Amazon Echo - 5 stars
Amazon has been on a tear the last few years with hardware (I’m choosing to ignore their phone). When I first saw the Amazon Echo I wanted it right away, but then cancelled my order as I could not figure out what to do with it. Well a few months later (after playing with them at 2 Amazon peeps houses) I got one and it’s been a huge hit in the household.
Not all Amazon hardware is a hit with me. I still love the Fire TV for example, but the kid’s 2 year old Fire HDX tablets are about to get replaced with iPad Mini 2 as the Fire HDX has turned into a hot mess for us (Prime Video / Kid’s Time / Offline Videos / Parental Controls / Profiles have just become too complex). That’s a post for another day.
Amazon Echo is like Siri for the kitchen. The feature that sold me was setting kitchen timers. For example, when I am grilling from across the room I can yell “Alexa, set a timer for 4 minutes” and then I will know when to flip my steaks. I have an infrared gril, so cooking steaks is searing 3 min on each side followed by 3 min on med heat. I need a timer to keep the thing from turning the steak into charcoal. You can set as many timers as you want. It's oddly simple, but way easier than using my phone as I need both hands when cooking. My other kitchen timer, the one on the oven, well, it’s not as convenient. So, oddly enough this is what sold me.
But the minute I plugged Alexa in, she has belonged to the kids. Miles and Sarah ask her questions multiple times a day. “What’s the weather?”. “Can you play Michael Jackson Beat It”. It turns out Alexa has a ton of features. It’s like Siri except a bit more useful in my opinion.
Alexa is connected to my Wink, which means she can respond to commands to turn off all the lights when I am leaving the house. She is connected to Pandora and Amazon Prime Music which means she is my kid’s DJ. She can also play 5 min NPR news clips and connects to lots of apps.
Alexa can also place items in your Amazon Shopping cart, like the Amazon Dash. She looks at your previous orders as a way to put the right things in your cart.
I’m surprised at the utility of the Echo. I’m really surprised at how normal my kids think this is, and how much they use Alexa each day. They really like to know the weather forecast and play music impromptu. Recently Miles has gotten into the habit of playing Enter Sandman by Metallica each day. It’s pretty cute to see them discover music and play their favorite tunes of the week.
As a platform, I expect the Echo will continue to do more and be an integral part of the Amazon eco-system as well as your connected home. In fact, I wish Amazon would be more aggressive here and acquire one of the connected home integrators like Wink as Amazon strikes me as one of the best platforms for selling and running your connected home appliances.
★★★★★ Exceptional. A spectacular product.