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Home hubs are a great asset for anyone who wants to make their home “smarter.” With so many home hubs on the market, however, it can be confusing as to which are high quality and which are not worth your time.

That’s why we’ve collected the home hubs worth your money in 2023, because none of us have the time or the money to waste on sub-par home hubs!

What Is a Home Hub?

If you’re not sure what a home hub is, it’s essentially the “brain” of a smart home. Smart devices, by themselves, typically only collect data; they can’t really do anything with what they gather. They have to send it somewhere, so the data can be processed into information.

As such, a smart hub acts as a central point from which your smart gadgets can do their jobs. Some smart gadgets let you control them through the smart hub, such as changing the smart thermostat via voice command.

1. Amazon Echo Plus

How could we not start with this? The Amazon Echo Plus is one of the best smart home hubs on the market right now. It’s compatible with many third-party smart tools, such as the Philips Hue smart bulbs. All Amazon Echos have Alexa built in, which is handy for performing simple voice-activated commands.

2. Amazon Echo Show

Actually having a visual display is extremely useful on a device that you want to use to control your smart home. Yes, it’s cheaper to just get smart speakers, but they don’t give you an overview of what all your smart devices are doing in the same way.

That’s why the Echo Show, despite the higher price tag, is the best Echo device for those with a larger collection of smart devices. It has a lot of options for controlling smart devices, including the popular Zigbee wireless certification.

On the downside, it doesn’t have Z-wave functionality, which means it lags a bit behind devices like the Samsung SmartThings Wi-Fi. There are a couple of varieties of the Echo Show, but only the Echo Show 2nd gen packs full smart home hub functionality.

3. Google Home

The Google Home is arguably the best competition for the Amazon Echo right now; as a result, it’s not to be neglected. If you have connections to Google services, you’ll appreciate how Google Home integrates with them all natively. It’s also compatible with Nest if you’re planning to equip your home with smart security.

4. Samsung SmartThings Wi-Fi

Samsung SmartThings Wi-Fi may not be as popular as Amazon or Google’s entries, but it does have a very fascinating additional feature. You can just get the base model, or you can buy multiple SmartThings and connect them as a mesh. They also act as routers, meaning you can fix Wi-Fi dead zones in your home while also connecting everything to the smart home.

5. Lenovo Smart Display

At first glance, the Lenovo Smart Display just looks like a screen. Don’t be fooled, however; underneath the hood is the capability to control a smart home. It’s compatible with products such as Nest and Philips Hue, so you can get the most out of some of the most popular smart gadgets on the market. It also gives a nice screen display for when you need to show a video to friends – not something a smart hub can normally do!

Which One Is the Best?

As you can tell from the above examples, there is no “best hub” by default. It all depends on what you want from your home hub, and how you intend to use it.

Amazon’s entries are fantastic, have Alexa support, and have full-feature and budget options. Google Home is great if you use Google services extensively, the Samsung model is great for nullifying Wi-Fi dead spots, and the Lenovo screen is the only one that can show visuals without an external monitor.

They all have their strengths, so think about what you want from a hub and get the one that suits your needs best. The “best hub” is the one that fits into your daily schedule most efficiently!

Homeworthy Hubs

Smart hubs work as the “brains” of the smart home, allowing you to control every element from a central point. As we covered above, there are many different types of hubs; it’s up to you to pick your favorite.

Which hub do you like most? Are there any all-star hubs we missed out on? Let us know below.

Simon Batt

Simon Batt is a Computer Science graduate with a passion for cybersecurity.

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The Best Apple Homekit Smart Home Starter Kit

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Written By Mahesh Nair

Published Jul 30, 2023 9:30 AM

Deciding between Alexa, Google Home or Apple HomeKit smart home platforms can be daunting. It’s a choice that will likely guide your gadget buying preferences for years to come. Even once you’ve decided to build an Apple HomeKit smart home,  the rapidly expanding market of smart home-compatible devices and upgrading your home from dumb to smart can seem overwhelming. 

Apple HomeKit provides a solid base for your smart home, so it’s a great place to start your planning. Everything in this guide works seamlessly with Apple’s smart home software. As an added bonus you’ll be building your system around Apple’s security and privacy features which are more robust than both Amazon’s and Google’s. 

Apple Homekit devices for a smart home: the Coziest Ecosystem

HomeKit offers a somewhat limited selection of compatible devices when compared to Amazon’s Alexa and the Google Home ecosystems. However, this is at least partially by design. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to iPhone and Mac users. Apple maintains tight controls over all of its platforms.  The company keeps a runnning list on their website of all devices that work with HomeKit. 

