I love new technology, and I am always looking for new gadgets for the home, so when Amazon announced the Echo two years ago, I immediately signed up to the waiting list. It took almost five months to get my first Echo. Then, they came out with the Tap and I just had to grab one of those too. Now, I am tempted by this little Echo dot, but, do I really need it, or for that matter, any of these?
I was super excited to get the Echo, but after two years of use, I thought I should step back and take an honest look at whether it was worth it.
What I don’t use:
- Skills: Although the Echo has come a long way since the first generation, I find I don’t use a lot of the skills that come out. More skills are developed and released every month, but I find that a lot of them are similar to apps I am already using on my iPhone. There are some neat ones out there – my nephews love to play games such as 20 questions and trivia, but I usually don’t have the time to interact in this way.
- General Questions: If you want to use it to ask questions or get information, I would say it isn’t all that helpful, unless you use the specific skills, such as Wikipedia or a recipe skill.
- Online Ordering: I would rather order from my phone, but that is a personal preference. If you have kids, I would recommend turning this option off, as it is super easy to order and you may want to monitor this function very closely.
What I love:
- Shopping List: What I do use are the things which help me the most around the house. I keep the Echo in the kitchen area and I add things to my shopping list at least once or twice a day. It is so much easier and faster to just say, “Alexa, add eggs to my shopping list.” I also love that it stores it on the app, so it is available to everyone in the family, so if my better half is at the store, he can just pull up the list to see what we need.
- Music: I also use the music apps – especially Amazon Prime music and Pandora. At first it seemed weird to call out to Alexa for music, but when working in the kitchen and trying to get dinner in the oven, it is so nice to just call out or tell the Echo to turn the volume down or stop playing when the phone rings.
- Smart Home: Recently, we linked up some of our smart home apps, notably Nest, to the device. I don’t use it as much as I could, but it is nice to just say, “Turn Nest up to 72” when I want the thermostat changed.
So, I think the Echo is very useful, but I think my family needs to focus more on some of the added skills we should be using, but we just aren’t, to get full usage out of it.
The Tap became part of the family last year as an option for a portable speaker with Bluetooth capabilities. We wanted to use it outside and inside, without being tied to a power source as the Echo is. The biggest difference between the Tap is a button had to be pressed (thus the “tap” in the name) to activate the device. I almost bought another Echo about a month ago because I didn’t realize just how much I missed the voice activation until we got the Tap. However, in a stroke of pure genius, Amazon upgraded the software on the Tap and now, with one change to the settings, it is now voice activated – so it is both portable and voice-activated – best of both worlds.
The Tap sits in my office, where I like to listen to music and local radio through my Tune In radio app. I love that I can just say, “Alexa, STOP!” when the phone rings to silence it without fumbling for the button to shut it down.
Since they share the same app, the lists and other skills are also available on both devices, so if I add an item to my shopping list from the Tap, it automatically updates on the common app and if I ask for the Echo to tell me what’s on the list, it will have everything, regardless of which device recorded it.
As far as usefulness, I think we use the Tap even more because it is portable.
I would probably buy both again, but before you buy, you will want to think about how you will use it. I use ours mainly for music and radio, and a shopping list, which is a small range of items for what it can do. However, it would cost more to buy a quality Bluetooth speaker for my phone and I would have the added hassle of draining my phone battery when I wanted to have some background music.
Join the Conversation
Do you have either of these – or maybe a competing technology (wink, wink – Google Home)? Let me know how you use them and if you think they were worth the purchase for your home by leaving a comment to this post.