
The Link 10 will be priced at $149, the Link 20 at $199 and the Link 300 at $249. All models are set to be released this fall.
Lenovo's Home Assistant Pack
Lenovo is taking a novel approach and is bringing Alexa to its Tab 4 Series tablets with an optional speaker attachment.
With the optional Home Assistant pack, you can dock your Tab 4 into it and turn it into a smart speaker with a screen ala Amazon Echo Show. The pack includes the Home Assistant app, a three-watt speaker and two microphones with far-field voice detection.
The Home Assistant Pack ships in October and starts at $79.99.
Other Google Assistant enabled speakers
According to other reports, Google is also set to announce three other smart speakers with built-in Google Assistant at IFA.
There's the Zolo Mojo - also made by Anker, the TicHome Mini by MobVoi and Panasonic's GA10. Details about these gadgets are still scarce at this point but they will most likely work like any Google Assistant-enabled smart speaker.
What do you think? Are you joining the smart speaker revolution yet? Drop us a comment.