When Amazon announced the Echo, I dutifully signed up for an invitation since I didn’t have to buy it then and had time to ponder the purchase. When I received the email notification that Echo was now available for purchase (still by invitation), I ordered nearly immediately. I wasn’t sure how handy I’d find Echo but figured there’s only one way to find out… to try it out.
Despite wintry weather the day before Thanksgiving, the Fedex guy arrived on time bearing my Echo (he said he likes driving in the snow and wants to move to Maine :-)). I set up the Echo in the lower shelf of a small side table where I’d previously had my Definitive Technology cube speaker (that I’d gotten for an amazing $180 at Best Buy… love that speaker). I was sad to disconnect my Definitive Technology cube speaker but 1) Needed a spot that would limit the chances the cats would knock over the Echo and 2) Really, just how many BT speakers does a person need in their living room?
Set up was quick and easy using the Echo app on my Blackberry Passport. After setting up the Echo, I paired my Blackberry to the speaker via Bluetooth, to stream Audible.com audiobooks to the Echo from my phone.
So far, my greatest use for the Echo has been to ask about the weather, stream music, and add items to my grocery list while in the kitchen. I’ve always longed to be able to add items to my grocery list from the kitchen as I realize they’re running out, rather than having to go back to the living room to retrieve my phone. Productivity nirvana!
As James Kendrick mentioned in his ZDNet Echo review (recommended reading), Echo makes it very easy to stream music of any genre at the spur of a moment. I like new age (ambient/chill) music and leave it streaming in the background.
The Echo app displays your Echo query history, including graphics when appropriate (e.g., forecast if you asked about weather, or album art when streaming music):
So far, I’ve found Echo to be handy, easy to use, and inspiring. In fact, I’ve thought a lot about future enhancements I’d like to see and submitted them to Amazon for consideration:
- Stream audiobooks from user’s Audible.com library (rather than need to download and then stream)
- Sync with Google calendar, to play reminders already resident in my calendar. (Note: You can add reminders to Echo independently, and that functionality works very well.)
- Adding single items to a list is super easy. I’d love to be able to ask Echo to extend her listening period, in order to add multiple items to a list. (Currently, you can use the Echo remote to make it faster to add multiple items to a list but it’d be very cool not to have to use the remote.)
Echo is cool and one of the most innovative products I’ve seen in a while. I’ve reported a few minor bugs to Amazon. I figure some bugginess is to be expected considering it’s essentially in invite-only beta testing:
- I have the Echo app set to play a confirmation tone whenever I say “Alexa” (this is called the “wake up sound”). The tone is hit or miss, and I’d love for it to play consistently.
- The day before Thanksgiving, I asked Echo when the next holiday was… she replied with an April 2015 date :-)
I’m enjoying Echo and it’s a great deal for Amazon prime members at $99. If you have questions, feel free to add a comment.