Amazon Echo is a series of smart speaker which comes with an inbuilt smart assistant called Alexa. One can play songs on it, ask queries, control smart home devices and even use app based services such as Saavn, Wynk or Philips Hue.
Echo has been developed with futuristic vision of providing voice assistant to humans. One can easily expect that the robots will behave in the similar way when technology will make them affordable for the humans.
Amazon has 4 variants of Echo devices those come in the price range of Rs. 5000 to 15,000.
- Echo Dot: Small yet powerful, for a small room
- Amazon Echo: Big and powerful sound, works for any room size
- Echo Plus: Bigger than the normal Echo, for people with smart homes
- Echo Spot: Alexa enabled speaker made for video calls
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A smart Speaker with a built in Personal Assistant
It may be called as a smart speaker but it is more like a virtual assistant which can get things done. The Amazon Echo is always ready to take your voice commands.
You just have to utter “Alexa” and it will get ready.
It can help you do Have a look at the few commands that Alexa can do:
Alexa, show me the Calendar
Alexa, remind me to call mom tomorrow
Alexa, Book a flight from Delhi to Mumbai
Alexa, turn on the kitchen lights
Alexa, play the latest bollywood song
Upon listening, the device reacts by lighting up at the rim with blue color. Once it receives the command, it is sent to the cloud for processing.Once the information is processed, a response is framed and later sent to the speaker.
All the above steps happen in just a few seconds. Despite the fact that it can do a lot of things, you need to ensure it has the necessary apps installed on your smartphone that’s synched with Echo.
Integration with Apps
Amazon Echo can do a variety of things for which you need to ensure the integration of that particular app on your smartphone.
Like to play music from an app like Saavn, you have to first install the app on your smartphone. Similarly if you wish to control a philips smart bulb, you will have to install the app on your connected phone. Only after app integration, you will be able to use the services.
How can it help the kids?
The Echo can turn into a teacher for your kids. There are a number of ways the Echo can keep your kids away from the TV and smartphones.
You can say “Alexa, open Mad Libs” which is a game for kids to increase their vocabulary.
If your kid is having a hard time sleeping, just say “Alexa, tell bedtime story to Akash”, Alexa will immediately start reading a story. You can blend education with the help of Alexa. It can help your kids learn maths formula and also do quick calculations.
In case you have kids at home and wish to stop them from using the Echo. Just turn off the microphone by pressing the button over the top of the device. The color of rim shall turn red which means it will no more take your commands.
Design and Performance
In the very first glance, it looks like a cylindrical device which stands at 5.8 inches in height and 3.5 inches in diameter. The 2nd version of the echo comes in 3 colors: Grey, Black and White. Users can also buy lot of different shells available online.
From the outside, the shell protects the inner membrane and looks like a mesh made out of fabric. It definitely is a welcoming change when compared to the first generation of Amazon Echo where a sudden topple would prove disastrous.
The new design feels more ergonomic and fresh. The echo has 4 buttons on the top: volume up, volume down, action button and a microphone off button.
Besides the button surrounds a beautiful glowing rim that changes seven different colors. Here are the seven different colors and what do they mean
- Blue: Power & listening
- Orange: Connecting to WiFi
- Purple: Failed WiFi connection & Do Not Disturb mode
- Red: Disabled microphone
- White: Volume change
- Yellow: New message
- Green: Incoming call
Near the bottom, echo has two ports. One is a 3.5mm audio out port and other is a power port. The aux port has a cover to protect in case of any sudden water splash.
The devices does not have have any water resistant tag.
Inside the echo lies a 2.5 inches woofer and a 16mm tweeter which is sufficient to produce loud enough sound for a 2BHK home.
The echo even supports Dolby 360 surround sound which makes the speaker produce a very lively experience. It has even secured a score of 7/10 from the tear down experts at ifixit.
- Amazon Echo can order anything online. So ladies at home can use the Alexa app to cook a new dish. It can help you keep a timer, give you recipe ideas and even give you calorie count for food items.
- It can tell you the latest news, weather and even set reminders and alarms on your behalf. If you wish to call someone, Alexa can help you place the call handsfree provided the other person also has a similar device.
- Its an IOT(internet of things) device so it can interact with other smart devices at home. You can dim lights or other electrical equipments connected to the internet
- If you have kids at home, this device can help the kids stay away from TV and video games. It can help them reduce the screen time and keep them busy with stuff like puzzle, quizzes, jokes and general knowledge. It even has a dedicated kid friendly freetime for Alexa so that kids don’t mess up.