What HomeKit lacks in options it makes up for with ease of setup. Many devices that work with Alexa and Google Assistant require their own apps. All HomeKit-compatible devices are designed to work within the Apple Home app, which is built into iOS and macOS. This level of integration minimizes glitches and saves you from downloading a separate app for each smart home device you add. 

If you’re seriously considering HomeKit for your smart home system, you likely already have one or more Apple products, so this level of integration will be nothing new to you. 

From Home, to Rooms, to Scenes

The Apple Home app allows you to control all devices in your smart home from a single interface. The app further organizes your devices into Rooms, based on their location in your home. Beyond that, the app allows you to set up “Scenes” which are essentially prearranged settings that touch multiple devices. For example, you could create an “Away” Scene that turns off all the lights in your home, locks the doors, and changes the thermostat to a more economical setting. 

You can trigger these scenes—and pretty much any other smart home event—through the Home app or through Siri voice commands. 

Before you Buy, Check the Wi-Fi

HomeKit makes it dead simple to set up your smart home devices as long as they get adequate wi-fi coverage. If your house has multiple floors or a very large footprint, you may want to consider purchasing range extenders. Changing to a mesh network will also work. Making sure that the wi-fi signal from your router can reach all of your smart home devices (especially those that will stay outdoors such as smart doorbells or security cameras) is vital.

Smarthub for Home, and Away

Thanks to Apple’s tight mobile integration, you can control every aspect of your HomeKit devices from your iPhone. This is great when you need to adjust settings while you’re away. However, in order to use this functionality, you will need some sort of a hub for your smart home. When you’re home and don’t have your phone on you every single moment, the convenience of having a hub for your smart home is undeniable. 

A smart home hub gives you the ability to simply speak commands to Siri and have every device in your home obey you. Perfect for those moments when your hands are messy from cooking dinner, the kids are screaming at you, and you need to adjust the thermostat. You will also need a smart hub to use HomeKit’s “Scenes” feature. 

Originally, Apple allowed you to use an iPad, AppleTV, or 3rd party smart hubs, but did not make a smart hub of its own. This changed in 2023 when they released the original HomePod, Apple’s first dedicated smart hub. HomePod was not cheap, retailing at $349. HomePod Mini released in the fall of 2023 and at $99 had a much more reasonable price tag. Apple announced the following March that it would discontinue the original HomePod and focus on HomePod Mini. 

Anywhere that a HomePod can hear your voice, you can use it to give orders to your smart home devices. Linking multiple HomePods turns on handy features like intercom and whole-home music playback. Additionally, when you place two HomePods in the same room they will assign themselves left and right channels to give your music a surround-sound effect. 

Sticking with Apple’s smart hubs means you’ll also enjoy features that let your phone interact with the smart hubs effortlessly. For example, you can move a call from your iPhone to a HomePod, turning it into a speakerphone, or if you’re on your way out the door, move a song playing on your HomePod to your iPhone to continue listening while you’re on the go.

Lastly, HomePod ensures that your smart home ecosystem will be based around a product that adheres to Apple’s robust security and privacy policies. Apple claims that HomePods only begin listening to your voice when you specifically address Siri. Additionally, the company states that voice commands are “associated with a random identifier” as opposed to your AppleID.  

Best HomeKit smart home hub: Apple HomePod Mini

Apple

Using your iPhone is the bare-bones way to control your HomeKit-based smart home. But to unlock the full potential of Apple’s technology, the HomePod Mini is essential. In a package the size of a literal apple, you’ll get a versatile speaker with full sound and a receiver for Siri voice commands. With multiple Minis, you get an intercom and sound system that covers your entire home. 

Smart bulbs: Truly a bright Idea

Old school light bulbs were dead simple. Smart bulbs, though, have opened up a slew of possibilities in home lighting that didn’t exist in the incandescent days. 

The basic benefits of smart bulbs are obvious. If you forget to turn a light off before leaving your home, you can easily do it from your phone, wherever you are. You can also set the lights in your home to turn off after a certain time to ensure that they don’t needlessly burn energy

Smart bulbs also have features that can literally make your day-to-day life more pleasant. If you’ve upgraded to iOS 14, HomeKit’s Adaptive Lighting allows you to set varying color temperatures for your smart bulbs for different times of the day. Subtle touches like these can help you avoid the afternoon slump. That’s particularly useful to keep you awake through those dreaded 3 PM Zoom meetings. 

