As a birthday gift, thrifty guy Charlie surprised me with a Amazon Echo Dot (Thanks man!). I was thrilled to get it as it's been something I've wanted to try out and review for some time. So, here's a quick look at er and my thoughts on it.
What is the Amazon Echo Dot?
Simply put, the Amazon Echo Dot is a voice activated personal assistant device. It is the daughter (or son) to the Amazon Echo. Both devices are in the Alexa family of products produced by Amazon that are entirely controlled by your voice. Alexa is the “voice” inside the Echo to which you address your requests.
“Alexa, make me a ham sandwich.”
“I'm sorry, I cannot do that. Yet.”
So, a couple of its main capabilities – as listed on the products webpage – are:
- play music
- control your smart home
- get information, news, weather
- and more using just your voice
It's assumed that Amazon has produced this product to get into the driver's seat of the Internet-of-things (IoT) movement which aims to help users control everything from their lights to the thermostat in ones home.
My guess is that Amazon hopes Echo becomes the thing everyone will want to have, to manage their home (and, I imagine, everything else in their life).
Initial unboxing and set-up
Like most products today made by the big guys – Apple and Amazon – this one is user-friendly and easy to get going. Even the packaging is designed with the most efficient use of space and product positioning. Nothing is “wasted”.
The Dot is not a real large fella. It is probably a 1/5 the size of its parent, but it packs a punch and likely does most of what you may want the Echo to do.
In opening the box, one finds everything needed for getting the device up and running.
Some things to note as you get Dot going:
- you'll need to download the Alexa app on your phone to get er working
- be sure to set aside 15-20 minutes for set-up and playing around (you'll be entralled with it for awhile)
- use the handy one-sheet from the packaging to get started with the voice commands
My thoughts on the Dot
The Dot is a fun device to play around with and have in the kitchen or wherever you may be busy doing this or that. It's a bit of an electronic companion when all alone.
Some of the things I got the Dot to do were:
- play a radio program
- get the weather
- set an alarm
- calculate some numbers
- start an order at Amazon
- read my thoughts (no, it didn't work)
Okay. So, this is when this review starts to get a little pessimistic. Sorry – but please stay with me.
After the initial excitement waned with the device, I started to get a little introspective about the Dot. What was Amazon's ultimate aim in creating this? Will it record and listen to everything I'm saying while it is in standby mode? Do I want this to have such a prominent place in our house?
I've read things here and there about the device and Amazon's goals surrounding Alexa / Echo. It is true, the device will store / record many of your commands. As to whether or not it is recording you all the time – I will leave that to the conspiracy theorists and others in-the-know.
I think its important to keep in mind, Amazon is in the sales business. It basically wants to sell you everything and anything you may need. The Echo Dot will help them do that. And in the process of having the device in your home, will try and “get to know you” better through some of the things you order and say.
The more Amazon knows about you – what you like, buy, etc – the more it can sell you exactly what you want/need. Whether you think that is a good thing or not, it seems a bit obtrusive.
It's much like what Facebook and Google are up to these days – collecting the best analytics about its users possible to deliver the best custom content to each individual user.
All this to say – while a very slick, cool device – I'm not sure it will have a prominent place in our home. Yet.
Do you have / use the Amazon Echo Dot? What are your thoughts on it?
We have several Echos in the house, a Dot, a first gen Echo, a 2nd Gen Echo, and now a 2nd Gen Echo Plus. While I didn’t buy all of them (got a couple of them free of charge to do a review for an Echo battery add-on product) I do enjoy using them quite a bit. We use our little forest of Echos to have whole home music where we can play music throughout the whole house if we’re having a Christmas party, a birthday party, or just a regular get together. It works great for that sort of thing.
I do have some reservations about what is being recorded at our house, and it is a little bit disconcerting when you login to your account on Amazon and actually listen to the recordings that it has captured. To allay my fears about that I just go in regularly and delete the recordings they have saved. They say it may mean Alexa will have a harder time understanding you, but it still works fine for me as far as i can tell.
I think there are some legitimate concerns there, but they’re not enough for me to stop using them. I for one like the Echo.
Hey Peter. It’s good to get your perspective on it. They are a neat gadget to have around but the part about the recording is a bit too creepy for us. I didn’t know you could go in and listen to some of the recordings / delete them. Wow.