All everybody wanted for Christmas was an Echo Dot and Alexa

The holiday shopping season is nearly over and Amazon’s Echo Dot smart speaker and its built-in Alexa voice assistant dominated the sales charts.

Following Christmas Day, Amazon triumphantly announced the Echo Dot was the best-selling product of the holiday season on its website. 

Around the same time, the Alexa app also made its way to the No. 1 spot on the App Store for the first time, and the Google Home app managed to sneak into the top ten (if only for a brief moment).

It’s easy to look at this and say, “Great, a lot of people got smart speakers this holiday season,” but the moment also marks an important milestone: The smart home is finally — really this time — upon us all.

The coming of the smart home has been years in the making — the Echo launched in 2015 — but for many people it hasn’t arrived until now.

And for good reason! Up until now, smart speakers were too expensive and connecting them to other smart devices was a confusing process. But that’s all changed in the last few years.

The Echo was $200 when it launched — far too expensive for a lot of people to justify using voice controls to turn on the lights or play music when walking up and pushing a switch or pressing a button worked just fine.

As with all emerging technology, the cost has fallen significantly over time.

The barrier to a smart home now starts at a fourth of what it was two years ago. Instead of buying a $200 Echo, all you need is a $50 Echo Dot or Google Home Mini. Sure, you don’t get the beefier speaker systems in the Echo or Google Home, but you still get voice controls, and that’s all that really matters for a modern smart home.

The money you save with these more affordable smart speakers can be put towards the necessary smart devices needed to build out a smart home. Like smart light bulbs, or a smart thermostat, or a smart security camera, or smart plugs to make your regular old non-internet-connected devices smarter.

It’s perhaps not surprising then that Philips Hue Smart light bulbs and TP-Link’s Smart Plug also made Amazon’s list of best-selling smart products of the holiday season.

Connecting smart devices to these smart speakers is also easier than before. There are more things to connect, and device makers are finding all kinds of ways to connect them together to services you already might use.

When the cost of a decent smart home can be had for less than $500 instead of $1,000, suddenly the concept isn’t merely technology and convenience for early adopters — it’s for everyone. Think of it like a smartphone. The iPhone changed everything, but cheaper Android phones were the ones that brought the idea of an internet-connected touchscreen slab to the masses. 

That so many people bought an Echo Dot either for themselves or for someone else suggests that we’re over the honeymoon phase. We’re in full-blown, this-is-a-real-product-category and you should start paying attention to what’s happening in this space because things are about to get really interesting.

Home automation has the potential to make our lives more efficient and give us back time to do more important things (or just waste more time binging on Netflix). What used to cost thousands of dollars in hardware and installation is now entirely DIY.

Welcome to the smart home era! You may never have to lift a finger to do anything ever again.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/12/27/amazon-echo-dot-alexa-smart-home-top-holiday-2017-gift/