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Amazon Echo: What Does It Do?

Amazon are without a doubt the biggest online retailer around. They’ve made the move from being an online book store to being a company that is trying to control as much of our lives as possible, mostly without us realising it.

With that in mind let’s take a look at arguably the biggest step forward from the retail giant in getting you to become an Amazine (we’ll work on the name).

The Echo has been around for a little while now (depending on where you live) and its had a variety of software updates as part of the constant battle to remain the biggest and the best in the virtual assistant market. But what are the things that make it stand out from the others being released? Certainly the Google Home is the next big competitor but after a lengthy hands on with ‘Alexa’ what does she offer?

Amazon Music 

With a 360 degree speaker the biggest plus with the echo is it’s ability to give a great sound all around the room. It’s design makes it a better sound than its little cousin the dot but you can still link the two up and get your music around the house making the two able to give you a decent sound system throughout your main living rooms.

For obvious reasons the echo comes ready to play you the best songs on Amazon Music with around 2 million songs ready and available with your Prime membership. Upgrade to Amazon Music Unlimited an you open up 10 million tracks which would make it hard not to find what you’re looking for.

speakers

Tune In

That said music isn’t the only use for the speakers, the echo also comes ready to play you virtually any radio station you can think of thanks to Tune In. Like a lot of families we like to have the radio on in the back ground and the ability to get whatever station you want via voice command makes life a lot easier. Best of all it comes free with the echo, it’s ready to go right out of the box!

Smart Home

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This is possibly the key area for the echo, the ability to control a variety of devices around your home all via the power of your voice.

You will need to have the additional kit in place such as smart bulbs and smart plugs but these come at a variety of prices and companies such as Phillips, TP-Link and LIFX. Each gives a different take on what it can do but they all come down to the same idea, to allow you to do less and the house do more.

Rather than just turning lights, TV’s and Coffee Machines on and off as and when you like, most options come with the relevant app’s that allow scheduling and automated on and off facilities such as on at dusk or random use if you are on holiday.

There’s a lot more to come in this arena but for most users there’s already so much available to discover that will make you wonder how you ever did without them.

Bluetooth

It’s a technology that’s been around for years but it’s still got a place in today’s world of wireless technology.

Ask your echo to pair (as simple as “Alexa Pair” and you can connect any device that has bluetooth to the echo. Connect your phone and you can play your favorite podcast, or whatever video you’re watching (probably a Where’s Turtle video) via Youtube will have the audio play on the echo.

Walnut Echo

Drop In

A fairly new part of the echo, if you know someone who also has an echo or maybe you have a second one, or dot, around the house. If you do you can make a call with your’s and drop into a conversations. Calling someone outside your home is as simple as using the app to give the echo access to your contacts however if it’s to call upstairs it’s as easy as using an intercom.

Fitness

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Considering how much more you’ll be sitting down with your Smart Home taking care of everything you’ll need to bring some exercise back into your life. Luckily for you the echo can give you a daily (more if you want to) 7 minute work out to get you moving. Amazon really do want you to have a balanced life (presumably you’ll buy your new trainers and head band from them so its a win win)

Ordering

If you have an echo, it’s a fairly safe bet you have Amazon Prime, if that’s the case you’ll going to love this bit. You can order or reorder directly from Amazon via voice command. Need a pack of nappies? Amazon have it and prime get’s it to you the next day. Need a new lawnmower for the weekend? They have it covered.  If Amazon sell it, you can get it via the echo. Handily you can put a pass code on so people can’t randomly order on your behalf (no Paw Patrol or Peppa Pig turning up).

Flash Briefings

You can set up news to find out what’s going on in the world directly via the app. Once you’ve decided who you want your new’s from it’s just a case of asking Alexa to give you the news and you’ll be fully up to date. There are plenty to choose from, the best we’ve found being the BBC who seem to give a broad variety of news.

Calendar

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Use a Google calendar? Don’t worry, the echo is compatible and can add, amend and remove things from your calendar as and when you ask. It’ll even remind you if you ask it, so if you have an appointment you need to leave on time for the echo will literally tell you when the time comes so you never miss anything again. If you have a full calendar each day it’s far easier to just tell the echo want you want that to keep manually adding thing’s so this is another feature that’s a time saver.

Fun

There are thousands of things to do that are fun, interesting or just plain random.

Ask it to tell you a joke, give you a fact about movies or any other subject you can think of, there are dozens of sites that have listed all of the commands you can use to while away a Sunday afternoon.

You can have a bedtime story, you can play a game, you can take a quiz, all through what Amazon call Skills. These are a bit like apps that you enable to use on the echo, and just like the various app stores there are thousands to choose from.

It’s a safe bet that the first hour of using the echo will be spent seeing what weird things it can do. Try asking “Alexa, are you Skynet?”

 

So there are some starting points to get you thinking if you are considering getting an echo. It’s well worth the money and even more so when the various sales come up throughout the year. Even if you’re fully paid up and entrenched in everything Google and Apple, it’s worth taking a look outside the box and seeing what the echo can offer you.

 

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