- If you are a book lovers, Alexa can read books for you from apps like audible and books that you have in your Amazon library. This is a great use case and can help you do multiple things at a time.
- It has 7 microphones so the user can be heard from all the directions so even if the person is far away, the smart speaker can listen to the voice.
What’s in the box
Amazon Echo: The device weighs around 821 grams and has the size 148.5 x 88 x 88 mm.
Power adaptor with cable(1.8m): Since the echo doesn’t have a battery, you will always need to keep it plugged in near to a power source.
Quick start guide: Who likes to go through the lengthy procedure. The process is pretty simple
- Plug in the Echo
- Download the Amazon Alexa app on your android device
- You will be asked to sign in and then you just need to follow the steps on the app
- While you are doing the initial setup, orange light shall glow
- Once the process is complete, the rim will glow blue which means you have successfully completed the installation.
PS: You will need the phone only for the initial setup so that the echo can be connected with the wifi. Once done, Amazon echo will work in sync with the cloud and your phone will be necessary only if you wish to play any song from your personal library.
Things you can do with Alexa manual: This is just a piece of paper that tells you the things Alexa can do for you. Our advice will be that you go ahead and play yourself, fiddle by uttering Alexa before every command.
What will you require to make the most of the device
Since the Amazon echo is not just a smart speaker but a device with a built in virtual assistant. All you require is a good quality internet connection for the Alexa to work smoothly.
However if you are someone who likes to have a smart home where you can control all the IOT devices like smart lights or smart fans, then echo will come very handy.
The Alexa app used to keep the speakers in sync is available on android and iOS devices and one can even access it from your local desktop browser. You need to also keep in mind that the echo should be plugged in and be connected to wifi all the times.
Echo Vs Google Home vs Apple Homepod
Software: All 3 devices run on different softwares. Amazon Echo runs on Alexa, Google Home on Google assistant while the Apple Home houses Siri. Google has an edge as its knowledge base is huge due to the searches made over it. Rest two do fairly well on the software part.
Smart home compatibility: If smart home compatibility is your major concern then you should check the smart equipment at your home and then choose which smart speaker would you like to buy as there are few brands which cater to only one ecosystem.
Response and Skills: Google has the ability to work on intercom, however if you are a shopping junkie then nothing’s better than Amazon Echo as it syncs deeply into its home Amazon.in and you can even have access to prime services like video and music.
Voice Recognition: All of them are smart devices, the more user use them, the better they keep getting with time. Since Google has a huge knowledge graph due to its history, it is better at predicting the voice.
For the usual chores, all three devices do fairly well. If you shop online, Alexa is the best option for you.
What could have been better
These are a few things that Amazon’s Alexa is yet to do:
- Ability to set custom wake words: Not everyone likes saying the wake word Alexa again and again. Users do have the choice to change it to either Echo or Computer but they are still not free to set up their own wake word.
- A male voice for assistant: This comes as a surprise as the Alexa is yet to get a male voice. Rumours are that Amazon may soon launch an update for the same. Let’s hope that it gets a mail voice soon.
- Intelligent reception: How awesome would it be, if we are uttering Bye Alexa, it automatically should understand that since we are leaving the house, all the devices must be turned off. This feature should be handy and should have been in Amazon Echo.
- Ability to setup short commands: If you use Alexa for a task everyday like “Alexa remind me to feed medicine to the dog at 8PM”, it would be cumbersome. Instead We should be able to have a short command like “Medicate the Dog” and it should be able to remind me of my task.
Very recently, there was a case with a Portland family where Echo recorded the couple’s conversation sent to one of their contacts. Amazon called it a rare occurrence and explained the issue that it may have misheard the command to start recording and also incidentally misheard to send the same to one of their contacts.
However fast the tech is improving, we also need to be ready for a few side effects.
We are living in times when every electronic device around us is making a leap by getting connected to the web. A decade ago, who would have thought of smart lights, smart cars and smart speakers. Amazon Echo is an excellent testimony to the evolution of technology.
On a more serious note, the Echo is a wonderful speaker that blends great with the functionality of a smart assistant. All it lacks is a few arms and legs which are currently preventing it from becoming a personal robot. It produces strong sound, listens to everything that you say and comes in an appealing design.
There are a few things that the echo definitely needs to work on. So if you are a shopping junkies, a person who loves smart home devices and wishes to ease the daily routines. You can go ahead and get yourself and Echo.