So the big news is that Amazon Echo is now available for all to purchase, with a July 14th ETA. And, instead of going mass market at $200 as originally presented, it arrives at an even more palatable $180 (having dropped the physical remote). Considering a decent Bluetooth speaker could run that much or more, the voice-controlled, multi-function Echo is really a fantabulous deal when you consider all it offers.
When originally introduced as an Amazon Prime exclusive in limited numbers for $99, I picked up two. Back then, it didn’t do a whole lot — it was largely a silo-ed experience that I mainly used as a voice-controlled alarm clock and iHeartRadio terminal. But the product team has been iterating at a furious pace, bringing native Pandora, Hue control (!), and Audible integration… with promises of more to come and a developer SDK.
My experiences with the voice recognition had been decent, using “Alexa” as the trigger. Echo got most, but not all, things right. Yet the only real annoyances were the times it’d periodically interrupt a conversation it shouldn’t have been privy to or when Alexa and I couldn’t communicate effectively over playing music. And, speaking of music, audio quality was similarly decent. Tucked away in a corner, as photographed above, Echo produced poor, distorted sound. But free on the kitchen ledge and centered on our bedroom dresser, it performed much better… though not Sonos-quality.
As a technology, I find Echo compelling. But, as a consumer, my wife and I just weren’t using it all that much — instead, gravitating towards our smartphones and Sonos for similar functionality. So off to ebay they went.