Amazon Echo Speaker review, tricks, Features and Hands-on

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Amazon Echo
 

Amazon announces Echo, a $199 voice-driven home assistant
Amazon announces Echo, a $199 voice-driven home assistant

Amazon Echo Specs & Amazon Echo features

Manufacturer Amazon.com
Type Voice command device
Release date November 6, 2014 Limited

June 23, 2015 Wide

Input Voice command
Connectivity Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
Website Amazon Echo

Amazon Echo is a wireless speaker and voice command device from Amazon.com. The device responds to the name “Alexa”; this “wake word” can be changed by the user to also “Amazon” or “Echo” at present. Amazon Echo is always ready, connected, and fast. Just ask for information, music, news, weather, and more. Echo is controlled by your voice for hands-free convenience and is connected to the cloud so it’s always getting smarter.

Amazon Echo Specs & Amazon Echo features
Amazon Echo Specs & Amazon Echo features

Echo has been fine-tuned to deliver crisp vocals with dynamic bass response. Its dual downward-firing speakers produce 360° omni-directional audio to fill the room with immersive sound. Echo doesn’t stop working when you’re away from home. With the free companion app  on Fire OS, Android, iOS, and desktop browsers, you can easily manage your alarms, music, shopping lists, and more.

Amazon Echo is designed around your voice. It’s hands-free and always on. With seven microphones and beam forming technology, Echo can hear you from across the room—even while music is playing. Echo is also an expertly tuned speaker that can fill any room with immersive sound.

Amazon Echo Specs & Amazon Echo features
Amazon Echo Specs & Amazon Echo features

Amazon Echo, a slightly quixotic, 9-inch tall speaker that plays music, fields voice commands and Internet queries, responds in a pleasant conversational voice, and of course (since this is Amazon, after all) will obey instructions to put various products into yourAmazon.com (AMZN) shopping cart.

“The customer response to Amazon Echo has been incredibly positive, and we’ve been working hard to build more as quickly as possible. We are grateful to our early customers for their incredible engagement and for providing us with invaluable feedback to help shape Echo as it evolves—with their help, we’ve been able to add features like Audible, Pandora, home automation, sports scores, calendar, and more,” said Greg Hart, Vice President, Amazon Echo. “We’re excited to get Echo into the hands of even more customers and continue to invent new features and experiences.”

Amazon recently added Philips Hue and Belkin WeMo integration, a welcome update that brings Ubi to mind. Hue and WeMo support allows you to control compatible devices around the house with commands like “Alexa, turn on the living room light.” Of course, you’ll need to have Hue or WeMo products installed, and right now the Echo only works with a few WeMo devices, including the Switch, Insight Switch, and Light Switch. But it works with most Hue products, so you can control your Hue and Hue Lux bulbs without a problem.

Amazon Echo Specs & Amazon Echo features
Amazon Echo Specs & Amazon Echo features

In terms of tasks like music playback, the Echo will require a Bluetooth connection to a compatible media device, though it’s not clear whether that is conditional to connecting to the official Amazon Echo app, which will eventually launch on Amazon Fire OS and Android. (The device’s official page also mentions compatibility with a desktop and iOS Web browser interface, though it doesn’t clarify whether that method will limit the ways that users interact with it.)

Quality: Testing took place in two environments: my small, 12 x 14 ft bedroom and much larger 20 x 15 ft living room. The confined space, as you might expect, benefitted the quieter volume levels and completely muddled anything above 7. Given enough space, sound only faltered at the highest levels, 9 and 10, but Alexa had a tougher time picking up commands. At least the balance around volumes 4-6 were spot on.

When you use the wake word to talk to Amazon Echo, the audio stream includes a few seconds of audio before the wake word, and closes once Amazon Echo has processed your question or request,” Amazon told me. There’s also an optional “wake up sound,” the company said, effectively a short tone that indicates Echo is streaming audio to the cloud.

