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You cannot go wrong in getting the Amazon Echo for him. Every man loves a gadget, and this one is the mother of all gadgets. He will love it. Period.
I added an FAQ section to the bottom of my review because Amazon doesn’t have one on detail page for the Echo. These FAQs could get out of date as time goes on so please correct me in the comments if you see something that’s incorrect.
I requested an Echo (Alexa) in late 2014 and Amazon sent me an invitation to purchase one in February. I’ve used it daily since then. This review is going to sound a bit contradictory. I love her. I hate her, I love her. Let me start off by saying that Alexa, while I do love her, is at times about 50% smarter than a bulldog. Her IQ is somewhere between 25 and 160 depending on what you’ve asked her. You will very quickly learn how to talk to her in a way that she will understand and it’s not unlike speaking to a small frustrating toddler. Alexa, when was George Washington born? George Washington was born…blah blah Alexa stop. There were rumors his teeth were wood but these turned out to be false, ALEXA stop speaking! There will be many times she will not understand what you’re saying which can be both frustrating and hilarious. Alexa, put tomatoes on my shopping list. I’ve put potatoes onto your shopping list….Well, guess I’m eatin potatoes. That said, now that I’ve learned how to speak to the Echo it usually does exactly what I want it to do. I think the echo is well worth the price Amazon is asking and I’m thinking of getting a second one for the living room.
+ Amazon has done a great job updating the Echo and adding features to it frequently. Since my purchase, they’ve added traffic reports, sports scores, Pandora, IFTT, voice control over the smart lights and appliances in your home, iTunes support, Spotify, and new fun features like rolling dice, and Simon says.
+ You can use the optional echo remote to control the volume or speak commands. It works really well from a good distance (I’ve tried 20-30 ft). I use it frequently and feel like it’s worth the additional cost.
+ The Speaker sounds great with music and gets plenty loud.
+ You can teach the Echo how to understand you better using a Voice Training feature in the app.
+ It integrates with Audible! All I have to say is “Alexa, play my book”, and it starts off from where I was listening on my phone or PC. You can also say “Alexa go back” and it will go back 30 seconds. Yay!
+ Bluetooth streaming is seamless. Just say “Alexa pair Bluetooth” and you’ll be connected in 30 seconds.
+ It does a great job at finding the music you want to play quickly. “Alexa play kids music”, “Alexa play my 90s station on Pandora”. “Alexa play American Pie”…. playing American pie by Don McLean.
+ Using “Simon Says” you can make Alexa repeat anything you say.
+ I love the shopping list. Throughout the day my wife will add things to the shopping list as she thinks about them and then when I go to the store the list is on my Echo phone app and I don’t have try to remember what she wants.
+ One of my favorite things to do is mess with my kids using Alexa. My son will go into the kitchen and ask her questions. I sit in a different room and speak into the remote asking it to answer other random questions or I tell it to play country music and he gets super confused. I’ll say things like “Add Landon needs to brush his teeth to the to do list.” and when Alexa repeats what I’ve said he jumps. I find this a non-stop source of enjoyment that I am probably going to pay for one day.
+ The Echo has the ability to start and stop timers and alarms. Just say “Alexa set an alarm for 8 am”, or “Alexa set a timer for 15 minutes”. I find the timer very useful in the kitchen when I’m cooking more than one thing.
+ You can pause, stop, skip, and start music with your voice and it works really well. You can also control the volume with your voice by saying “Alexa turn the volume up.” or “Alexa volume 5”.
+ The jokes and random facts it can answer are really fun and can also be very helpful. Every time someone comes over I’ll ask it questions like “How many teaspoons are in a cup?”, what’s 962 x 47?, or “How much does an Adult Elephant weight?” and the Echo can usually answer me.
+ They built in a lot of funny Easter eggs. You can say “Alexa Beam me up”, “Alexa I love you”, or “Alexa do you find me attractive?” and you’ll get pretty funny responses.
+ There are lots of other random things it can do. Give you sports scores, tell you the weather, inform you of traffic conditions, order stuff on Amazon (thankfully not enabled by default), and read the news.
