Hello again everyone, and welcome to part two of my review for the Amazon Echo! Okay, that sounds too formal. Let’s start again – but first, be sure you’re caught up on the first part.
I’ve been living with Alexa for just over two weeks now. We’ve gotten more and more comfortable with each other. As I said in my initial review, we didn’t quite work out as work partners in the office, so I tried to turn it into a little more of a personal device.
I’m going to cut straight to the chase here and skip the eloquence – here’s a summary of a few additional bulletpoints and thoughts that have come up in the past week.
Definitely not a Home Center
Right off the bat, I can say that Amazon Echo’s advertisement of a “home center” replacement for Siri is just not there yet, at least under most circumstances. However, in a standalone situation, Alexa is found to be most useful in the bedroom.
She’s got a wonderful feature as an alarm clock, and although she’s not particularly loud, it’s a much less offensive noise than a regular clock and certainly better than a cell phone alarm. Again, I hate that there’s a flip side to this coin – for some reason, Alexa doesn’t have a built-in clock radio feature. Waking up to a music stream would be an incredible little feature that just doesn’t exist.
The closest you can get to it is to have Alexa sync to your smartphone, and download a radio alarm app. It’s sketchy at best, and flawed in reality – a very disappointing shortcoming I hope they overcome in a software update soon.
Has some connectivity features, but not enough
Two of the very well touted features of the Amazon Echo is that it can sync with the Nest thermostat and the Hue lightbulb – both of which would be really great I’m sure… Should you be willing to drop $200+ on either system in addition. They’ve made an effort to open it up for additional functionality by pairing with IFTTT, which allows for some nice features I requested earlier:
- I can add a memo to Evernote
- I can add something to Google Calendar
- I can integrate with some fancy third party services
Unfortunately, it’s all through a workaround. Instead of native connection, you have to say something like “Alexa, add X to my To Do list in Evernote”, even if it’s just a memo. To Do seems to be the only real command that IFTTT can work with, which is extremely limiting, and particularly frustrating – I’d rather just grab my smartphone and type in the note or use the voice recording.
Certain connectivity features are missing, but extremely baffling as to why
One thing I don’t understand is how it doesn’t integrate with an Amazon Fire TV stick. How amazing would it be to say “Alexa, can you put It’s Always Sunny on?” and have her send something to the Fire TV stick through Wifi? It’d be incredible, but it’s a dream. No can do. Want to have Alexa play an audiobook from your Audible account? Sorry – you’ll have to Bluetooth in through your smartphone. It’s these silly oversights that take away from the value of the machine that I can only hope some engineer forgot to add in and is coming down the pipeline.
The long and short of it
For now, even at the reduced $99 Amazon Prime member price, it’s hard for me to recommend buying an Amazon Echo. While the premise, the hardware, and the capability is there, everything else is just missing. So much potential is wasted due to the lack of an open API, that until one comes along (if ever – the Kindle Fire OS hints otherwise), I can see forgetting about Alexa entirely and moving on as if I never purchased, $99 poorer.
As I said before, something like this has a learning curve – we’ll revisit my relationship with the Amazon Echo in a couple of weeks once I’ve tried to push a few more boundaries. Until then, wish us luck!
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