Best Apple HomeKit smart home connected light bulbs: Philips A19 Starter Kit

Philips

This Philips kit contains two bulbs with a hub, called a “Hue Bridge”. The bulbs connect to the hub, and the hub connects to HomeKit. This allows for control of your smart lighting locally, without the need for any commands to go to the cloud, improving speed without using wi-fi bandwidth. Each hub can also connect up to 50 bulbs. 

Keep your home locked up

Ever had that moment of panic? The one that happens when you left home 15 minutes ago and suddenly can’t remember whether you locked your door? If so, you’re a prime candidate for a smart lock. After all, smart home devices are supposed to not only make your home life easier, but also less stressful. 

Smart locks very easily relieve you of this common stressor. Security features are the key aspects to look at when shopping for a smart lock, and this means physical security and cybersecurity. 

Best Apple HomeKit smart home connected lock: August Wi-Fi Smart Lock

August’s Wi-Fi Smart Lock allows you to use your original deadbolt. You won’t have to change out all of your keys. It has great features such as auto-locking when you leave and auto-unlocking as you approach. The lock can be used with old-school keys, your iPhone, Apple Watch, or an optional keypad. HomeKit integration also means you can control your lock remotely and automate locks and unlocks using Scenes.

A smarter eye on your home

In-home security cameras used to be something that most people only saw in the movies. Now, the relatively low cost of camera tech, and the fact that everybody has a network in their homes has made them much more accessible to the general public. 

Modern security cameras are relatively small, come in indoor and outdoor varieties, and connect wi-fi based. That allows you to control and access them from anywhere using a smartphone. Additionally, many cameras allow you to store footage (usually for a fee) and scroll back through days worth of video if you need to check on something after the fact. 

Since numerous wi-fi cameras have experienced problems with hacking, this new feature is quite valuable. Having your video be recorded via Apple Home and sent directly to iCloud means that it is encrypted from end-to-end and much, much less susceptible to hacking.

Best Apple HomeKit smart home security camera: eufy Security Solo IndoorCam

Eufy offers their indoor camera at a truly incredible price without skimping on essential features. The camera can store footage locally on an SD card, or in iCloud via HomeKit’s Secure Video feature. The Solo IndoorCam senses motion, but differentiates between pets and humans and only begins recording when “an event of interest” occurs. 

Help your utility bills cool off

Smart thermostats are one component of your smart home that can really help you to save money. Old school programmable thermostats have had the ability to set a seven-day schedule for years. However, if you forgot to turn that schedule off right before leaving for a long vacation, you’d be unnecessarily stuck with a big bill for heating or cooling an empty house. 

Smart thermostats, at a minimum allow you to adjust the temperature in your home from anywhere using a smartphone app. HomeKit-compatible thermostats pull that capability into the Apple Home app, increasing security and allowing temperature to become part of your pre-programmed Scenes.

Best Apple HomeKit smart home thermostat: Ecobee 3 lite

ecobee

The Ecobee 3 lite is simple to install, and easy to integrate into your HomeKit-enabled smart home. It is programmable to any schedule and works best in smaller homes or apartments. If you end up moving to a larger space with multiple rooms, Ecobee has remote sensors that will allow the thermostat to read the temperatures in multiple rooms and adjust heating and cooling accordingly. 

FAQs

While it has a smaller list of compatible devices than Alexa or Google Assistant, the Apple Homekit smart home has reached a point where there is more than enough choice to assemble a truly capable smart home. If you’re an Apple evangelist or someone who prefers robust security and privacy features, HomeKit is likely your best option of the three major smart home ecosystems. Plus that fabric on the HomePod is just so inviting.

20 Best Smart Home Devices Compatible With Google Home (India)

The Google Home and Google Home Mini has been available in India for quite a while now and while they’re pretty handy when used by themselves, their real potential is unlocked when you pair them with other smart home devices which unlocks a whole new set of possibilities. If you’ve been wondering which smart home devices you can get your hands on in the Indian market, then you’ve come to the right place. We’ve compiled a list of the best smart home devices compatible with the Google Home that you can buy in India right now. Without much further ado, let’s jump right into the list and take a look at smart home devices compatible with the Google Home:

Smart Home Devices Compatible with Google Home

Smart Lights Compatible with Google Home 1. Philips Hue Mini Starter Kit

If you’re into home automation or smart home devices, then you’ve probably already heard of the Philips Hue. The Philips Hue smart light mini starter kit comes with a 10Watt Hue RGB bulb which can be screwed into any normal bulb socket in your house. The package also contains a Philips Hue Bridge which can be connected to your WiFi router and can be controlled using the Philips Hue app. As you’d expect, you can also set up the voice command feature with your Google Home, which will allow you to control your Philips Hue smart lights via voice commands remotely.

