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:

  1. 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.
  2. Playing Music – You’re having a party, or some friends over, Alexa helps remove the music hog and lets anyone choose what’s next.
  3. 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.
  4. 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)

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