Recent Telsyte research predicted more than a quarter of Australian households will soon have a smart speaker.
This is an easy prediction to believe given the market leading Google Home products are being foisted on consumers engaging in such strange behaviours as having an account with the world’s biggest music streaming service or shopping at one of Australia’s two supermarkets.
More cynical commentators than myself may describe this as a nefarious plan to implant Google connected microphones into your home but I’m sure it’s just part of the company’s overall vision to produce and release as many products as possible with no attention given to the impact on profits.
Regardless of how you managed to obtain your Google Home smart speaker – whether it showed up in your groceries or (perish the thought) you plonked down some of your hard earned for it – by now you’ve no doubt noticed what a capable, convenient and easy to use device it is, if not for one pesky flaw: the lack of a battery.
No doubt necessitated by its need to constantly listen for its “wake word” (and rest assured, nothing else!), smart speakers like the Google Home Mini and Amazon Echo Dot require constant power.
The obvious (and for Amazon and Google, preferred) solution to this problem is to simply buy more products to litter around your home, ensuring you’re only one voice command away from listening to a Spotify radio station based off an artist with a similar name to the one you asked it to play from its ever-so-slightly-better-than-a-phone’s speaker.
But what about those consumers who prefer to instead purchase a different product?
For them, the “lifestyle technology” company Ninety7 offers the JOT battery base ($59.95), a sleekly designed external battery that turns the Google Home Mini into a battery powered, portable smart speaker.
The design of the JOT is probably its best feature.
To install the Home Mini into the base, users unclip a front lip on the circular base and slide the Home Mini into the micro-USB port on the JOT.
Clipping the front back in reveals a flush fit that leaves only the fabric top of the Home Mini visible.
In the JOT, the Home Mini goes up several points in terms of aesthetic appeal.
A similar rubber circle to that under the Home Mini keeps the JOT from sliding around on a counter top while four white lights on the front indicate battery life.
The Home Mini doesn’t need to be removed to charge either thanks to a micro-USB input at the rear of the JOT.
Access to the microphone switch is also maintained through a cut out on the side.
The one time I used this access slot (to turn the microphone off) I found it useable enough, but a little deep.
If you’re frequently switching the microphone off and on you might find it a touch annoying but otherwise it’s hardly noticeable.
While the JOT is made out of plastic, from a distance it looks “premium” thanks to its paint job, though a distracting seam runs across the front to support the removable clip.
Moving this clip to the back would probably be the easiest solution.
The JOT lists a 5000mAh battery on the base, which Ninety7 claim will last you up to 8 hours.
This raises an interesting point about the power consumption of these connected “smart” speakers.
The need to constantly listen, constantly power a microphone and analyse the noise it picks up – is obviously a massive power draw, given Bluetooth speakers such as the Ultimate Ears Boom boast significantly longer battery lives with significantly smaller capacity batteries.
The intended application for the JOT appears to be having it live on the charge and be unplugged when portability is required, for instance taking it into the yard or the bathroom.
It’s unlikely this application requires longer than an 8 hour battery life, though over time I can imagine the battery capacity lessening somewhat from constant semi-charge cycles.
If you got your Home Mini for free and want to up its portability then the JOT makes a pretty powerful value proposition (it’s also one of the few options for doing so).
Those who purchased a Home Mini will likely be quick to notice the price of the JOT actually exceeds that of the speaker it powers.
Purchasing an accessory that costs more than the product it’s for is a pretty hard contradiction to reconcile, but at the end of the day if you already have a Home Mini you’ll be hard up finding a better alternative, with the other portable options being battery powered speakers that support Google Assistant functionalities.
Many of these operate on the basis of using the Google Assistant on a connected device, which means turning on the screen of your phone or having it plugged in, so if you want to retain the always on nature of the Google Home Mini, the JOT would likely be your best option.
Smart speakers are decidedly not my cup of tea, and I’m hesitant to put one in my home, let alone carry it around there with me.
But hypothetically if I were the JOT would probably be where I turn.
Its price raises a few eyebrows, but it at least improves the look and portability of the speaker.