It’s been two years since Alexa was first announced by Amazon. Since then several products have come to support it (her?) as more and more functionality and services are added. Initially featuring only the Amazon Echo, Amazon then released the Amazon Tap and Echo Dot products as well as providing Alexa functionality to the Amazon Fire TV and select tablets.
Alexa was not the first digital assistant to be developed or produced. Although there have been a number over the past decade, the biggest impact was first made by Apple’s Siri. However Amazon managed to get their product out at the right time with the perfect set of capabilities, and it’s taken almost two years for Google to finally respond with a competing device in the Google Home.
Google Assistant and Siri have both been on the market for a while already, but both are confined to your mobile phone. The Amazon Echo was the first successful product designed for this individual task. It features a seven-piece microphone array, putting it’s hearing capabilities miles ahead of any cellphone, and doesn’t require any of the unlocking that many mobile platforms are hindered by.
The Echo was the original platform for Alexa and was advertised as the perfect digital assistant, ever-ready, every-willing to help. And it does that quite well, better than any competitors at the moment in any case. Want news, want weather, want to add calendar entries or create a timer, Alexa has your back. Want to catch an Uber, or order some products from Amazon, Alexa’s there for you. Control is what it’s all about, and being able to speak to Alexa in a natural manner instead of scrolling through pages to find your desired settings or information is a blessing.
The Dot gives you almost everything you get from the Echo, but in a bite sized form, at a fraction of the price. Although designed to work in tandem with the Amazon Echo you already have (increasing the its listening domain), the Dot will function as a stand-alone product. Although the built in speaker does not support music playback, you can connect your smart home entertainment system to the Dot, or make use of the provided 3.5mm audio jack or Bluetooth to connect to separate speakers.
With the new Amazon Tap, Alexa goes mobile. In normal operation the device sits on a charging dock, connected to your wifi and will operate just like your standard Echo, but the Tap includes a battery for up to 9 hours of unplugged operation. During this time the Tap can connect to your normal Wi-Fi, a mobile hotspot, or just stream music directly from your phone via BlueTooth. The Tap does also include a 3.5mm audio input as an alternative.
The only downside to the Tap over the Echo is that it is not always listening. Instead of being able to use the normal ‘Alexa’ trigger, you have to push a button on the Tap before you can give voice commands. This is regardless of whether it is plugged in at home or on the roam.
More on Alexa
Regardless of your specific product choice, the true beauty of the Alexa range of products comes with its integration into the smart home. No smart product holds any weight unless it can be controlled by Alexa, and as such it’s one of the first integrations that any smart device is outfitted with.
Whether it’s turning on your lights, setting the temperature of your thermostat or getting your coffee brewing while still lying in bed, Alexa makes your life easier. Any switch can be changed, or door locked at the mere mention of the magic word ‘Alexa’.
While a lot of work can be accomplished simply with voice commands, if you want to get into the nitty gritty, and properly set up your Alexa product, you’re going to have to make use of the Alexa app. This allows you to set all your default services and link home automation products.
The Echo is not a cheap product, but people who know what they’re getting when they buy it are thrilled with the results. Customer feedback results results in a great star rating, but when reading through complaints, it mainly seems to be people that expected to get more out of the product and were unhappy with the price tag. Otherwise everyone just raves about the ease of use of the system and the constant joy they receive when using it.
While praise for the Echo is unending, a number of people have not been as happy with the Dot. Its rating from customers is hardly low, but it has been noted that the Dot’s ability to pickup and understand what you’ve said is not as good as that of it’s bigger brother. It may work well if you are within a few feet of the device, but it’s performance is not near the full-size Echo’s. At its current price, it may be cheap enough for people to consider the performance worth it.
The Tap on the other hand has had a great response from customer, people rave about the quality of the speakers. And the Tap also ticks all the boxes that original owners of the Echo liked in it, but adds the mobility aspect they all so desired. There are however a few complaints about connection issues experienced with the product as well as customers not happy to have to push a button before making voice commands.
The Alexa range of products are currently the market leaders and stunning products. The Echo takes the cake, but if used correctly a place can be found for both the Dot and the portable Tap.