The Amazon Echo is a neat device to have around. It’s an evolution of technology in the same spirit we’ve seen before: the tech & the guts are pretty much the same as other devices available, but the way it’s presented and delivered is more modern and adds to the convenience. Pretty much the same thing the original iPhone did.
Let’s get into it…
First of all, the packaging was great. It came in a sleek, nicely crafted black box that had everything packaged perfectly. One of those boxes that you try to find a reason to save and use for something else. Then after it sits on your counter for 4 days doing nothing, you finally toss it.
Setup was super simple. Plug in the Echo. Turn it on. Download the app. And through the app you connect it to your WiFi. After that, with the app, you connect the Echo to your Amazon account, Pandora, iHeart Radio, and other services you might want to connect. If you wanted, this could literally be the last time you used the Echo app.
The remote for the Echo might be one of the most innovative ideas to come out of this! It’s a small, simple remote with basic controls (mostly for controlling music playback). But it comes with a little magnetic cradle. Stick this thing anywhere (on a wall,
table, wherever) and then you always have a place to drop the remote without losing it. In a house with 4 Apple TV’s, we usually can only find 1 Apple TV remote at any given time. Amazon’s solution was brilliant!
Using the Echo
Using the Echo is pretty straight forward. You say it’s name (choose from either “Alexa” or “Amazon”) and the blue ring around the top lights up letting you know it (she?) is listening. Then you start talking. I can’t even begin to provide a complete list of things you can say that are understood — it would be long. The basics are there of course:
- “what’s the weather today?”
- “what’s the weather in Phoenix?”
- “what time is it?”
- “shuffle Billy Joel music”
- “set an alarm for 1 hour”
- “who won the Laker game”
- “add ‘Blog about Amazon Echo’ to my to-do list”
The best thing to do is just try different commands / questions. You’ll be surprised at what gets a response. We ask questions about people, places & events and get good answers most of the time. We have re-ordered previously purchased items from Amazon by saying “re-order coffee”. And, it’s just a lot of fun. Our kids love asking her questions, making her repeat things (“Alexa, simon says ‘I love to eat ice cream with broccoli on it”), asking her to tell us jokes, and more.
What it really came down to for me is that I needed a good wireless speaker. I was willing to spend pretty much the same amount that the Echo cost on one, and for the same price, I got a great speaker (it’s pretty incredible) plus all of this extra stuff. For now, it’s similar to using Siri, but much much more convenient. My wife – who is not tech savvy at all – has NEVER used Siri but has started to use the Echo. She checks the time when her hands are full (we have 4 children), sets alarms for bed time (we have 4 children) constantly adds food to our ‘shopping list’ (we have 4 children), and puts on some loud music to drown out any background noises (We. Have. Four. Children!)
So…Should you get one?
For the cost, It’s a fun gadget to have around. There will be newer versions later that will improve, but for the most part, the version we have right now will constantly get better as Amazon continues to allow for more commands, connects with more 3rd party apps & devices (I can’t wait to say “Alexa, put on Top Gun in the living room!”), and upgrades the software behind it. SHE is a welcome addition to our home and we’re pretty sure you’ll feel the same way.
So if you haven’t gotten an Echo yet, what’s holding you back? Tell us what you would like to see Amazon improve on for you to add it to your cart!