The Amazon Echo is a large Bluetooth speaker with more functionality than, well, an average Bluetooth speaker. Meant for home use, the nine inch speaker weighs about two pounds and is solidly built to say the least. The main attraction featured in the Echo is the built in digital assistant, known as Alexa. Alexa is somewhat like Siri, Apple’s digital assistant. Alexa is there to help you with different questions you might have, or tasks you wish to accomplish. She will play your music, read the news, make to-do lists, lookup information, and even do math.
Alexa is accompanied by a free-to-download iPhone app. This app will keep record of all the commands you’ve given, to-do lists, account information, and your music streaming services. Alexa’s services are slightly limited at this point, but keep in mind that the Amazon Echo is continuously being updated with new features and improvements. What cannot be updated, however, is its hardware. Thankfully, the Amazon echo is packed with some pretty great physical technology that makes music pleasurable to listen to and voice commands easily understood.
Beneath the grille you’ll find an array of seven microphones with noise-cancellation technology. This means that Echo can hear you in any direction, even when you’re playing music. You’ll also find dual downward-firing speakers to create 360° immersive sound. Some reviewers have said that the audio quality left some to be desired, others thought it sounded fantastic. With $179 price-point, in falls in line with many other Bluetooth speakers, so it would be worth a shot to listen to before making a purchase.
The Echo’s most hyped feature is of course Alexa, who’s main rival is Siri. While the two offer similar functionality, they are much different. Alexa, is at this point much more limited than Siri. When asking Siri a more difficult question, she will bring up a list of sources you could possibly find some accurate information, in effort to answer your question. Alexa on the other hand will say “I don’t know” or “check my app for questions you can ask me.”
Alexa also will not pair up with any native apps on your iPhone, which severely limits the capabilities you are accustomed to with Siri. For example, you might want to set a reminder in your iPhone’s calendar for your dentist appointment on July 10th, for this task you must use Siri because Alexa doesn’t do that.
Optional equipment for the Amazon Echo includes the Echo Voice Remote and smart-home accessories. The Echo Voice remote is a simplistic and offers much of the same functionality of the Apple remote, but with one bonus feature. The remote has a built-microphone so you can speak commands to Alexa even while you’re in a different room. This could come in handy if you decide to purchase the smart home accessories that work with the Echo. For example, the Belkin WeMo is a smart home connected light switch that can be purchased separately for $39. Once installed and connected through the Echo, it is possible to speak into the Echo’s remote, and shut off the lights in the living room with just your voice. It seems that Amazon is attempting to jump on the smart home train before Apple releases the new Apple TV, which is going to be another smart home hub.
It seems that the Amazon Echo is an attempt to offer some of the same functionality one might get from Siri, and some of the benefits one might get from the next generation Apple TV. It might sound like a good idea for some, however to most; Alexa offers no real benefit or improvement over Siri and especially not the Apple TV. It is a half-baked replica of the iOS digital assistant that can do half as much. Granted, the things she does do, she does them well.
If you’re looking for a dynamic, great sounding speaker for your living room or kitchen, that can also make shopping lists, then the Amazon Echo might just fit the bill. The Amazon Echo can be purchased directly from Amazon here.
Is this something we need? Do we even want it? What do you think of Amazon’s Echo? Let us know in the comments below!