From Chicago to Thailand, one of the few tech gadgets I brought with me was the Amazon Echo. Here’s why it is worth the buy (or not).
What it’s good for:
- Setting timers – I use this feature by far the most. “Alexa, set time for 5 minutes.” when cooking to “Alexa, set alarm for 8:00am” when I am too lazy to set it on my phone.
- Playing Music – You’re having a party, or some friends over, Alexa helps remove the music hog and lets anyone choose what’s next.
- Smart Home Connections – Get some Phillips Hue light bulbs and some Phillips Hue Lightstrip, and turn on and off your lights with a simple command (don’t forget the Bridge to make it all work). Extremely easy setup and surprisingly useful. Get really smart and connect to a Raspberry Pi. I have had a friend connect everything from his TV to his washer/dryer to Alexa.
- Weather – I don’t follow the weather much, but if I am curious, it’s always an ask away.
What it could be good for:
- Flash briefing – a feature that tells you about news and other interests. I prefer my phone.
- Calendar – once again, I use my phone, but you can ask for your days agenda.
- Find new features – apparently you can ask what’s new.. I find enough use out of the above, that I don’t really ask
- Listen to Articles or Books – I am more of a visual person, but others may find this useful.
Where it falls short:
- It is part of the Amazon echosystem, so you cannot use it with other platforms.Sorry, no podcasts. (unless you use IFTTT).
- The speaker quality is great for small rooms, but don’t expect this to be your sound system
- Random outbursts… yes, Alexa will say “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that” out of nowhere
- Setup is relatively easy, but I did have to do it for my parents, so not that easy/intuitive.
Recommendation: Don’t buy for yourself, but buy for someone
Check it out here: Amazon Echo ($89.99 Prime Day sale, normally $179.99)