After waiting for months, users of Amazon Fire TV will now enjoy be able to download HBO Max app on their devices. The release came on 17th November 2020 and is estimated to roll out to 40 million customers who use Fire TV devices like sticks, tablets, and TVs.
The update comes automatically via Prime Video channels with no extra cost to customers. The HBO Max existing users will sign as usual. The new subscribers will be able to directly create an account via Amazon Fire TV if they wish.
Launching the service was initially delayed by ongoing negotiations between Amazon and WarnerMedia. Another company is Roku with current ongoing conversations, meaning that Roku subscribers will still wait a little longer for HBO Max – there has been no confirmed date for its release.
However, there is a user’s workaround on Roku who are Apple device owners. It was recently revealed that Roku Streambar, Roku Premiere, Rock Streaming Stick+, and Roku TV currently support AirPlay from all Apple devices; hence you could stream HBO Max through your laptop or phone and share to Roku device where you watch series and films on the big screen.
If you don’t yet have HBO Max, you could sign up on the website for an account for $14.99 monthly. The services are currently available only in the US, but we got a workaround for signing up in the UK.
The account grants you access to upcoming exciting shows like the reunion episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, the reunion episode of Friends, and the Justice League Snyder Cut. There are plenty of classical Warner Bros films and shows to enjoy and acclaimed HBO shows like Game of Thrones.
The Best Devices for a Smart home – and what to do with them
Smart homes are here to stay. Right now, you can decide whether you want to turn your lights on manually or with your voice. Already, household electronics are being designed for Internet of Things so that one day soon, your home appliances and fittings will automatically adjust themselves to fit in with your lifestyle.
These devices will collect information, analyze the information, and respond to this information. This will make your home a smart home.
The promise of smart homes is an easier life as well as more efficient use of scarce resources like water and energy.
Defining Smart Homes
When the gadgets in your home are connected wirelessly, they operate in smart ways. The lights might come on when you walk into your home. Your entire home may even be able to secure itself at night without you doing anything – doors locking, curtains closing, thermostat dialing down, and lights going off. The whole routine goes on without you lifting a finger.
‘SMART’ stands for Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology, which means that a smart home is not just automated – it actively gathers information and amends its behavior accordingly. All these are possible features of an automated home. Pre-determined triggers prompt the home to do things. For example, lights can go off at a certain hour, or in response to a verbal instruction. Thermostats can dial up or down depending on the temperature. Soon, smart homes will feature cutting-edge artificial intelligence.
All the home automation options available rely on programming to connect all your devices into a truly smart home. Programs are designed to respond to voice commands, the location of the home owner, and other triggers.
Smart Devices for a Smart Home
Smart lighting is a good place to start if you want to achieve a smart home. Besides energy savings and convenience, smart lighting instantly makes your home cool. Smart bulbs can adjust intensity, oscillate between warm and white, even change color. Smart switches connect all the lights so that they are easy to control.
Smart locks add convenience and let in visitors securely. They save you from the hassle of carrying keys – or hiding them under a rug. A fingerprint, code, or phone is enough to let you in. They can also trigger other features like light or shut everything down upon departure.
With a little help from your phone, the locks, or presence sensors, your thermostat can know whether you are home and turn itself down or up. This saves energy. The thermostat can also adjust to more heat from the sun.
You may not have CCTV, but a smart home allows you to keep watch using cheap wifi enabled cameras that are motion activated. They are simple enough for anyone to install and use.
Burglars are more likely to avoid a home under surveillance because they provide evidence. They help you watch your pets, elders, or teenagers home.
The video doorbell is a special device that functions like voicemail on your door. Visitors who turn up in your absence can record a video message for you.
With a smart security system, you can monitor your home from anywhere using your smartphone.
Smart TVs are already present in most homes. Smart speakers are also super cheap and serve such a variety of uses as to be indispensible.
They can play a specific song on demand even enable your TV to receive voice commands.
You can connect your speaker to Alexa, Google, or Siri and it will take instructions like read the news or set a timer in the kitchen.
Why you should think about a Smart Home
There are three major reasons why people invest in smart homes. Smart homes offer efficiency, security, and convenience.
The interconnectedness of devices in a smart home makes it possible to manage your home more effortlessly. You can create a morning routine that involves setting off your alarm, getting the coffee maker started, turning on the lights, tuning into your preferred radio show, and starting off the shower.
With cameras and an internet connected smart home, you can always monitor the goings on while you are away. Someone showing up at your front door, any movement in the home, doors opening, can all trigger smart sensors to alert you. Smart locks can even tell you who it was that came in through the door, making it possible to keep tabs on your kids.
The smart thermostat drastically reduces energy consumption. But every aspect of the smart home contributes to energy efficiency. You can remotely manage your energy intensive domestic gadgets using a smart phone. You can ensure that rooms are only warmed and lit when they are being used. Smart plugs monitor home energy consumption and allow you to discern opportunities for cutting costs.
How the Smart Home Works
Smart devices are easy to install and use because they depend on wireless connections. You will not have to lay down untidy cable wires across your home. They run on Z-Wave, Bluetooth, Zigbee, Wi-Fi, or Thread protocol most of the time. These wireless radio protocols make it possible for your electronic devices to communicate with each other and with the Cloud.
