Today’s been a fun day. My 9.7" iPad Pro arrived, but perhaps what has me even more giddy is the arrival of the Amazon Echo Dot.
For months now my friends have been raving about their Amazon Echos. I’ve been intrigued, but a little apprehensive about spending $180 on a smart bluetooth speaker and smart home appliance. When the Dot was announced last month for $90, the barrier to entry became low enough that it I bought one as soon as it was announced and was lucky enough to receive it on launch day.
The Dot is my first Amazon Alexa enabled product and I must say, I’m impressed. I setup the Dot on my nightstand and after using it for a few hours I’ve already ordered an Echo for my kitchen. Here are a few thoughts and first impressions along with answers to questions I’ve received from Twitter:
- The number of devices that support Alexa out of the box is impressive. the Echo is much more compatible than Apple’s HomeKit. In my house it recognized my Nest thermostat, WeMo switches and Hue lightbulbs. I can already see myself ordering more smart devices as a result of the Echo because using them is so easy.
- Here’s an example of how I used the Echo Dot this afternoon: I had a pretty bad headache so I decided to take a nap when I got home from work. From bed I was able to tell Alexa to turn off the bedside lamp (equipped with a hue bulb) turn on the fan (connected to a WeMo switch) and set a timer for 45 minutes so I didn’t over sleep. All without getting out of bed or reaching for another device. It’s the closest I’ve come to talking to the computer in Star Trek.
- The big difference between the Echo and the Dot is the Dot is essentially the “top” of an Echo, minus the speaker. Although the Dot does have a small speaker included and the ability to connect to other speakers either via Bluetooth or headphone jack.
- The tiny speaker built in to the Dot is fine for voice in a smaller space, like a bedroom. I’ve used the built-in Dot speaker in my bedroom to listen to my spoken word content (Podcasts, NPR flash briefing, and Alexa herself) without any problem. But if you’re listening to music or in a bigger space, you’re going to want a better speaker.
- Since my Dot is on my nightstand with my iHome clock radio, I’ve connected the echo via the aux jack so I can use the more powerful speakers on the iHome. Another advantage of the Dot - I just turned this clock-radio into bluetooth connected-speakers that I can use to AirPlay audio from my iPhone.
- Voice recognition on the Dot is shockingly good. Far superior to any implementation of Siri. Apple has a lot of catching up to do in this area. From across the room Alexa correctly understands my words 90% of the time or better.
- The big disadvantage to the Amazon line of products is that it doesn’t integrate with my Apple life. Alexa can’t send a text message, play music from iTunes or check my iCloud calendar. There are some workarounds to this. For example, I’ve setup a pair of IFTTT rules to automatically transfer items from my Alexa Shopping and Reminder lists to my Apple Reminder lists. Amazon does have integration with Google and because my office uses Google Docs Alexa can tell me what’s on my work calendar.
- How did I order a Dot if I don’t have en Echo? I cheated. Currently, the only official way to order a Dot is through another Alexa supported product. But there’s a simple workaround using the Amazon App. Simply search for Echo Dot using the App and swipe to the right to add the Dot to your cart. Note that the Dot is currently backordered.
- Do you have to have an Echo for the Dot to work? No. The Echo is a stand alone device and all you need is an Amazon account.
- What type of things can you do with an Alexa? Echo connects to a number of services. There’s a pretty comprehensive list on Reviewed.com with more services coming on line regularly. I’ve already used Alexa to play audio as a bluetooth speaker, stream audio from Amazon Music, turn on and off smart home devices including my WeMos and Hue bulbs, get information about local business and catch up on the news.
- Should you order a Dot or an Echo? Since my Echo hasn’t actually arrived yet that’s hard to say. But based on my experience with the Dot - I think it’s a great device for a bedroom or office and would work in a larger space if you could connect it to always-on speakers. That being said, I plan to keep the Dot in my bedroom and I’ve got an Echo on order to use in my kitchen (which opens to my living room).