A similar “end of request” tone can be activated, too, to flag when Echo has stopped streaming. It takes the intelligence and voice-recognition of Siri and puts it someplace unexpected, inside a smart home device. Even when it’s alseep, Echo is still listening for the trigger phrase that will turn it on and start streaming your voice to the cloud.

If a music speaker can listen and reply to your voice, why not a connected thermostat like Nest? In a few years, we will fill our homes with “smart” clocks, refrigerators, TVs and security systems. Together, they’ll help voice assistants break out of single devices to be available anywhere in your house, car or workplace.

Amazon Echo Specs & Amazon Echo features
Amazon Echo Specs & Amazon Echo features

In addition to the commands you learn in the introductory video and Things To Try, Amazon includes a handy, bookmark-size, double-sided list of things you can ask Alexa. The topics range from everything in the app, such as alarms, lists, and music, to facts, weather, and general commands like “Repeat,” “Stop,” and “Cancel.”

Major features added since launch of the Amazon Echo:

  • Addition of Pandora, Spotify, and iTunes for voice control
  • Voice control of smart home devices using WeMo including Philips Hue devces
  • Addition of MLB and MLS searches about any game
  • Programmable tasks using iFTTT

Amazon has synced up the Echo with Prime Music, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn, so you can listen to whatever music you’d like. Just say, “Alexa, play my party rock playlist on Spotify,” and the Echo will know exactly what to do. You can also always connect the Echo to your smartphone or laptop via Bluetooth to play whatever music you have saved on those devices, but that takes a little bit of setting up. Amazon announces Echo, a $199 voice-driven home assistant.

However, the big draw of Echo is how it can serve as a personal assistant, letting you tap into news, weather, information, music, alarms and other services. CNET says it’s actually “one of the better voice-controlled devices” when it comes to understanding the commands you bark at it. Sadly, its limited scope in what services it works with is Echo’s major drawback.Gizmodo says it “falls short” due to its limited range of integration, and GigaOm calls it “Echo’s Amazon-centric view.”

Also in April, the company launched Amazon Dash, a mobile device tied to Amazon Fresh, a grocery delivery service Amazon offers in Southern California, San Francisco, and Seattle. Amazon Dash lets Amazon Fresh customers add items to their online grocery lists with either a built-in bar code scanner or by speaking into a built-in microphone. The idea is to help people order groceries more efficiently when they’re running low on certain products.

Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush Securities, said he doesn’t understand why people might be tempted to purchase Echo. “I think it’s just a two-way speaker, but why isn’t there an app that lets me do the same thing without having to spend $99 on hardware?” he said. “I think this is a solution that is seeking a problem.

Amazon Echo Features

  • Plays all your music from Prime Music, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, and more using just your voice
  • Fills the room with immersive, 360º omni-directional audio
  • Allows hands-free convenience with voice-control
  • Hears you from across the room with far-field voice recognition, even while music is playing
  • Answers questions, reads audiobooks and the news, reports traffic and weather, gives info on local businesses, provides sports scores and schedules, and more with Alexa, a cloud-based voice service
  • Controls lights and switches with compatible WeMo, Philips Hue, Samsung SmartThings, Wink, Insteon, and other smart home devices
  • Always getting smarter and adding new features and skills–over 100 added since launch, including Domino’s and Uber
  • Echo is always ready, connected, and fast. Just say the wake word, “Alexa,” for:
  • Local search: Get information about local businesses and restaurants from Yelp
  • Audible: Play audiobooks from Audible with Echo. Plus, Echo supports Whispersync for Voice to continue right where you left off.
  • Shopping: Restock on previously purchased items by re-ordering Prime-eligible products in your Amazon shopping history.
  • Music: Listen to your Amazon Music Library, Prime Music, Spotify, Pandora, TuneIn, and iHeartRadio.
  • News, weather, and information: Hear up-to-the-minute weather and news from a variety of sources, including local radio stations, NPR, and ESPN from TuneIn.