Buy from Amazon (₹6,499)

2. Philips Hue Go

Buy from Amazon (₹8,995)

3. Philips Hue Lightstrip

In case you’re looking for something more discreet, then you can opt for the Philips Hue Lightstrip which, as the name suggests, is an LED lightstrip that can be customized using a Philips Hue Bridge. Much like the aforementioned products, the LEDs can be customized with up to 16 million colors and can be remotely controlled using the Philips Hue app or via voice commands to your Google Assistant. Do note that the Philips Hue Lightstrip doesn’t come with a Philips Hue Bridge, which you’ll have to buy separately in order to use the product.

4. Xorb WiFi Smart LED Bulb

In case the aforementioned Philips Hue products seem a bit too costly, you can opt for the Xorb WiFi Smart LED Bulb, which is a 7Watt bulb that can be controlled using Amazon Alexa, the Google Assistant, or using its own app. The bulb has a life span of about 30,000 hours and even though it comes in fairly cheap, it also offers support for 16 million color options. However, since all of the bulb’s wireless components are included within its body, don’t expect it to perform as well as the Philips Hue setup which has a separate hub controlling all operations.

Buy from Amazon (₹1,499)

Smart Locks Compatible With Google Home 1. Kwikset Kevo Smart Lock Conversion Kit

If you’re interested in getting a smart lock for your home which you can control with your Google Home, then you can definitely consider the Kwikset Kevo Smart Lock conversion kit. The kit will allow you to convert your regular deadbolt door lock into a smart lock which can be controlled via the Kevo app and also by voice commands, however you’ll require the Kevo Plus hub in order to do that. The smart lock will allow you to automatically lock or unlock the device in Bluetooth range.

Buy from Amazon (₹7,636)

2. August Smart Lock Pro

Another great smart lock that you can consider is the August Smart Lock Pro which will allow you to control and keep track of who enters and exits from your house via the mobile app. Much like the Kwikset Kevo Smart Lock, the August Smart Lock Pro attaches to your existing deadbolt door lock, but it has a much smaller footprint and a very minimalist design. The August Smart Lock Pro is a certified Z-Wave Plus home product which maintains high standards of security to keep your home safe from intruders. The smart lock can be controlled via the mobile app and through voice commands to the Google Assistant, but it doesn’t require a separate hub which is definitely a great addition.

Buy from Amazon (₹26,711)

Smart Plugs, Sockets & Switches Compatible With Google Home 1. TP-Link HS200 Smart WiFi Light Switch

Buy from Amazon (₹2,399)

2. TP-Link HS100 WiFi Smart Plug

In case you want to remotely control your electrical appliances, you can opt for the TP-Link HS100 WiFi Smart Plug. You can connect any small electrical appliance to the smart plug and it’ll allow you to remotely control the appliance using the TP-Link Kasa app. You’ll also be able to control the appliances using voice control and it comes with support for the Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and Microsoft Cortana, so you won’t be limited to a single smart ecosystem.

3. Oakter Basic Smart Home Kit

The Oakter Basic Smart Home Kit is a combination of two smart plugs and a connecting hub which will allow you to control two smart appliances using your smartphone. The smart home kit consists of one 16A smart plug and one 6A smart plug which will allow you to connect one large and one small electrical appliance at the same time. The smart plugs can be controlled using the Oakter app and also comes with support for both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, allowing you to control the appliances via voice commands.

Buy from Amazon (₹5,823)

4. Sonoff Smart Switch

In case you’re looking for a smart home switch on a very tight budget, you can opt for the Sonoff Basic WiFi Smart Switch which can be used to control any electrical appliance remotely. The smart switch can be easily installed with any electrical appliance and can be controlled using the Sonoff app and through voice commands via the Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa.

Buy from Amazon (₹800)

5. Smarteefi 3 in 1 Smart Plug

The Smarteefi 3 in 1 Smart Plug is a very handy smart plug which doesn’t require any electrical work like most other smart plugs and switches on this list. The Smarteefi Smart Plug looks like a normal power strip with three plug points which can be individually controlled by connecting the device to your home WiFi. The smart plug has an Android app and web portal which will allow you to control your appliances remotely, and it even includes support for Google Home and Amazon Alexa for control via voice commands.

Buy from Amazon (₹2,999)

6. D-Link DS-W215 Smart Plug

Buy from Amazon (₹1,888)

7. IOT Smart Plug

Much like the D-Link DSP-W215, the IOT Smart Plug is another great smart plug which doesn’t require any complicated installation. Just plug it into any regular wall socket, connect you electrical appliance and you’re good to go. The WiFi based ITO Smart Plug can be controlled from anywhere using an app or via voice commands issued to Alexa or the Google Assistant. The IOT Smart Plug also offers an automated scheduling functionality and a timer function which will allow you to set schedules to turn on/off your connected devices.

