With the rapid advancement of home automation and the Internet of Things (IoT) there is also the desire for a simple way to integrate and control our connected devices. Beginning as an advanced Bluetooth speaker the Amazon Echo is continuously improving on its capabilities to achieve this. By combining the voice recognition software, Alexa and wireless connectivity the Echo allows for voice activated management of a wide variety of supported devices. Originally released solely in the United States, with the UK and Germany recently added, the unit has had a predominantly positive reception.
If judged solely on the capacity as a speaker the Echo still rates quite high in its price point, with superlatives like superb and astounding being quite common. There are, of course, speakers that provide a higher quality reproduction, though it should be noted that they lack many of the additional functions provided by the Echo. An important stipulation, especially considering the regular updates and improvements.
Wide Range of Functions
The Amazon developed intelligent personal assistant, Alexa, provides the user with a voice activated interface to the device. Much like Siri, Cortana and Google Assistant the software allows for a wide range of functions. Music playback, list making and internet searches being some of the most frequently used, though by no means all encompassing. Surely inspired by the ‘Computer’ in the Star Trek universe, it is a definitive step into the future of how we interact with technology.
Of course, along with this increased functionality lies a certain reliance. This naturally leads to disappointment, and even anger, when the system does not behave properly. As evidenced by many of the negative reviews, difficulties with the Alexa interface can quickly cause frustration. With Amazon consistently upgrading and fixing bugs perhaps this will become less of an issue, for the time being though it is the primary cause of disillusionment.
As with all electronic devices, or more honestly everything, defects exist and can easily ruin the experience. This is the other major issue that users have had with the Echo. More directly the issue seems to lie in very poor technical support from Amazon. Difficulties with connection and out of warranty failure being the primary source of less than favorable reviews.
One other, relatively minor, issue is the requirement for an attached a/c power supply, thus rendering the device basically stationary. Though with the release of Dot, which are expandable hubs for the system and Tap, essentially a portable version of the Echo, Amazon has quickly addressed this.
What Others Are Saying
The vast majority of consumers, however are exceedingly happy with the unit. With over 40 thousand reviews from Amazon users, and only 14% negative in any way, the device apparently makes up for any difficulties with functionality and value. To be sure, there will always be a vocal minority that will remain upset with either the device or with Amazon.
While there are many home automation hubs currently on the market, in a range of prices and abilities, few are as well received and critiqued as the Amazon Echo. With the newly added Echo Dot, and Tap command of the market is likely to continue.