Amazon Echo Specs

Size 9.25″ x 3.27″ x 3.27″ (235 mm x 83.5 mm x 83.5 mm)
Weight 26.9 oz. (1045 grams)
Actual size and weight may vary by manufacturing process
Wi-Fi Connectivity Dual-band, dual-antenna Wi-Fi (MIMO) for faster streaming and fewer dropped connections than standard Wi-Fi. Supports 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi networks. Does not support connecting to ad-hoc (or peer-to-peer) Wi-Fi networks.
Bluetooth Connectivity Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP) support for audio streaming from your mobile device to Amazon Echo and Audio/Video Remote Control Profile (AVRCP) for voice control of connected mobile devices. Hands-free voice control is not supported for Mac OS X devices.
Audio 2.5 inch woofer and 2.0 inch tweeter
System Requirements Amazon Echo comes ready to connect to your home Wi-Fi. The Alexa App is compatible with Fire OS, Android, and iOS devices and also accessible via your web browser.
Warranty and Service 1-year limited warranty and service included. Optional 1-year, 2-year, and 3-year extended warranty available for U.S. customers sold separately. Use of Amazon Echo is subject to the terms found here.
Included in the Box Amazon Echo, power adapter/cable (6 ft.), and quick start guide

Amazon Echo Video

Amazon Echo is always ready, connected, and fast. Just ask for information, music, news, weather, and more. Echo is controlled by your voice for hands-free convenience and is connected to the cloud so it’s always getting smarter. Request an invite at http://amazon.com/echo

How much is the Amazon echo?

Amazon Echo costs $99 for Amazon Prime members for a limited time and $199 for everyone else. Since a membership for Amazon Prime is$99, it’s a good incentive for consumers to sign up for the service.

Can you use Spotify with Amazon echo?

Echo provides hands-free voice control for Amazon Music, Prime Music, Pandora, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn. Plus, Echo is Bluetooth-enabled so you can stream other popular music services like Spotify, iTunes, and Pandora from your phone or tablet.

Amazon echo speaker quality

The Good Amazon’s voice-activated smart home speaker is undeniably … The Bad The Echo’s sound quality is uneven at times, with weak bass at high volumes. More than just a speaker, the Amazon Echo is part voice assistant, part home automation hub, and entirely fun to use.  Amazon brings audio into the smart-home age with the $179.99 Echo speaker.


 

Amazon Echo Software Updates

Your Amazon Echo receives software updates automatically over Wi-Fi. These updates usually improve performance and add new features.

Current Version Number: 3077

In addition to bug fixes, the latest software update for Amazon Echo includes these new features:

  • Listen to music from Spotify with a Spotify Premium subscriptionIn addition to Prime Music, Pandora, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn, Spotify Premium subscribers can now listen to their favorite playlists, genres, and over 30 million songs from the Spotify catalog on Amazon Echo. Amazon Echo also supports Spotify Connect, so you can play music on your Amazon Echo and use the Spotify app on your phone or tablet as a remote. To learn how to link your Spotify account to Alexa, go to Link a Third-Party Music Service to Alexa.
  • Support for public Wi-Fi networksWhether you’re in a hotel room or a college dorm room, you can now connect to Wi-Fi networks that require additional authentication through a web browser. To learn more, go to Connect Amazon Echo to Wi-Fi.
  • New wake wordTired of saying “Alexa” or “Amazon” to wake up your Amazon Echo? You can now change the wake word to “Echo” in the Alexa app. To learn more, go to Change the Wake Word.

To determine the current software version for Amazon Echo:

  1. Open the Alexa app.
  2. Open the left navigation panel, and then select Settings.
  3. Select your device, and then scroll down until you see Device software version.

To download the latest software update for Amazon Echo:

  • Make sure your Amazon Echo is on and has an active Wi-Fi connection.
  • Avoid saying anything to Amazon Echo for at least an hour.
  • After an hour (or more), the light ring on your Amazon Echo spins blue and installs the latest update. Depending on your Wi-Fi connection, it can take up to ten minutes to install the software update on your device.
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Jasvinder singh is IEEnew's Editor for Australia and Asia. At other times he'll be found messing with apps, watching TV. Preferably all at the same time.

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