Smart Speakers vs. Bluetooth Speakers: What's the Difference and Which Should You Buy?

A photo of a Google Nest Mini on a counter. Vantage_DS / Shutterstock

There are only a lot you can learn from a name. The Bluetooth speakers and the smart speakers may look similar, but they are very different from each other in terms of portability, convenience and function. But what are the differences between Bluetooth speakers and smart speakers, and which ones should you buy?

We will take a closer look at Bluetooth speakers and smart speakers. But before I get to the heart of the matter, I want to give you a general summary of how they are different. The Bluetooth speakers are battery powered, portable and wireless. But smart speakers connect to your home Internet and listen to voice commands to listen to music or control your home: these are the Alexa and Google Assistant products you see on TV.

Now that you know the general difference between Bluetooth and smart speakers, let’s get to the heart of the matter.

Bluetooth speakers: portable, affordable and noisy

A photo of the JBL Charge 2 smart speaker on concrete.Roman Arbuzov / Shutterstock

A Bluetooth speaker is just a wireless speaker. It plays audio from your phone, tablet, computer or TV (including calls and ringtones). You don’t need to download a special app to use a Bluetooth speaker, but you need to pair your device with the speaker before you start using it.

Most Bluetooth speakers are battery powered and portable. Even small Bluetooth speakers like the JBL Charge where the Bose SoundLink can get noisy like hell, making them perfect for parties, travel, or wandering around the house. In addition, anyone with a phone or computer can connect to a Bluetooth speaker, so your friends and family don’t feel left out.

Of course, Bluetooth speakers aren’t just for parties. Some high-end Bluetooth speakers, such as Bluetooth sound bars or shelf speakers, stay connected to the wall and free up the clutter around your TV or audio equipment. Elements like the JBL CLIP are great for singing in the shower, and the Bluetooth speakers with built-in microphones (which are mostly at this point) can replace the awful speaker on your phone.

But the main selling point of Bluetooth speakers, aside from portability, volume level and low price, may be that they are not connected to the Internet. Smart Wi-Fi speakers feature obvious privacy issues that do not exist in the world of “stupid” Bluetooth speakers. Besides, you never know how long will a “connected” smart device work before its manufacturer deems it obsolete. Bluetooth speakers, on the other hand, will exist as long as Bluetooth exists.

Robust body, Killer Sound

Smart speakers: Wi-Fi connected, Smart Home Ready

A photo of the Amazon Echo smart speaker on a table.r.classen / Shutterstock

Smart speakers connected to the Internet, such as the Amazon Echo, Google Nest Mini, or Apple HomePod, listen to voice commands, and automatically grab whatever you want to listen to. They facilitate the extraction of podcasts, radio stations, songs, playlists, etc. without the help of your phone or computer.

If you are looking for a simple and awesome speaker for your home, a smart speaker might be a better option than a conventional Bluetooth speaker. Smart speakers deliver high-quality sound directly from the Internet, so your music doesn’t get interrupted every time you receive a phone call or text message. You can organize smart speakers for cheap and easy whole house audioand anyone on your Wi-Fi network can control your smart speaker from a phone or laptop if they’re not comfortable with voice commands.

Did I miss something? Oh that’s right. Smart speakers are also great personal assistants. You can ask a smart speaker to call a friend, answer a math problem, or set an event on your calendar. Smart speakers can control smart home devices, like dimmable bulbs or smart plugs, or even change the channel on your TV. Of course, not everyone is interested in the features of the smart home. If you want a smart speaker that focuses on high quality sound and has the possibility of voice commands, then the Sonos One might be your best bet.

Smart speakers come in all shapes and sizes. There is the little Google Nest Mini and Echo Dot, the average size Google Home and Amazon Echoand the big Google Home Max and Echo Studio. Google and Amazon also sell smart screens like the Google Nest Hub and the Echo Show, which are essentially smart speakers with touch screens.

But smart speakers are not portable. They are useless without a Wi-Fi connection and they rarely have a built-in battery. If you need something to take to the beach, this is not the way to go. In addition, smart speakers connected to the Internet are responsible for privacy issues and will not last as long as the Bluetooth speakers, which is worth considering if you plan to spend a lot of money.

Exceptional sound at a smart price

The in-between: portable smart speakers

A photo of the Sonos Move in a swimming pool.His bone

The difference between Bluetooth speakers and smart speakers is pretty clear. The Bluetooth speakers are portable and pair with your phone, while the smart speakers stay at home, connect to your Wi-Fi network, and work via voice commands.

But what if you want something between these two options? Well, you can still buy a portable smart speaker.

Portable smart speakers like the Sonos Move, Bose portable speaker, or JBL Link Portable have rechargeable batteries and work via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. They are perfect for walking around the house or relaxing outside where Wi-Fi is not available. The two speakers are weather resistant, have a battery life of more than 10 hours and can be recharged on magnetic media. These are not the most affordable speakers, but they are the only option for those who want the best of both worlds.

The best of both worlds

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