In a smart home, devices may communicate with each other through a hub within the home and only use the Cloud to store data and process commands. This data includes video footage, photographs, etc. This data is relayed to the Cloud over Wi-Fi.
Most devices need to be controlled and set up via an app installed on a tablet/smart phone. The app enables smart home users to interact with their devices at home. They can schedule things or hook up to their smart home network to automate your home and put in place routines.
Choosing a Smart Home Ecosystem
You can buy smart gadgets like video doorbells that can do their job autonomously but a smart home is a lot more than just a single gadget. Your gadgets have to coordinate with each other to create routines, automate functions, and generally adjust to your lifestyle.
You can achieve this with a Smart Home Ecosystem which connects to all your home devices and allows them to be programmed, manipulated, and coordinated to create routines.
There are now four leading smart home ecosystems in the market: Homekit from Apple, Home from Google, Alexa from Amazon, and SmartThings from Samsung. They are all easy to install and set up. You do not need to hire someone else to install them, unless you want to.
You are already on the right track if you have a digital assistant combined with an ecosystem like Apple’s Homekit. To start setting up a smart home, you have to first have a clear picture of your priorities. Elements like lighting, temperature, security, and entertainment all need to be modified to fit in with your lifestyle as it is. Your lifestyle and preferences should inform your Smart Home design.
Start by looking for devices that enable you to control the elements you need to control, like heating. Once you have the device, you now need to put in an ecosystem to support the devices. Anything else will come as an add-on.
Most devices are capable of functioning within multiple ecosystems. You will not have to spend too much money on hardware. And apps are free on the Playstore or Applestore. You can switch from one ecosystem to another or even use them simultaneously. They are not designed to be mutually exclusive.
HomeKit from Apple
Pros and Cons of HomeKit from Apple:
HomeKit is simple and reliable, as well a secure solution for people who care about their privacy. The HomeKit processes all your data locally and encrypts it before uploading it to the Cloud. This ensures the privacy of your personal information.
Apple’s HomeKit is ideal for Apple users because it works with iPhones, Macs, iPads, and Apple Watches. Siri provides voice control. The HomeKit runs on Thread, WiFi, and Bluetooth.
The downside of working with HomeKit is that it is only compatible with iPhones and iPads, not Android devices. Users will need to deploy the HomePod Mini, Apple TV or other Apple Hub. This drives up the cost of the Apple HomeKit.
Pros and Cons of Alexa from Amazon:
Alexa is named for the voice assistant called Alexa. Alexa is affordable and offers the widest range of compatibility with the devices in your home. This range has been enhanced by the addition of Zigbee radio to Alexa’s Echo speaker (it already has Bluetooth and Wifi). This means that it works well with everything from light bulbs to motion sensors.
Alexa makes it easier to create a voice-control enabled smart home system because so many affordable smart speakers, thermostats, displays, and light switches come with it already inbuilt.
Even though it is compatible with more devices than HomeKit, there are some devices that do not necessarily work properly with Alexa. Do not purchase any electronic device before first testing how it works with Alexa. One more downside to Alexa is that it is harder to access using a smartphone compared to the other smart home solutions.
Pros and Cons of Google Home from Google:
The app for controlling this smart home system is also aptly called Google Home and you can use your smart phone to run it. Google Home’s answer to Alexa is the Google Assistant and it enables a voice controlled home. You can operate the Google Assistant from anywhere because it is in your smart watch or Android phone.
Google offers two smart displays: Nest Hub Max and Nest Hub with a touchscreen for a control panel. You do not need your voice to adjust your thermostat, lights, speakers, and locks.
The range of home devices that work with Google is growing fast, but still relatively small. Google Home does not offer users the option of using sensors to trigger routines. It only has voice command, phones, and automated schedules. Plus, Google Home only has Thread, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. It does not support Z-Wave or Zigbee.
Pros and Cons of SmartThings from Samsung:
SmartThings is one of the premier smart home solutions and is compatible with more smart home gadgets than the others. This includes most Samsung appliances, of course. SmartThings is capable of controlling Wi-Fi as well as Zigbee and Z-Wave devices.
This is an advantage because Z-Wave can work with smaller devices using less power. And it responds faster because it communicates to its hub and not the Cloud.
SmartThings can work with Alexa as well as Bixby voice assistant from Samsung. You can use both.
The downside is that SmartThings is the most complex system, especially when paired with Zigbee and Z-Wave devices. This is the downside of working with such a powerful and multifaceted system.
Building your own Smart Home System
What if you want a Smart Home but do not want to give tech companies access to your home? You could consider creating your own smart home. Use open-source software for your home assistant and Raspberry Pi.
This approach calls for the type of people who enjoy the challenge of building computers. It is rewarding and allows you to customize it and protect your private information.
Adding Voice Control to your Smart Home
All smart home systems can be voice-controlled. You should not have to get up from your couch to turn off the light (or adjust the temperature) after installing a smart home.
A smart speaker will give you the best voice control. Each of these systems has compatible speakers which have radio for wireless protocols. These speakers do more than just add voice control.
