First of all, Amazon Echo is a unique device. There’s nothing else really like it. So, what is it? Well, here’s my personal interpretation of what Amazon Echo is. It is a really fancy alarm clock with weather and Wikipedia that you can interact with voice with. Yes, it has other features. But they suck. So, I am not even going to consider it as part of the feature list. It cost $99 for Amazon Prime members, right now. That means, you will be paying 100% premium for the luxury of having a voice interface and Wikipedia, relative to your traditional finger-interface alarm clock with radio and weather features.
How good is Amazon Echo? Well, it’s good enough to replace me for the most part for my wife. She now gets timely weather status when she asks, instead of a sleepy husband trying to find his tablet with his eyes close then falling back asleep in the process. When she needs to know something, my knowledge pales in comparison to Wikipedia. And Alexa can spell so much better than me. She also doesn’t have to get up to stop the alarm clock that I fail to hear in my dreams every morning. Alexa adds things to the shopping list instantly instead of saying “I got it”, then forgetting to buy it all together.
On the other hand, Alexa is not as smart as it’s rivals like Google Now, Siri or Cortana. The voice recognition isn’t as polished. And Alexa simply doesn’t have access to all the information that her rivals does. But it’s not exactly a bad thing. It’s refreshing to have something that doesn’t know everything about you in a public space. After all, you won’t want your kids and guest to know all your intimate details, would you? So, I am completely ignoring the potential that Echo has being my personal assistant. I will leave that to Google Now for now.
With regards to using it and placing it, we are still having challenges with it. We are trying to find the balance between the distance Alexa can hear us and the distance we can hear Alexa. We can hear Alexa better than Alexa can hear us. Maybe we are expecting too much for a two story house. The remote that it came with sticks really well to the fridge. The only problem with the remote is that you have to press the mic button to activate commands. If it was also always listening, it would have made it a lot more sense to keep it at the fridge for us and increase Echo’s coverage much better.
As far as using Echo as speakers for music, it’s rather terrible. It sounds very cheap, regardless of the fancy pictures that Amazon has on their website about how great it’s suppose to be. When the volume is at half, it’s hard to talk to Alexa. But then again, it sucks with music so I don’t really foresee that being much of a problem. But I do like the idea of being able to control and have access to the music libraries from my devices. If only the music can be transmitted to better sound systems.
If this Amazon experiment continues and they decide to make a new version or software upgrades, here’s my wish list.
- Please make it compatible with home automation controls like Nest, Wemo, SmartThings and etc.
- Have the ability to connect to other Bluetooth receivers. Echo’s speakers are mundane at best. I would love to have it connect to my proper sound system.
Is it worth it? At $99, not right now. But I can see the value it will have as it matures a bit more. And I can definitely see it having a spot in my home.