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Amazon Tech Review: Echo Dot…Ask Alexa

Amazon+Echo+Dot.

Amazon Echo Dot.

A week ago, through luck, I received a free Echo Dot that would have otherwise cost me $50. I won’t lie, I’m as cheap as you can get, so I had been sitting on the idea of getting one of these Dots for a good few months now. After only a few uses, I fell in love with it.

This is something oddly ironic since most voice-based technologies seem to hate how I sound. But the voice-based technology used in the Amazon Alexa Operating System appears to be sensitive enough to pick up on even my voice. Now I have too much fun entering things into my calendar and asking Alexa what I have the next day as I’m falling asleep. I may or may not have a problem here.

Alexa has “skills,” which are the device’s apps. You can find a whole gallery of them on Amazon’s Alexa app, available through Android and iOS stores. But if you want basic, you don’t need a whole lot to feel productive.

When syncing your calendar, a Google account is preferable, as Alexa seems to more readily recognize Google’s calendar than that of the standard Apple calendar. I have both of my calendars set to sync, but I have to input events from my phone to hear Alexa tell me what I have scheduled when I ask. Alexa won’t tell you what you’ve had in days past, but going forward, it’s pretty good at telling you what you have scheduled. To play with this feature, simply ask, “Alexa, what do I have [insert date here]?” 

The Echo Dot I have has four buttons on it: a mute button, two volume buttons on either side, and a dot. But if you’re feeling lazy, just tell Alexa, “Alexa, turn the volume up.” But, unfortunately, it still falls short in music controls. You can connect it to your Spotify account through the Alexa app, but it doesn’t let you go back to a previous song. You can, however, tell it to go to the next song and it will play from your queue. I prefer to use it more for music since it does have pretty good speakers.

I use the Echo Dot mainly for the calendar and reminders when I am at home (like when to drink water, get laundry, etc.), but there are a lot more skills you can download.

Alexa will transcribe vocal notes that you can connect to your Evernote. That’s not something I’ve gotten too involved in, since those notes of mine are usually too complicated to ever simply put out through voice. Alexa can also check your bank account for you if you have the right bank. You can even make your own skills for it if you have something you want it to do for you. 

With all of the good things the Echo Dot offers, I wish Amazon would start going completely wireless with their devices, so that I don’t have to unplug it when I move between my bedroom and my office. This is the only thing I don’t like. It seems there is never an available socket when I need to use it. 

As I’ve said, I’ve only had this a week, so this is all I’ve found of it so far, but if you only want something simple, this is a good purchase. For $50 this isn’t too bad of a deal for what’s currently out on the market.

Product Rating: 9/10

Desires Improvement: More streaming hands-free controls. Less hardwiring.