+ The Amazon Echo SDK is coming soon! That means software developers will be able to make new apps that work with the Echo.
– It’s not portable. You have to keep it plugged in at all times. They should come out with a wireless rechargeable version.
– I wish you could ask the Echo to do more than one thing without repeating it’s name “Alexa”. For example I’d like to say “Alexa add milk, eggs, olive oil, and onions to my shopping list” and have it add 4 items to the list instead of 1.
– Currently the Echo only supports English. It will translate words for you but it puts them into your Echo app because it can’t speak other languages.
– It would be great if they gave you a second keyword that would let Alexa listen until you tell her to stop listening. Sometimes I don’t speak fast enough and the Echo thinks I’m done talking before I’ve finished my sentence.
– The shopping list is only stored in the cloud, not on your phone. I can’t always get an internet connection in my grocery store, especially when I’m in the back of the store. When I lose the internet I suddenly can’t access my shopping list. As a work-around you can use IFTT to copy the shopping list to another app on your phone. That said I still think they should copy the list to your phone in the echo app because not everyone is going to set up IFTT.
– When asking questions, the Echo is only good with facts. I can ask it “What is the capital of France?” but I can’t ask questions like “How do I substitute Baking soda for baking powder?” or “Read me the next instructions for this fried chicken recipe.”. I’d like if they expanded it’s question answering capability in the future. Food and drink recipes should be on their short list of features to add.
– I’d like if the Echo had an equalizer built in. Some of my audiobooks sound just fine but others can sound muddy and I’d like to be able to bring out the voice by tweaking the mids, treble, and base on the speaker.
In my opinion, the kitchen is the perfect location for the Echo. We spend a lot of time in the kitchen and I love listening to music or my Audio books when I’m cooking. My hands are usually full and being able to control the music with my voice is very convenient. Overall this is a fantastic device. Amazon has proven they are committed to the Echo by frequently pushing free updates to it so I have no doubt that it’s going to become even more useful as time goes on. Great job Amazon! Not every gadget you put out is perfect but you’ve got a real winner on your hands with this one.
Q. Does the Echo speak more than 1 language?
A. No. Right now the Echo is English only.
Q. Does the Echo connect to my iTunes library?
A. Yes. You just need to configure it in the Echo app.
Q. If I listen to an Audiobook on the Echo will it keep my place on my phone?
A. Yes. Amazon Whispersync works really well for Audible between the Echo, your phone, and whatever else you use to listen to Audible.
Q. Is there a subscription cost to use the Echo?
A. No. You just need an internet connection. You’ll be able to use more of the features like Prime music if you’re an Amazon Prime member.
Q. Is the remote included in the box?
A. No you need to buy the remote separately. It’s an optional accessory that lets you turn the volume up and down without speaking and it also lets you speak to the Echo from another room. Ex. You’re in the Kitchen and the Echo is in your bedroom. You suddenly realize you need to buy more Olive Oil. You can pick up the Echo remote and say “Add Olive Oil to my shopping list” instead of walking in your bedroom to tell the Echo.
Q. Is the software in the Echo “update-able”?
A. Yes. If you keep it connected to the internet the Echo will automatically get all of the updates and new features that Amazon pushes.
Q. Can you use the Echo to control other speakers?
A. No. According to this Amazon FAQ.
Q. Does the Echo understand different types of voices or does it only work well for 1 voice?
A. It works well for pretty much anyone that can speak clear English. It has trouble sometimes understanding my 6 year old because he’s still having a little trouble with his speech. There is a voice trainer built into the Echo app to help it learn how you speak.
Q. Can I re-name the Echo to something other than “Alexa”?
A. Amazon calls this feature the “wake word” and right now the only two wake words you can use are “Alexa” or using the Echo app you can change it to “Amazon”.
Q. Does the Echo have a 3.5mm aux jack?
Q. Is the Echo battery powered/portable?
A. No. The moment you unplug it from the wall it turns off.
Q. Do I need wifi to use the Echo?
A. Yes. There is no port for an ethernet cable. You need to have wifi.