Smartphones are gadgets many of us can’t live without - according to Ofcom 71% of UK adults own a smartphone.* Whether you use it to listen to Spotify, live radio or podcasts, a speaker is a great way to boost the sound from your phone or tablet’s speakers.
Clearly, you’re going to want a speaker with great sound quality. But what else should you be looking for?
What to look for in a smartphone or tablet speaker
If it’s a mobile speaker option you’re after, make sure to consider rechargeable battery life (at least eight hours is good) and size – if a portable speaker is too bulky to carry around all day, or if its battery dies halfway through your favourite album, it’s not going to be much use at all.
And what about waterproofing? Some portable speakers are designed for outdoor use, and built to withstand splashes and dust – something to think about if you’re planning on taking your new speaker on holiday with you.
Also consider connectivity. All of the speakers we’ve recommended below can connect wirelessly to your phone or tablet, but some use Bluetooth (which means you can connect them anywhere) while others use wi-fi (a little more limiting location-wise, and more complicated setup-wise, but potentially better for high-end audio quality). If a speaker comes with Bluetooth and NFC (Near Field Communication), for instance, you may be able to wirelessly pair it with your phone by merely tapping the two devices together.
How to connect a wireless speaker
We’ve already mentioned the simple NFC method of pairing a Bluetooth-enabled speaker with your phone or tablet, but other speakers may require other methods.
Wi-fi-enabled models, for instance, generally need to be hooked up to the same wireless network as the tablet or smartphone in order to stream. While this can be a slight annoyance the first time, on subsequent uses you shouldn’t need to make any changes at all.
With other models, you may prefer a physical connection, using a 3.5mm cable to link the two devices – an old-fashioned method perhaps, but reliable.
The best smartphone and tablet speakers for holiday
Ultimate Ears Roll 2
Small but mighty, the Bluetooth-equipped Roll 2 produces a surprising amount of audio power and detail for its size. It’s also fully waterproof (not just splash-proof – you can dunk this in a pool for up to 30 minutes) and battery-powered, offering up to nine hours of on-the-go use, making it an ideal travel speaker.
Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay A1
£199, John Lewis
Another small, round, battery-powered speaker that’s resistant to water and dust, the BeoPlay A1 is a great choice for those who value both gorgeous design and refined sound quality. With up to 24 hours of full-bodied music playback per charge, it’s a mobile music master.
The best smartphone and tablet speakers for kitchen
Equipped with Alexa, Amazon’s voice-operated personal assistant, the Echo is more than just a Bluetooth speaker (although it’s a very good one) – it connects to the internet and can answer questions, quickly becoming a valuable household item. And why keep it in the kitchen? Well, because you can tell it to add needed items to your shopping list, or ask it for recipe tips. Read more about Alexa.
The T7 is small enough to sit on your countertop without taking up too much food prep area, and is battery-powered, making it ideal for taking it on your travels. It also has aptX Bluetooth and a solid construction, and performs better than you'd expect for such a diminutive device.
The best smartphone and tablet speakers for office
Logitech X300 Mobile Wireless Stereo Speaker
An affordable, compact speaker in smart “business casual” attire, the X300 has a surprisingly distortion-free delivery that deals well with music at an office-level volume. It also works as a wireless speakerphone – useful if your work dictates you go hands-free at times.
If you need more power (let’s say you work in a more cavernous space), the Muo ably serves up the goods, maintaining a clear and detailed performance, even at higher volumes. It’s also solidly built and elegantly styled – ideal for office life, in other words.
The best smartphone and tablet speakers for car
Audio Pro Addon T3
The natty leather handle and 30-hour battery life make the Addon T3 as useful out of your motor as inside it, although its somewhat bulky build means it’s better left on a car seat than lugged around all day.
£329, Richer Sounds
What a Katch! And this Bluetooth speaker sounds just as good as it looks, wringing a gloriously composed performance for up to 24 hours (thanks to a big battery). With NFC, a slim build and a carrying handle, it’s wonderfully easy to live with.
The best smartphone and tablet speakers for living room
Monitor Audio Airstream S150
A compact, mains-powered Bluetooth speaker with absolutely superb full-range sound quality, the Airstream S150 is ideal for small and medium-sized living rooms.
£995, John Lewis
Something of a modern classic, the Mu-so is as close to no-compromise as wireless speakers get. Loaded with features – not only Bluetooth, but Spotify Connect, AirPlay, UPnP and access to thousands of internet radio stations – and with a super-solid construction and powerful amplifier that allows it to outperform much larger hi-fis.
The best smartphone and tablet speakers for multiroom
Libratone Zipp Mini
From £169, John Lewis
This cylindrical speaker outputs an engaging, bass-heavy sound, and thanks to its wi-fi capabilities, can be used in a multi-room setup: buy several Zipp Minis, connect them to the same network and using the companion app you can unite them to play the same music throughout your entire home.
Sonos is the market leader in multi-room audio, largely because of two things: excellent sound quality from small speakers; and simple setup. The PLAY:5 is the company’s most expensive music speaker, but if you’re looking for a centrepiece for your multi-room system, there’s nothing in this price range that can touch it – and you can use the more affordable PLAY:1 and PLAY:3 speakers for other rooms, thanks to Sonos’ mix and match approach.
*Ofcom Fast Facts. Prices subject to change