Tips Tech the Halls Gift Guide: Smart Home Basics
‘Tis the season to Deck the Halls – and to Tech the Halls too. Every week leading up to Christmas, we’ll feature some of the top tech gifts of the season – Week 1 for the home, Week 2 family-friendly, and Week 3 kid-friendly. We’ll also be giving away some fun, techie prizes, with a Very Grand Prize awarded nearer Christmas. Contest details are below.
This week, we’re featuring three smart – and oh, so fun – ideas to Tech the Halls of that cozy place you call home: Amazon Echo devices, smart plugs, and smart lights!
Amazon Echo Devices
At the core of any smart home, you’ll need a reliable Wi-Fi connection and the ability to control all your devices. If you want to keep it simple, choose a popular cloud-based voice service like Amazon’s Alexa and make sure all your devices are compatible. That should be easy to do since it’s available on hundreds of millions of devices – both Amazon and third-party brands.
At $29.99 (a limited–time deal; regularly $49.99), Amazon’s fourth-generation, 2020-release Echo Dot is a very nice Alexa-enabled smart speaker. It’s also their most popular! Sporting a new, round look (choose Charcoal, Glacier White, or Twilight Blue) and a new, rich sound, it’s a foundational buy for controlling your Smart Home via your voice. And, Alexa is always ready to help by answering questions, playing the news, checking the weather, setting alarms, adding items to lists, augmenting your home theatre, or connecting with others – hands-free! You can even use your Alexa devices like an intercom system to make announcements like “time for dinner” or play music throughout your home. One reviewer says, “It has a larger speaker, fires forward and upward, the sound is clearer, crisper; if you want more base or treble, open the Alexa app, and you can adjust the bass, midrange, and treble to your preference.” For just $10.00 more, you can get an Echo Dot with an LED display clock or upgrade to an Echo Show, featuring a 5-, 8-, or 10.1-inch display (ranging from $114.98 to $229.99; on sale now for $59.99-$149.99). With an Echo Show, video call a friend or family member, ask Alexa for recipe recommendations, display family photos, watch a movie, or connect with your home surveillance system to check in on activity around your home.
If you get just one, you’ll probably be adding more before long. We recommend the Amazon Smart Plug because it works with Amazon Alexa – adding voice control to any outlet. They’re very simple to install and their compact design keeps your second outlet free. Manage any electronic device easily with your voice or with the app on your smartphone or tablet, set timers, or even schedule routines that trigger reactions from all of your Smart Plugs with one command. The possibilities are endless – especially during the holidays. Use a Smart Plug to automatically turn on your Christmas tree and other holiday lights or say “Alexa, turn on the Christmas tree.” Set a routine to turn on your coffee maker, so you’ll wake up to the smell of your favorite brew. Use a smart plug to control appliances, fans – anything you can plug in. Cost is $24.99 per plug. Smart plugs must be connected to a Wi-Fi network; other brands that play nicely with Alexa are Smart Plug Amysen ($25.97 for four); Smart Plug Gosund ($15.99 for two); and Kasa Smart Outdoor Smart Plug ($49.86 for one with double outlets). Of course, there are great deals out there for the holidays, so watch for special sales. Sometimes, Amazon will also offer special savings when they package their smart plug with another device, like a smart light bulb or Echo device.
Although there are other options, we absolutely love Philips Hue Lighting. They’ve been around for a while and are literally brilliant in every way! Set the mood of a room by adjusting the brightness, color, and temperature of your lights – controlling them with the touch of a button on your favorite mobile device, or with your voice using Alexa. Friends coming over to watch the Chiefs? Set some red and gold tones to add to the fun. Decorating for Christmas? Yes, Hue lights can be green or red – or 16 million other colors! You can set lighting scenes, routines, employ motion sensors, or have the lights turn on as you near home … great for this time of year. Get lit with a Philips Hue White and Color Ambience Starter Kit, ($199.99) which includes four Smart Bulbs (they fit most lamps, overhead lights, and recessed cans), and your Hue Hub (which is compatible with Alexa and other voice assistants). Then from here, the possibilities are truly limitless – outdoor lighting, lightstrips, portable lights … currently over 90 different lighting options are available. If you’re looking for a lower price point without the need for an additional hub, C by GE Smart LED Bulbs ($54.99 for two) and Treatlife SmartLight Bulbs ($33.99 for four) both have 4-4.5 stars on Amazon. The Treatlife bulbs even have a music sync feature – great for taking your holiday festivities up a notch!
So, smart plugs, smart lights, and voice assistants like Alexa are a great start to creating a smart home, but the possibilities for automating your cozy dwelling are mind-boggling. Consider smart door locks, smart garage door openers, smart thermostats, smart appliances, smart camera and doorbell systems, smart home security devices, and yes, even robot vacuums! Except for maybe their tube transporters, the Jetsons really don’t have much on us – with a good Wi-Fi connection from SKT.
Contest Rules & Eligibility
This contest has ended.
Contest Rules & Details
- Ends December 21 at noon
- Three winners will be randomly selected and announced on December 22 on Facebook
- Prizes: Echo speaker, Amazon Fire tablet, and Chromebook laptop
- Must be an SKT customer 18 years or older with an account in good standing
- Primary residence must be at the service address
- SKT employees and members of their household are not eligible to win
Entry options include:
- Facebook: A Tech the Halls Giveaway post will be added to SKT’s Facebook page weekly leading up to Christmas, for a total of three (3) posts. Get up to one (1) entry per week by commenting as directed on each post.
- Website Form: Fill out the form on each Tech the Halls Gift Guide for up to three (3) entries. By submitting the form, you agree to be signed up for SKT’s monthly newsletter.
- 3-Month Speed Bump: Sign up for a free 3-month speed bump and get three (3) entries. Only for eligible SKT customers.
3-Month Free Speed Bump Rules
Qualified SKT Internet customers may receive a bump up to the next available internet package, free for three months. Open to residential and business service addresses. To qualify, the customer account must be in good standing and be eligible for a higher speed. Customers who have received a free speed bump in the last 12 months are not eligible. SKT reserves the right to determine eligibility.
Excludes customers in Belle Plaine, rural Mulvane, Peck, and the Lake Waltanna and Beaver Creek neighborhoods.