I bought an Amazon Echo Dot last weekend, with the various Amazon vouchers I got from my family for Christmas. I’d been thinking about getting the ‘full’ Echo model – you know, the one that looks like the monolith from 2001?
I opted for the Dot after some intensive online research (a good 15 minutes of flicking between the usual websites) illustrated that the only difference between them is the speaker. I figured that I could plug the dot into one of the bluetooth speakers we have at home and it would effectively do the same thing.
Except for £49, rather than £149!
And it’s about a fifth of the size of the Amazon Echo and much less obtrusive in the home. I don’t really want the apartment looking like I’m completely obsessed with gadgets. Even if I am…
It arrived on Sunday and I set it up in a flurry of geeky excitement only matched by the time I got my iPad Pro and Apple Pencil. The excitement of trying something very, very new. To me, at least. Using verbal commands with a system built for just that.
I’ve previously found Siri to be unreliable and far less competent and consistently accurate than Google assistant. But the online demos I’ve watched illustrated what the Echo – with its built-in ‘Alexa’ assistant – can do were inspiring.
Set-up took less than 10 minutes. I spent more time in fact organising cables behind my bedside table. As that’s where the echo is now located, plugged in to the Beats Pill bluetooth speaker.
Yeah, yeah…but is it any good?
Yes. Yes, it is. It responds to common-sense commands when you want to listen to music (via Spotify!), when you want to set an alarm, set a sleep timer, listen to the radio… all as you would expect.
“Alexa…play Radio 4”. Boom! Radio 4 comes out perfectly of the Beats Pill speaker sitting next to the Echo.
“Alexa…play my dinner jazz playlist on Spotify”
“Alexa…wake me up at 6am tomorrow morning”
“Alexa…go to sleep in 30 minutes”
Well, you get the picture. It’s extremely intuitive and I haven’t really encountered any situations where it’s not obvious how to ask Alexa to do stuff. And Alexa confirms in a very easy to understand and natural-sounding voice. Soothing, even.
But wait, there’s more!
Quite literally, in fact. I so fell in love with Alexa, I ordered another Echo dot for my study. The external speakers attached to my iMac died a couple of weeks ago. I can’t complain – they were SO old. When I started to think about buying new ones, I realised I could get speakers to connect to another Echo (Alexa’s sister, if you like) who could help me out when I’m at work.
So far (and I’ve not had a lot of time to experiment this week), I’ve connected it to Spotify, my Google Calendar and ToDoist. All of which work very, very well. I’m sure there’s a ton more I can do with it all, but that’s for this weekend. Right now, I’m just happy that Alexa has lived up to my expectations.
I just wish more things (and people) responded so helpfully when I ask them… And I’m very excited to see where Amazon take this platform. Especially as they’re licensing the technology out vendors making everything from fridges to cars.