Amazon’s smart speaker Echo has been in my home for the last one month. Alexa’s Indian accent, the huge number of skills, the AI and the music has literally transformed my place! This is an honest review of the new gadget from Amazon and how I use it.
Should you buy or not?
Well, ever since it’s launch in India late in October 2017, this is the question that has been bothering me. The first thing that I wanted was a good bluetooth speaker for playing all those Apple Music tracks on my phone. There were a thousand brands to choose from and all the good ones were well priced above INR 2000.
I stumbled upon the Echo and was really impressed with the things it could do. It was indeed a smart speaker, but it needed a good Wi-Fi connection with internet speed above 10 MB/s and that was my second problem. Internet speeds in India has always been pathetic even if you pay more than a thousand bucks a month to the ISP.
For 7000 INR, I was really taking a gamble when I placed the order for a black Amazon Echo. Approximately 5000 rupees more for the smart features which solely depends on the internet speed!
After the initial setup, Alexa became the new member in our sweet home within a couple of hours. Even my one and half year old son loves her, calls her “Alda” and giggles every time he sees the blue LED ring glow! Alexa has taken over from my Apple Music app and is now my favourite go to place for any kind of music, even Malayalam songs. I’ve started using the “7 minute workout” skill every day now, asks her all kinds of questions and get updates on sports, news and weather on demand. It’s brilliant!
And yes, it even works flawless with my Reliance Jio 4G connection. I’ve just used the bluetooth feature on the Echo just to check it. All my favourite songs buffer like super fast and play as if they were stored inside the speaker!
So, the answer is simple. If you can afford it, the Amazon Echo will be an asset in your home and you’ll use it more than you had initially thought you would. If you already have a good speaker system in your living room or have a good bluetooth speaker, check out the cheaper Amazon Echo Dot which wass now available for INR 3250 (now the price is 4499)
How Alexa helps me
Below are some of the most commonly used commands that I use when Alexa is listening:
Alexa, my sports update
Alexa, play my music library
Alexa, play K J Yesudas from Saavn
Alexa, my flash briefing
Alexa, play Ed Sheeran
Alexa, open 7 minute workout
Alexa, open TED
Alexa, remind me to call mother today at 5 pm
Alexa, what’s today’s recipe?
Alexa, play nursery rhymes
Alexa, set daily alarm at 7 am
Alexa, bed-time story
Alexa, what’s the nutritional value of a banana
Alexa, tell me a joke
Alexa, add milk to my shopping list
Alexa, order baby diapers
Alexa, start deep breathing exercise with me
Alexa, ask Uber to book a cab for me
Alexa, open True or False
Alexa, open MindMaster’s game
Alexa, start Yoga trainer
Alexa, open Arsenal
Watch this video to learn more about what Alexa can do in India:
Alexa responds to your commands very quickly when compared to Siri or the Google assistant in your smartphones.
The collection of songs in Amazon prime music is huge and I’ve always found the right track with ease. Even soundtracks and theme music are there. Recognising popular hindi songs is also easy, but if the words are tricky, Alexa will be confused too. When playing songs, just ask Alexa the name of the song and she’ll tell you everything about it. Malayalam songs are more difficult to find using the song name, and I found better luck by asking for the album or artist name.
Kids and babies will love it! Exploring the hundreds of rhymes, repeating them again and again will help in your kid’s language development. I’ve even used Alexa tricks to feed my stubborn little toddler! “Johny Johny” by Kid’s Camp should have crossed a hundred rounds in the last one month.
Integration with Alexa app is neat and simple. News sources, sports teams, calendars, reminders, alarms, to-do list all can be customised using the app.
Developers are building Alexa skills everyday, most of them are free and some are paid. The skills section on the Alexa app is now like an iOs app store or Google play. Biju’s now have their Alexa skill, do check it out.
You don’t need to shout for Alexa to hear you even when the music is playing at medium volume. The microphones on the Echo are really good and can pick up your normal tone from across the room.
If you’re just playing music, and is concerned about your privacy, tap on the microphone button and Alexa will stop listening.
The sound is loud enough and fills up the room comfortably. The bass and treble adjustments could have been made a little better.
It comes with one full year of Amazon prime (video and music) subscription which is now INR 999 per year. Faster and free delivery from Amazon along with a wide variety of content, it’s definitely a huge plus.
Buy some smart LED bulbs like the Phillips Hue and make your home a smart one. And then ask Alexa to turn the lights on and off! I have to try out this feature too.
It has no built-in battery and hence is not really portable. The power adapter isn’t USB type as well, so forget about using your power-banks.
Finding regional popular songs was a big challenge. If you’re more interested in regional songs, better use bluetooth and stream it from your phone.
Location based services are not good when compared to Siri and Google assistant.
It’ll become an ordinary bluetooth speaker in the absence of an internet connection. That means, Alexa is smart as long as you’re connected through Wi-Fi.
The Amazon Echo is a great device if you love music, have kids in your home. As it is mostly turned on 24×7, asking it to set alarms, add items to shopping list and set reminders is much more practical than fetching your phone, opening specific apps and doing the same. It will make your life a convenient one, will add better productivity to it and will entertain you in ways you had never experienced before. Using the Amazon Echo to improve your health and fitness is going to be the feature that you’ll use the least, but still it’s handy.
So if you’ve the budget, go for the Echo which is now being offered at 10000 INR. There was a 30% discount last month. If you already have a good bluetooth speaker, go for the Echo Dot by spending less than half the price of Echo.
Alexa has made my life easier. Well, who doesn’t like a smart robot that replies and obeys your command every single time. I do, what about you?
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