Honeywell voice-activated thermostat has its say

Honeywell has been playing catch-up in the smart thermostat game of late. Their $249 Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat is extremely capable, but came on the heels of the $249 Nest Learning Thermostat; a slightly panicked response to a surprise competitor.

But today’s announcement from Honeywell serves as a reminder that an industry rival can be a good thing -- it tends to speed up innovation and it makes us consumers feel like we’re being courted. Not too shabby.

I’m talking about the newly announced $349 Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat with Voice Control.

And if you think it looks a lot like the $249 Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat I recently reviewed, you would be right. It is essentially the same: you will still be able to control your heating and cooling remotely using Honeywell's Total Connect Comfort app for Android and iOS, you can still change the background color to suit your mood or wall color, and it will still learn your habits over time. But the $349 model comes with a pretty major update: cloud-based voice-recognition tech.

To activate voice control on this thermostat, you simply say, "Hello, thermostat." You can be anywhere in your house -- provided it's no more than 25 feet away -- and the far-field voice-control tech takes care of the rest. It claims to cancel out any background noise so it's ready to listen intently for your commands. Honeywell also says that this model will add more commands to enhance your level of interactivity over time -- I'm pretty excited to test that functionality.

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