Look out, Amazon. Alibaba now has an entry in the smart speaker race, too

tianmao jingling x1 feature 2
It’s not just Google and Apple that Amazon need to be concerned about when it comes to competition for its smart home speaker, the Echo — now, Alibaba has entered the ring, too. The Chinese e-commerce giant launched a new device on Wednesday, July 5 called the Tianmao Jingling X1. Simply put, it’s an Echo for Chinese users, and for now, it’s available exclusively in China and speaks only Mandarin.

In some ways, it’s surprising that it took Alibaba this long to jump on the bandwagon. The Echo first made its debut nearly three years ago in November 2014, and since then, a number of similar devices have made their way onto the scene. There’s the Google Home from Alphabet’s Google, the Microsoft Cortana-powered speaker called the Invoke, and the upcoming HomePod from Apple. Indeed, EMarketer projects that almost 36 million Americans will interact with a smart speaker once a month in 2017, an increase of nearly 130 percent over last year.

Alibaba, in fact, is not even the first Chinese company to begin toying with smart speakers. Baidu has created the Xiaoyu Zaijia, and JD.com has LingLong DingDong. But what sets Alibaba’s X1 apart? According to a CNBC report, it’s all about the artificial intelligence, data, and built-in ecommerce capabilities. As an Alibaba executive noted in a press conference in Beijing, the X1 already boasts “hundreds of skills” in music, entertainment, online shopping, fitness, and education.

Like similar products, the speaker requires a voice trigger, which in this case is “Tmall Genie” in Chinese. It comes in black and white, and during a streamed demonstration on Wednesday, the X1 was asked to buy and deliver Coca Cola, play music, add credit to a phone, and activate a smart humidifier and TV.

Alibaba’s smart home hub will be quite affordable, at least for the first 1,000 people who get their hands on the new technology. The X1 will sell for about $73 during a one-month trial period. It’s unclear how much it will set the remaining eager buyers back once they discover its full potential.

You can sign up here to buy the device, and the first X1s are set to ship on July 17.

Product Review

The Nuimo Click’s self-powering control convenience is cool but costly

Smart home devices might be clever, but needing your phone to use them is not. Senic’s Nuimo Click is the set of physical buttons that your smart devices are missing. But these smart, self-powered buttons aren’t cheap.

Apple Music vs. Spotify: Which service is the streaming king?

Apple Music is giving Spotify a run for its money, but which service is best for you? In our Apple Music vs. Spotify showdown, we compare and contrast all we know about the two streaming music services.
Smart Home

Which is better, the Amazon Echo or the Google Home? We took a look at both

What happens when you compare the Google Home vs the Amazon Echo? Both smart speakers have good qualities, but what happens when you compare they're features side-by-side? We think one of these smart gadgets wins over the other.

Keep an eye on things with the Alexa-enabled Ring video doorbell, now only $93

Smart home devices like the Ring video doorbell make it easier to keep an eye on your castle right from your smartphone – no matter where you are. If you want to smarten up your home security, here's how you can grab a Ring doorbell on…
Smart Home

Amazon starts crowdsourcing Alexa’s answers. What could go wrong?

Amazon announced a new resource for its Alexa voice assistant. Alexa Answers is an invitation-only program to which select Amazon customers will be invited to supply brief answers to questions that Alexa was asked but couldn't answer.
Smart Home

ConnectSense’s next plug iteration makes a home smart without a hub

The newest smart outlet in the ConnectSense line of smart home products not only provides a dual plug but can also operate independently of a smart home home, allowing users to control devices directly through an app.
Smart Home

The C By GE Smart LED Bulbs Work Seamlessly With Google Home

The Smart Light Starter Kit contains a smart lightbulb and a Google Home Mini. For those seeking to try out smart lights in their home, it's a great option and is currently on sale for just $35 through Google.
Product Review

Putting on the grits with the Instant Pot pressure cooker

If you want to dip your toe into the low-temperature waters of sous vide, the Anova precision cooker is a good way to start. It has a robust app and an easy-to-use interface that just may convert you to a whole new way of cooking.
Smart Home

Instant Pots! Get your Instant Pot! 5 models are on sale now at Amazon

Consumers win big when Amazon pops deals on popular products like Instant Pots. Five Instant Pot models on sale range from $30 to $60 off. If you've been waiting to buy an Instant Pot for a holiday gift, this could be the time.
Smart Home

The best washing machines make laundry day a little less of a chore

It takes a special kind of person to love doing laundry, but the right machine can help make this chore a little easier. Check out our picks for the best washing machines on the market right now.

Best deals on home security cameras to save you from package thieves

Home security camera systems can help keep your home and your family safe. Amazon's deals on Blink security cameras and Ring Video Doorbells also help you save money on devices you can access regardless of your current location.
Smart Home

Google Store sale is on now through December 24!

Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2018 may be history, but fans of Google hardware including the popular Google Home Hub, Pixel 3 and 3XL mobile phones still have lots of deals in store -- the Google Store, that is.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Folding canoes and ultra-fast water filters

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Smart Home

Put away that sponge and let us help you pick the best dishwasher for your buck

Tired of doing dishes by hand? Take a look at our picks of the four best dishwashers currently available and let a machine do the dirty work for you. They’ll do a much better job, anyway.