Smartphones, smart watches, tablets, and smart speakers have digital assistants. Only Siri from Apple works from a desktop computer.
Voice control works when you equip each room with a speaker which will automatically know which room it is placed in.
Putting it all Together
After installing your smart home gadgets, you want to create routines and scenes and automate functions. Thankfully, the ecosystems we have discussed are nearly similar.
You start by picking a trigger which will prompt the automated functions. The trigger could be your location, the time, or an event – like a door being opened.
You then decide on when or the ‘conditions’ under which these functions will happen. It could be daily or on weekends, or when you are away. You could put in place one condition or multiple conditions.
You can now decide what happens next. For example when someone opens a door, a camera comes on or the thermostat is adjusted. Multiple actions can happen at once. They are called a Scene.
To trigger a scene, you may use the app or voice command. For example, a ‘movie’ scene will turn up heat, dim lights, and start Netflix.
Here are some routines you can start with: Goodbye, Good Morning, Welcome home, and Goodnight. These are all fully customizable.
Netflix Tests new ‘Sleep Timer’ Feature
Netflix users worldwide can access their new sleep timer. Users may select either 15-minute, 30-minute or 45-minute timers. You may also set the timer to when a film or episode ends.
Ever fallen asleep as you watched a Netflix show? Well, the streaming giant will make things better. Netflix has launched an Android devices test that allows the user to set ‘sleep timer.’ With four distinctive timer settings, the sleep time Netflix feature is right now limited only to a few global users. Netflix Android users may select either 15-minute, 30 minute or 45-minute timer. Also, you may set the timer to when a film or episode ends.
Netflix Sleep Timer Allow the User to Select Three Timeframes
It means you may follow a show without being left wondering when it left off. Netflix has now said it would focus on expanding the feature to desktops and other devices. TV’s are included as well. Depending on well-wishers adoption of the feature, we might look at the Netflix sleep timer soon enough on Indian shores. If you’re among the lucky few with the feature enabled on your Android device. Here’s how to use it.
- Play any film or show on Netflix
- You will notice the ‘timer’ icon on the top right corner.
- Select the ‘Timer’ icon by clicking on it
- You can now opt to select ‘Finish Show’ and stop immediately, or you can choose between 15, 30, 45 minutes.
Currently, the feature is accessible on adult profiles but can show up in kid’s profile. Netflix is aiming at enhancing Android devices audio experience. Netflix streams using xHE-AAC as well on Android devices. You could read more of that here. Recently the streaming giant hit 200 million subscribers, here’s how Netflix changed the game in India.
Amazon Echo Link Amp Vs Sonos Amp: Which should you Invest in?
While choosing between the Echo Amp and the Sonos Amp, you need to estimate both device specifications and features. Both of them are popular and premium options for home installation of wireless listening options. However, Sonos Amp outshines Echo Link Amp in connectivity and audio quality from a one-liner review, but its price is relatively higher.
Looks: Amazon Echo Link Amp Vs Sonos Amp
Both devices are black and rectangular. The Echo Link Amp is one inch taller and broader than the Sonos Amp, making the latter a bit sleeker in appearance and would be the best fit for an entertainment centre.
Both devices have limited front audio controls. In terms of volume, Echo Amp has on the front one volume knob while Sonos Amp got two buttons on each side and a play/pause button.
The HDMI-ARC port for Sonos Amp allows the transmission of audio from the television devices via HDMI to the speaker. The Echo Link Amp has input and output ports, while Sonos Amp offers an output through an adapter plugging in an HDMI port.
Sonos Vs Echo Link Amp
The Echo Link Amp and Sonos Amp produce 2:1 stereo sounds. The Sonos Amp could extend to 4.1 surround sound if wireless Sonos speakers were added, while the Echo Link Amp strictly remains at the stereo output. The Echo Link Amp produces a power of 60 watts to each speaker. On the other hand, Sonos Amp supplies 125 watts to every speaker providing too quality sound to the speakers.
Both devices are great in multi-room audio features. The Echo Link Amp can be grouped with various Echo supported devices while the Sonos Amp does the same, but exceeds Echo Link Amp by streaming audio for the whole home and using any device.
Echo Link Amp does not support Bluetooth devices and line-in casting to multi-rooms. Still, the Sonos supports audio to multi rooms through multiple Sonos Amps connections with a similar network.
Streaming Features: Sonos Amp Vs Amazon Echo Link Amp
The Amazon Echo Link Amp directly supports audio streaming across nine-play services: Spotify, TuneIn, iHeartRadio, Pandora, SiriusXM, Tidal, Deezer, Apple Music, and Amazon Music. Sonos Amp, on the other hand, supports 130 music streaming platforms via the Sonos S2 app. Both of them support Amazon’s Alexa Voice Assistant with their smart assistant capabilities. The Echo Link Amp supports the Bluetooth feature of streaming music from a music device.
The most favored device and the undoubted winner is Sonos Amp. The Sonos Amp outshines the Echo Link Amp with streaming music’s capability via any device as it has wireless expansion capabilities, but in terms of pricing, there’s an edge with Echo Link Amp.
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