I absolutely love my Echo by Amazon. I have had it for about a month and a half now (since November 25th) and use it everyday. You can choose to use Alexa or Amazon when speaking to it; I chose Alexa (and refer to the device as a she).
I ask her things like:
- Weather – She will provide local current weather, long term forecast, or the weather forecast from wherever you request.
- News: She will read off a flash briefing. You can customize the flash briefing with the Echo app.
- Definitions: “What is a Lexicon?”
- Questions: Such as distance between two states or “Tell me about Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” (my sister hasn’t seen or read it and wanted to know more about it) or ‘what is a pancake’?
- To set timers and alarms: It has a soothing tone and the blue ring lights up along with it.
- To play music: You can choose from your Amazon playlists, a type of music, a specific song, or random music. You can also use iHeartRadio and TuneIn.
- OH! And the most used (next to play music) is the option to add things to a shopping list or a to do list! Need more coconut oil? Just let Alexa know and she will add it to the list. No more remembering that you need to add it to your list, you can do it as you remember it. It’s great when you are going through your kitchen looking at what you need to pick up from the store without stopping to write it down.
She’ll even tell you jokes. Definitely would like an R-rated setting because that’s just who I am! Some questions it doesn’t have the capabilities of answering (yet) like favorite color (though it will reluctantly admit to one, though it has only admitted to orange and blue so far). If Alexa is unable to answer the question she will notify you that she doesn’t know (prefaced with a ‘hmmmmm’) and let you know she submitted a Bing search link to the question to the Echo app.
I love that, in my apartment, it is centrally placed so that I can speak to it from my couch in the living room or from bed. Which is handy when I remember I need to add something to a shopping or to do list when in bed or when I want to know the weather before I get out of bed!
You can access these lists from the handy-dandy app on your phone. You can also see any questions, commands, or other actions you requested of Alexa. As well as access your shopping and to-do lists.
Cons: One major con is the name. In my house I have an Xbox, Alexa (the Echo), and a Lexicon (my dog) that I speak to. So you can imagine what happens when I say Alexa, stop. The dog stops, whatever is playing on the Xbox stops (movie, game, etc), and the music on Alexa stops. Just requesting something from Lexi or Alexa while the Xbox is on causes the voice prompt on the Xbox to flash on. While training Lexi, the Echo’s blue ring will flash waiting for a command. And once while in bed I was saying something to my dog and music started playing in the other room, which scared me to death! I tried to get my dog to check it out, but she refused so I had to investigate if a serial killer was in my house myself. Luckily it was just Alexa and she had not become sentient and transformed into a psycho killer. Yet.
So the name thing really isn’t a big deal and I could change the Echo to respond to Amazon, but I feel like a dork referring to it as “Amazon”.
One other con that is kind of a contradiction to the other con, but it would be nice to not have separate names for everything. I wish all of my voice activated things (Xbox, Echo, Ford Escape) just knew my voice and requests and responded accordingly. But I am sure that will happen soon!
Between having voice control over all TV functions with the Xbox and now with the Echo, and also with my car, I am totally spoiled. While staying with family this holiday season I had to use a remote for the TV and a phone, tablet, or computer to find out answers to things. It’s like my family is a bunch of neanderthals!
If you are trying to explain this to a family member to convince them to check it out. It’s not worth it. Have them experience it in action. I told my sister to request and invite because I wanted to get her one for Xmas and she reluctantly did (she was kind of blah about it after I explained it and showed her the site but requested an invite anyway). But when she came to visit and got to experience the Echo in person she loved it and tried to smuggle it out of the house in her bag. (Just kidding about the smuggling, kind of). She now checks her email every day to see if she got an invite yet. No luck yet. 😦 Update: She finally got an invite a few days ago and ordered it ASAP
Some people have suggested that maybe certain people received invites earlier than others. I can say I have been a Prime member since the first year it was offered, have a Kindle Fire (among other Amazon devices), and have been using Amazon since February 2000. Not to mention have purchased a lot, A LOT, from Amazon. I am kind of a huge fan. But it is most likely just luck of the draw and timing.
All-in-all, my 13-year-old-self that used to watch TV from a tiny portable black and white set hidden under my covers late at night would be in awe of what we can do with technology. If you have Prime, request an invite ASAP. Getting it at $99 is definitely worth it, it is going to be regularly priced at $199.