The Amazon Echo has made my life a lot easier and is great fun. Read below for our review.
Rating – 4 / 5
So, I’ve been using my Amazon Echo for a few months now and wanted to give it some time before posting a review. I’m using the Amazon Echo Dot, the cheaper and smaller, but in my opinion better device.
So, what is an Amazon Echo? Well it’s a clever little bit of kit which basically allows you to give it commands, ask it questions, and you’ll get a timely response. But it’s so much more than this. I’ll detail what I use it for, and how it helps me.
Firstly, built into the Echo is Alexa, Amazons AI interface. An impressively clever system which can do anything from answer questions you may have about many subjects, to letting you know what you have planned for the day.
When you first get it, don’t think you’re weird when you ask it bizarre questions like “what’s the meaning of life”, “where are my socks” etc, as I think 99.9% of Echo owners did exactly the same. After the initial playing around, you can finally see the power in this device. Gone are the days of grabbing your phone to Google what TV show you’ve seen Bette Midler in before, or what song was number one the day you were born. The Echo has a very quick response to these questions, obviously using its own internal search facility, and despite some “mis-communication”, most of the time you’ll get an accurate and quick answer to most questions. Obviously she’ll only know what you can already find on the web (except your personal data provided by calendars etc) but being able to just use your voice is a great tool.
As for the personalisation, you can link your Echo to quite a few existing services. Syncing it up with your Google calendar, means planning your day is now much simpler. You can tell Alexa/Echo to “add Toms birthday to my calendar for May 17th”, “book a meeting in with my boss tomorrow at 2pm” etc, and she’ll update your calendar, which in turns syncs to your Google calendar, so accessing it on your phone, laptop etc, will automatically include dates etc you added via Alexa.
The shopping list is also cool, I doubt I have to explain this one too much, except to say you can have more than one and tell Alexa to “add milk to my shopping list” etc, which she does. You can then go shopping with your phone and synced shopping list.
As for Music, you can sync your Spotify and/or Amazon Music (which now has up to 20 millions songs) accounts to your Echo/Alexa, which she’ll then use to play music you ask her to. She’s also quite clever in recognising existing playlists, or if you ask her something like “play songs from Broadway”, she’ll do her level best to curate a selection of songs based on this. On a personal note, I like to listen to music in the bath and my Echo / Alexa has made bath time so much more fun. Gone are the days of grabbing a towel to dry my hands to skip the current track playing I don’t want to hear; I just tell Alexa to skip it and voila! The next song plays.
She’ll also read you the day’s news which you can customise by selecting the new outlets you wants to be included, you can set multiple alarms, and maintain them using your voice, link up TuneinRadio so you suddenly have access to nearly every radio station around the globe; again instead of opening your phone/laptop etc, just ask Alexa to play you Jazz FM, and it loads immediately. This goes on to why I prefer the Echo Dot. The Echo Dot has an internal speaker (which is fine if you’re used to playing your music etc from your phone) But you can also connect it to your Bluetooth speakers, just by saying, yep you guessed it “connect to Bluetooth speaker). The standard Amazon Echo doesn’t have this option, the internal speaker is better than the Echo Dot, but if like me, you have a great sounding Samsung Sound bar, or nice Bluetooth speaker in your bedroom, then you don’t want to be restricted by what you can listen on. If you don’t however have any Bluetooth speakers, or good speakers with an audio in (Echo dot also has audio out) then maybe the standard Echo is for you.
Your Amazon account is automatically added as well, with this comes the ability to order items directly from Alexa. I’ve used this twice, both times with no problems, but if you’re going to try this, maybe trial with a cheap item first 😉 Alexa will confirm your order for you, but still worth checking. Also, I wouldn’t recommend this option being switched on if you have children in your house, unless you can trust them not to order the latest PS4 games when you’re not around.
Overall, I only have good things to say about Alexa/Echo. Considering how new AI etc still is, I think Amazon have done a great job. There are still some things to iron out, but for now, Amazon is leading the way. Yes your phone has voice commands, but nowhere near as powerful as this. Within a month, I ended up having an additional two Echo dots, one in my kitchen and one in my bedroom (which also comes to the bath with me) and they’re all used as much as each other. Also, if you’re a technophobe, or know any family or friends who are, then the Echo is an ideal product. I got one for my partner who never gets on with technology, and they now find it an essential tool; doing their shopping lists, playing music, sorting out calendars and tasks without having to touch a single button. 🙂