Amazon’s Echo Dot Kids Edition gives parents complete control

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Echo Dot Kids
Echo Dot is now child-friendly.
Photo: Amazon

Now your little ones can get to know Alexa with the new Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition.

It’s just like a regular Echo Dot, but it comes inside a colorful protective case and a one-year subscribtion to the “FreeTime Unlimited” service that gives parents complete control over content. You’ll have to pay a premium for those extra features, though.

ecobee Switch+ with HomeKit also an Alexa smart speaker

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ecobee Switch+
ecobee Switch+ works with HomeKit and Alexa.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

ecobee began taking pre-orders for the Switch+ today. This smart-home light switch includes HomeKit support so it can be remotely controlled with an iPhone.

But it goes beyond that: with Amazon’s Alexa built in, this wall switch acts as a smart speaker all on its own.

Alexa brings free phone calls to iPad

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Alexa Calling
iPads can now make video calls to Amazon Echo devices.
Photo: Amazon

Although people most often use Alexa to ask about the weather or play music, Amazon’s smart assistant is capable of much more, including connecting with friends and family.  A convenient Alexa calling feature is now available on a range of tablets, including the iPad. This allows the tablet to make voice or video calls to an Amazon Echo.

All that is required is the Amazon Alexa app for iOS (and giving Alexa access to your list of contacts).

HomePod vs. Sonos One: Which should you buy?

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Smart speakers
Similar size, similar price, which should you buy?
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

HomePod’s arrival makes the smart speaker market even more confusing for the average consumer. Amazon and Google are dominating right now, but HomePod’s closest rival is actually the Sonos One.

It’s in a similar price range, it’s about the same size, and both speakers focus on sound quality above everything else. I’ve now spent over three weeks with both the HomePod and the Sonos One to help you figure out which one you should buy.

Check out our comparison video below.

Alexa’s random, creepy laugh scares the crap out of people

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Amazon Alexa
Alexa is supposedly using Amazon Echo to frighten us.
Photo: Amazon

Anyone afraid that the robot apocalypse is imminent might head to the panic room now: Reports are coming in that Amazon’s Alexa smart speaker has begun laughing all on its own.

People who claim to have experienced this generally say they’re not interacting with their Amazon Echo, but it will suddenly begin laughing. Many of the descriptions describe the robolaughter as “creepy.”

HomePod sounds great, but you’re locked in [Review]

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Apple HomePod volume controls
The HomePod is Apple's first step into the smart speaker arena, but does it emerge victorious?
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

There are boatloads of smart speakers out there, but nothing quite like HomePod.

Like many Apple products that came before it, HomePod is here to revolutionize an industry. It’s certainly not first to market, but Cupertino’s plan is to make all HomePod competitors insignificant. The new Apple smart speaker uses cutting-edge technology that delivers outstanding sound quality to do just that.

You can’t buy another speaker of this kind for $349. That price tag is not exactly cheap, but if you love music, HomePod should be at the top of your shopping list.

HomePod unboxing video: First look at Apple’s smart speaker

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HomePod HomeKit Unboxing
Check out Apple's new HomePod in action.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

After months of delays, Apple’s HomePod is finally available in Apple Stores today. Before we get to the reviews, comparisons and tips, with our latest video we give you a tour of what’s in the box, show you how easy it is to set up, show it off in action and my first impressions.

Check the video out below.

Over half a billion devices now ‘actively’ use Siri

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Siri
Siri usage is climbing rapidly.
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Siri is now “actively” used on more than half a billion devices, Apple has revealed. The virtual assistant, which will be used to control HomePod, has been attracting users at a rapid rate despite falling behind its competitors in features and accuracy.

Why Apple’s HomePod is poised to bomb

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Will Apple's HomePod smart speaker be DOA?

Image: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

HomePod, the first new Apple product of 2018, is about to arrive. And as a huge Apple fanboy, I couldn’t care less.

Apple’s been hyping its smart speaker ever since unveiling the device last June at the Worldwide Developers Conference. And yet HomePod has failed to really excite fans (except through leaks that gave us early details about the iPhone X). Apple bills HomePod as a powerful speaker that packs Siri to take your listening experience to an all-new level. But with its Feb. 9 release just weeks away, HomePod is looking more like Apple’s next big bomb.