iHome joined the busy market of Alexa-enabled speakers recently, with its iAVS16 which is an alarm clock but also a speaker. iHome has been in the audio as well as the alarm clock business for quite some time. Over the years, it has created alarm clocks for you to dock your iPhone, as well as speakers that offer some great sound quality. And now we have basically both in one package, with Alexa inside. So the real question here is how well does it work with Alexa? Well let's find out.
The iHome iAVS16 has both WiFi and Bluetooth for streaming music, it also has a 2.1A USB port on the back for charging your smartphone. iHome has not mentioned the specs of the actual speaker of the iAVS16, but it looks to be on pair with some of the other Alexa speakers out there. It does also have far field voice technology inside for using Alexa, which is basically a necessity these days for Alexa.
In the Box
Inside the box with the iHome iAVS16, you'll find the iAVS16, as well as a power supply and some paperwork. That is about it. Now this doesn't use a micro USB or USB-C cable for power, but a DC cable since it does need a bit more juice.
Hardware & Build Quality
iHome isn't a premium audio brand, so the build quality of this speaker is not surprising in the least. It's mostly plastic, which is mostly fine. But it looks like an alarm clock someone would buy about 5 years ago, when smartphones were just becoming a thing. It's really not unique, compared to what's on the market - both now and in the past. But it is a useful speaker/alarm clock and does its job. So that's definitely what matters here.
The iHome iAVS16 is actually a somewhat heavy speaker, but that's not an issue either, since you won't be moving this much, due to the fact that it is not portable (read: there's no battery inside). On the bottom of the iAVS16 there are four rubber feet, used to keep it in place and keep it from moving around. The front of it has a speaker with a display in the front. Now this isn't a display like what you'd find on the Echo Show, but something you'd find on an alarm clock (after all, that is what this is, really).
On the top of the iAVS16 is where you'll find all of the buttons. There are buttons for play/pause, skip and previous, as well call and Bluetooth buttons. Since there is a speaker and a mic inside, you are able to make calls with this speaker. In the center, you'll find the Alexa button. Now you can press that instead of saying "Alexa" if you wanted too. But to be honest, I rarely used any of these buttons, at all. Since everything I did with the iAVS16 was done via voice control with Alexa.
Basically, this isn't the prettiest looking Alexa speaker out there, that likely is still the unreleased Harman Kardon model. But it works well, and if you're looking for an alarm clock to go next to your bed, this is definitely worth taking a look at, especially for Alexa integration.
To get started with the iHome iAVS16, you'll need to download the iHome iAVS app from the Google Play Store. You'll actually connect to the speaker through that app, and then give Alexa permission to use it. It's a bit cumbersome right now, but that's how Amazon works with third-party Alexa products right now. To be honest, the actual iHome software you will barely use other than for the initial setup, but the app is actually pretty well put together.
In the app, you can choose to play music from a specific source, instead of going through Alexa. Some of the supported sources include iHeart Ratio, Spotify, Alexa and locally stored music. And streaming is done over WiFi, unless you are using an unsupported service, like Google Play Music, then it works over Bluetooth. Selecting the icon at the top of the app will take you to that app, and start playing music.
There are a few settings within the app that are important to take note of. Like the weather. The iHome iAVS16 display does show the weather at all times, so it's important to make sure you have the appropriate location selected so that you get the correct weather date. It's also important to select the proper time zone, as it won't automatically know where it is, and when daylight savings time ends, etc. That's something we found out the hard way when we turned back the clocks a few weeks ago, but this one stayed an hour ahead. There are two "Smart Buttons" a triangle a square located on the iAVS16, which you can map to do different things, but to be honest, they didn't appear to serve any real purpose. The functionality is limited to basically only allowing you to switch to a music source or mute the audio.
For the most part, Alexa works on the iAVS16 the same as it does on other speakers. You can ask Alexa to play music, ask Alexa what the weather is like, to read you the latest news headlines and so much more. Now, Amazon does limit some of the functionality on third-party Alexa speakers, especially when it comes to audio. But it's only a couple of audio services that aren't supported, and they are ones that most people won't even use. So other than that, it's a pretty good experience.
While you'll use the iHome iAVS app to get things going on this speaker, you'll need the Amazon Alexa app for everything else, basically. With the Alexa app, you will be able to find and enable new skills, as well as text other users and make phone calls. Smart Home skills will also need to be enabled for the iHome iAVS16, however, if you have used another Echo or other Alexa device in the past, these skills will move over to the new iHome iAVS16, so there's nothing to worry about there. Alexa will still be able to control your lights and such with the iHome iAVS16, which is nice to see.
There's now a ton of different Alexa-enabled speakers on the market and coming to the market. In the second half of this year, a ton of companies announced their own Alexa speaker, some of which have launched, some of which haven't. Now the iHome iAVS16 is a pretty good option here, but it's not going to be the perfect option for everyone. To put it simply, if you are looking for an alarm clock to have next to your bed, then this is a great option, since there is Alexa inside (think about it, you can get into bed then tell Alexa to turn off your lights). But those looking for a speaker that offers great audio quality, will want to look elsewhere. While the iHome iAVS16 isn't particularly bad at audio, it's not its main strength either.