Smart Security Cameras Compatible With Google Home 1. Nest Cam Outdoor Security

If you’re worried about your home’s security, then it’s a good idea to invest in a smart security camera like the Nest Cam Outdoor Security camera. The camera has a 130-degree wide-angle view which delivers 1080p HD footage of its field of view 24/7 directly to your smartphone. The installation is pretty simple, requiring you to connect it to a regular wall outlet and your home WiFi. The Nest Cam Outdoor can detect activity and send an instant alert to your smartphone or email along with a picture. It even has a built in microphone and speaker which will allow you to talk to or listen to someone using the companion app. As expected, it works wonderfully with your Google Home devices and can be completely automated to keep your house secure all the time.

Buy from Amazon (₹28,545)

2. Nest 1080P HD Camera

In case you’re looking for an indoor security camera solution, you can invest in the Nest 1080p HD Camera which can be placed anywhere in your home. Much like the outdoor security camera from Nest, the Nest 1080p HD delivers crisp and clear live footage to your smartphone via the companion app through its all-glass lens which has a 130-degree field of view. It even has a great night vision feature which will allow you to monitor activity even when the lights are turned off. The Nest 1080p HD Camera seamlessly connects to your Google Home, allowing you to control it by issuing voice commands.

Buy from Amazon (₹24,999)

3. Netgear Arlo Pro

If you’re looking for a more thorough smart security camera package, you can invest in the Netgear Arlo Pro Rechargeable HD Camera which not only provides all the functionality of the Nest cameras but also gives you the freedom to place them in areas where you don’t have a nearby power outlet. The completely wireless Arlo Pro kit also has a 2-way audio mic and speaker with push-to-talk functionality so that you can talk to people on the other end using your smartphone.

Buy from Amazon (₹39,500)

Smart Entertainment Devices Compatible With Google Home 1. Google Chromecast 2

Buy from Flipkart (₹3,399)

2. Google Chromecast Audio

Much like the Google Chromecast 2, the Chromecast Audio is a media streaming device which, as its name suggests, allows you to stream audio to any device which includes a 3.5mm input jack. The Chromecast Audio can also be controlled using your compatible smartphone and as you’d expect, you can even control it using your Google Home device. It even feature a handy multi-room feature which will allow you to connect multiple Chromecast devices to different speaker systems and play the same songs on each speaker system at the same time.

Smart Sensors Compatible With Google Home 1. Ecobee3 Room Sensor

The Ecobee3 Room Sensor is a very handy little gadget which you can place in any room in your house to monitor its temperature and automatically adjust the connected thermostat or air conditioner to alter the temperature of the room depending on its current occupancy. The Ecobee3 comes with two remote sensors which can be mounted on the walls or placed on any surface using the included stands. Do note that you’ll need a compatible thermostat in order to get this setup to work. As you’d expect, the Ecobee sensors can also be manually controlled using voice commands, allowing you to control the temperature of your room remotely.

Buy from Amazon (₹11,068)

2. Ecobee4 Smart Thermostat

The Ecobee 4 is a smart thermostat and sensor package, which functions much like the Ecobee 3 but doesn’t require you to have a compatible thermostat as it comes with one in the box. The thermostat and sensor combo can also function automatically depending on your presets and it can also be controlled using the companion app, via voice commands through your Google Home and it’s also compatible with IFTTT.

Buy from Amazon (₹29,999)

SEE ALSO: 15 Best Smart Home Devices You Can Buy in India

Smart Home Devices Compatible with Google Home

Smart Home Diary: Domestic Negotiations, And The Three Categories Of Smart Home Tech

A conversation this morning got me thinking about the different categories of smart home tech.

I’ll be the first to admit that I love gadgets for their own sake. If there’s a low-tech way of doing something and a hi-tech way of doing it, I’ll tend to favor the hi-tech option even where the benefit is marginal.

My partner is not of the same view. She’s not a Luddite by any means – she has an iPhone, iPad, Mac, and appreciates some hi-tech solutions – but for her, the default option is the traditional way of doing things. Any technological wizardry has to justify itself.

This results in some negotiations about the devices we have in our apartment, which led me to the conclusion that there are three categories of smart home tech …

More cool than useful

Unquestionably useful

No-brainer

Let’s look at a few examples …

More cool than useful

In the ‘more cool than useful’ category I’d put things like Nanoleaf light panels and Philips Hue Light Strips.

