It is an emotion that I’ve not felt in a while. As a former Apple fanboi who morphed into a platform-agnostic tech lover, I cannot remember the last time I saw a piece of tech and got genuinely excited about it.
I’ve been looking at smart speakers recently. Of course, as a tech head, I’m interested in them but it’s not exciting-exciting. They basically take the voice-command element off a phone or tablet and put it directly into a speaker. It’s just moving something into a different space.
Aside from platform, the issue for me is that everything is a compromise. The platform question has been quite easily answered – it has to be Google Assistant because (a) I am invested in the ecosystem more than I am any other and (b) Google, unlike Amazon, is a proper tech firm and leveraging their search smarts means the responses are already better. I know they are behind on device skills but there is no doubt that they will catch up.
But about those compromises.
All the available speaker options are either too big or too tinny or too tied to a cable (or, in the case of the Panasonic GA10, too utterly horrendous looking). It doesn’t really matter which you are looking at although, in fairness, the Amazon Tap is the one that seems to overcome most of the issues (assuming you want to be tied in to the shop).
And then I saw it.
For the first time in years, I’m actually excited about a bit of tech and I want to get my hands on it!
Seriously, I haven’t written a review of a piece of tech in years. A decade ago, I was writing and reviewing for the Palm OS device site, PalmAddicts and I contributed to lots of other tech sites after on all sorts of other tech hardware and software. I’ve also written in my own sites.
I cannot remind the last time that I thought “I want to get hold of that”.
Finally, that’s changed!
And that’s all down to the Mobvoi TicHome Mini.
From what I’ve read and seen, it has the potential to be almost perfect smart speaker. It has:
- a decent sounding speaker in a small device
- a six hour battery (making it ideal for slipping into the case when going on business overnight trips)
- splashproof protection (making it ideal for listening to when in the shower)
- a micro USB charging port (Google – what the hell were you thinking with that wall wort for Google Home?)
Now, of course, Google might come up with better – and that is the challenge. Google is rumoured to be announcing a Google Home Mini in October and, at the end of the day, the Mobvoi TicHome Mini isn’t actually available yet – and we don’t know when it will be available nor whether there will be a territorial role out (just look at the faces of people in France and our annoyance at not being able to buy an Amazon Echo – still!) nor the actual pricing (other than ‘under $100’).
Who is going to win this one is anyone’s guess but, with Christmas coming up, they both need to get those products in boxes and in people’s hands if they want to make Christmas 2017 the ‘Smart Speaker Christmas’. However, on the basis of what Mobvoi is telling us, if the price is right, they could just have a groundbreaking product that is at the forefront of the Christmas rush.