Note that I say more cool than useful. I don’t mean to imply that they aren’t useful at all. I currently use my Nanoleaf light panel as ambient lighting in my office, providing enough illumination when I have the blinds closed to keep out the sun.

Similarly with Hue Light Strips. At the back of my desk, it’s more mostly for fun, but the form-factor of Light Strips means they also tick the ‘useful’ box as kitchen counter-top and in-wardrobe lighting.

Unquestionably useful

The most obvious example of this category is Philips Hue lightbulbs.

They clearly aren’t necessary – human beings have survived for quite a long time with manually-operated light switches – but their usefulness is clear. Being able to ask Siri to switch lights on or off is really handy, as are scenes which trigger entire sets of lights when going to bed, for example.

Motion-sensors too definitely qualify as ‘unquestionably useful.’ Now, sure, we’ve had those for a long time – they don’t require smart bulbs – but smart home tech can do more.

For example, wander into our kitchen alcove, and the countertop lighting comes on and goes off again two minutes later. Dumb tech can do that. But if we’ve set the color to blue or pink as mood lighting for the living room, the motion sensor switches them to white lighting when you walk into the kitchen. (I just wish there was a way of reverting the color afterwards.)

Similarly with wardrobe lighting. Open the wardrobe doors, and normally you’ll get full brightness lighting. But do so after 11pm, when Steph is normally in bed, and it will only come on at 10% brightness – enough to hang up jacket and jeans but not enough to wake her.

Siri control, too, has been something that has won Steph over. Yes, she insisted on manual wall switches as well, but does now frequently switch lights on and off with a ‘Hey Siri’ command to a HomePod.

No-brainer

There’s a third category which I would argue are no-brainers if you can afford them.

If the machines can take the drudgery out of it and just leave us with the joy of drawing, then that’s the best of both worlds.

And that’s how I feel about automation generally: its greatest gift is freeing us from drudgery. If there’s a boring, repetitive task that can be automated, that’s worth a huge amount.

The window blinds we have in the winter garden are a good example for us. If you leave the blinds open on sunny days between May and September, things get unbearably hot. It would be a complete pain to have to manually close seven separate blinds at noon, opening them again at sunset. This is the type of repetitive task which calls out for automation, so having blinds that do that automatically is worth the not-insignificant cost.

Another example is vacuum cleaning. I liked the Neato D7 Connected so much that I immediately bought one when the review model went back. And this was one gadget where Steph not only immediately agreed, but indeed proactively suggested it. After a few weeks of use, she was hooked.

Negotiations are currently underway about a second, floor-mopping robot (review to follow shortly). I say it’s a no-brainer, Steph says two domestic robots is a step too far. Place your bets.

With perhaps a fourth?

Maybe there’s a fourth category: smart home tech you would never consider. Some people feel that way about smart speakers, for example, concerned about electronic eavesdropping. I don’t – we have HomePod, Echo Dot, and Google Home Mini speakers – but I do feel that way about in-home security cameras. The hacking risk, for me, is a step too far.

I used to feel the same way about smart locks. But I’ve recently re-evaluated that, simply because of our circumstances. We live in a building that requires a fob to access exterior and lobby doors, so the risk of unauthorized access is low. And it would be handy to be able to let neighbors in sometimes where we’re away without having to hand out a bunch of keys. So I’ll be checking out these in a future post.

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Apple Unveiled 2023’S Best Smart Speaker In 2023

Five years ago, Apple unveiled what I unequivocally consider the best smart speaker of 2023. It was late to the party, panned by tech press, and discontinued before its time. It was the original HomePod, and there’s still nothing else like it.

Sure, there are five flavors of HomePod mini, but we wanted Apple to make a smaller HomePod to complement the big one, not replace it. The big HomePod has big sound that’s fit for large rooms or as your best speaker in your primarily listening place.

HomePod mini is remarkably compact by comparison, but the sonic difference is massive. HomePod mini is the starter smart speaker that makes filling a home with HomePods more affordable, but it’s leagues apart from the original HomePod in loudness and bass response.

We wanted a family of HomePods. Instead, we got stuck with this lightweight. That, my fellow citizens of the Apple ecosystem, is why the second-hand market of original HomePods is so compelling nearly two years after the OG HomePod was discontinued.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s much the OG HomePod could learn from its younger sibling. The HomePod triumphs at sound and can even be used as stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos for your home theater. HomePod mini has a few things going for it that exist simply because it was the first revision to the HomePod line.

The big HomePod has a removable power cord that you should probably never actually remove. Sort of like the Apple Studio Display. HomePod mini doesn’t quite have a removable cable, but it does end with a USB-C connector instead of the power prongs!

HomePod mini connects to a removable USB-C power adapter, and the USB-C connector doubles as a data port. This allows you to connect a borked HomePod mini to a Mac or PC for restoring its software if an update ever goes haywire. The big HomePod simply shows you a red ring of death as if it were an original Xbox, and all support requires sending to Apple.

Apple also uses a snappier processor inside HomePod mini, switching from the aged A8 chip to the more recent S5 chip. This helps with how fast Siri will respond to voice commands, and it also likely contributes to the lower cost of HomePod mini. A smart speaker doesn’t need graphics oomph anyway.

And there’s Thread radio support embedded in the HomePod mini. Most recent Apple TV 4K boxes include Thread as well. Thread just wasn’t ready for the original HomePod.

Those are all things that are included in Apple’s revision for what a HomePod can be, but make no mistake, the original HomePod reigns as the best smart home speaker. The thing just has audio performance that will not fail to impress. It’s loud, it’s full, it’s deep, it’s doesn’t compromise.

My particular interest in the big HomePod now of all times started with a visit to out-of-town family over Thanksgiving. Years ago, I gifted them with a single HomePod that they still use regularly to this day. Meanwhile, I had abandoned the big HomePod as soon as Apple said the HomePod mini was the future of the lineup. Nearly two years later, I could not believe just how freaking great the original HomePod sounded.

Apple doesn’t sell the original HomePod anymore, but you can find used or refurbished OG HomePods on eBay and Facebook Marketplace for between $200 and $300. Apple originally sold the HomePod for $350 before lowering the price to $300, and $250 was a common sales price near the end of its retail life. After tax and shipping, I ended up scoring a HomePod stereo pair for around $450 earlier this month.

I knew I would love the big HomePod all over again, but I did not anticipate all the ways the original was just better. You can whisper to invoke Siri from across the room, ambient sounds for sleep feel like you’re there, and the overall loudness can compete with serious levels of noise.

There are signs of hope for a new HomePod that isn’t named in relation to a larger version that’s no longer being sold. Several months ago, reliable supply chain analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicted that Apple would release an additional HomePod in 2023 Q4 or 2023 Q1. Based on the current timeline, that might just mean we could see a beefier HomePod with modern revisions by spring. It’s a product I really hope exists, especially since the version announced in 2023 and released in 2023 won’t last forever.

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Best 10 Fintech Companies To Look Out For Smart Transactions In 2023

FinTech companies are reaping the benefits of cutting-edge technologies for a seamless experience Top ten FinTech companies in 2023 Curve

Curve is a banking platform that consolidates cards and accounts into one smart card and app. It allows customers to supercharge their legacy banks to the 21st century without leaving their bank or topping up. Curve offers a host of benefits to its customers; it makes cards fee-free when spending abroad, gets instant notifications and categorization of spend, earns an instant 1% cashback at the likes of Amazon, Uber, Netflix and Sainsbury’s and Time Travel enables customers to swap spend to a different card in the app for up to two weeks after the purchase was made. Curve also offers Curve Customer Protection, a policy that covers all credit and debit card payments made via the Curve card up to £100,000, giving cardholders an extra layer of protection for disputes with merchants and any unauthorized use of their Curve card. IDC Ventures backs Curve with Fuel Venture Capital, Vulcan Capital, OneMain Financial, and Novum Capital back Curve.

Digit Insurance

Digit is a general insurance company started by Kamesh Goyal and backed by the Fairfax Group. Its services include car insurance, travel insurance, home insurance, commercial vehicle insurance, and shop insurance. The company is driven by a mission to reimagine products and redesign price processes. Car Insurance, also known as auto or motor insurance, is a type of vehicle insurance policy that protects you and your car from any risks and damages caused by accidents, thefts, or natural disasters. So, you will be financially secure in case of any losses that may be incurred because of any such unforeseen circumstances. In addition to that, you will also be protected from third-party liabilities.

Dwolla

Dwolla is a fintech company offering modern payments technology for businesses. From startups to enterprises, businesses across every industry use Dwolla’s Platform to collect, facilitate or send electronic payments. We’ve made an incredibly complex process of accessing the various payment networks and navigating regulations feel simple. Since 2008, Dwolla’s modern platform has powered billions in payments for millions of end-users. Today’s most innovative companies are programming their payments with Dwolla.

 ePayLater

Founded in December of 2024 and based in Mumbai, India, ePayLater is a zero-cost credit solution for SMEs for purchasing their supplies. This solution is available to SMEs across physical and digital sales channels and empowers them to purchase inventory across product categories at the best available prices without being constrained for credit. It also helps reduce the trust deficit that typifies digital B2B commerce as buyer obligation to pay arises only after goods are physically received, with a further period of 14 days of interest-free credit.

Ezetap Mobile Solutions

At Ezetap, veterans from the payments, hardware, cloud, and SaaS industries have joined hands for the sole purpose of ushering in a new era of a frictionless digital payment ecosystem in India. Ezetap’s Smart and Secure capabilities as an intelligent SaaS payments platform are already helping thousands of brick-and-mortar retailers, e-commerce players, enterprises, and financial inclusion organizations, transform their businesses. Vision To be the single solution through which businesses complete any financial transaction with their customers, supporting every instrument and method that their customers want to use. Disruptor. Innovator. Payments Leader. Ranked twice in a row by CNBC in their Global Top 50 Disruptor List in 2024 and 2023, Ezetap has been reimagining payments since 2011. Ezetap is the only payments solution company that has an end-to-end smart payment solution (including hardware) to address the needs of fast-growing enterprise companies. First, to introduce mobile POS SDK for enterprise companies in India, Ezetap is trusted by seven of the top ten mPOS merchants in Asia. As per the Reserve Bank of India POS Report published (Oct 2014-15), Ezetap’s market share was 1/3rd of all terminals activated in 2024

Figure

Figure is transforming the trillion-dollar financial services industry using blockchain technology. In three short years, Figure has unveiled a series of fintech firsts using the Provenance Blockchain for loan origination, equity management, private fund services, banking, and payments sectors – bringing speed, efficiency, and savings to both consumers and institutions. Today, Figure is one of less than a thousand companies considered a unicorn, globally. Figure was founded in 2023 by serial technology entrepreneur Mike Cagney, who also founded SoFi and built the company into a multi-billion-dollar business under his leadership as CEO.

Financial Software & Systems (FSS)

FSS is a global banking and digital payments company, with headquarters in India. The company has 150+ global customers, a team of 2500+ payment professionals, and a presence in India, Africa, Asia Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, and North America. FSS offers an integrated payments portfolio of Software Products & Custom Solutions and ATM, POS & Hosted Services. With 25+ years of experience in the payment domain, FSS offers expertise in Issuance, omnichannel acquiring, digital banking, smart reconciliation, payment processing, monitoring, digital security, payment analytics, and financial inclusion across various delivery channels and ecosystems. FSS’ customers include banks, central regulators, governments, financial intermediaries including third-party electronic payment processors, merchants, and payment associations.

Finly

Finly ensures CFOs & Finance Teams gain complete control & visibility over payables. All of this while increasing the Finance Teams’ productivity by over 80% by automating manual & repetitive operations and by simplifying remote collaboration within finance teams, through a powerful finance communication framework. Streamline invoice approvals, automate reminders, auto-update GLs on accounting systems, and ensure audit compliance & governance with a system designed & built for finance teams. By providing the company with complete visibility into its spending, Finly keeps all company business systems in sync and offers the most dynamic reporting in the market. Their goal is to provide finance teams with tools and data that enable them to have real-time insights into their spending to make better strategic decisions and remove all expense management hurdles as your business scales.

Fisdom

Fisdom is an automated investment service provider that manages a personalized online investment account. The personal finance startup also provides personalized investment recommendations. It plans to monetize by charging a commission from financial services companies and mutual funds. Its one-stop solution for customers choosing from a wide range of financial products, spell convenience in wealth management. Its trusted partnerships with leading banks, NBFCs, and financial institutions offer its customers a robust digital platform for investing.

Flywire

Flywire Corporation (Nasdaq: FLYW) is a global payments-enablement and software company trusted by organizations around the world to deliver on their customers’ most important moments. Unlike other companies, Flywire is proven to solve high-stakes vertical-specific payment and receivables problems for organizations that deliver high-value services. Whether in education, healthcare, travel, or technology, Flywire has vertical-specific insight and technology that allows organizations to optimize the payment experience for their customers while eliminating operational challenges—from invoicing to payment reconciliation. Around-the-clock multilingual support via phone, email, and chat, and online tracking, ensure that both the client and customer have complete control over their payments. Flywire supports over 2,400 clients around the world with diverse payment methods in more than 140 currencies across 240 countries and territories. The company is headquartered in Boston and has offices in Chicago, Palo Alto, London and Manchester (UK), Valencia (Spain), Shanghai, Singapore, Tel Aviv, Tokyo, Cluj (Romania), and Sydney.

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