Amazon Echo Dot – The Highs & Lows of Amazon’s Little Connected Miracle

Echo Dot<

Amazon had their Echo Dot on a Bank Holiday offer which took £10 off the price, making it £39.99. The offer is still valid today on Cyber Monday, so if you want one, click the link below in the useful links section at the end of the article.

There is not much to the Amazon Echo Dot. In the box is the Echo Dot itself, a micro USB cable that plugs into the UK adapter. A few mini booklets are provided. All you have to do is download the Amazon Alexa app, plug the Echo Dot in to the power socket, sign in via the app and it takes your wifi credentials and sets itself up.

You can now say things like, Alexa will it rain tomorrow. Or will it rain on Wednesday, and stuff like that. If you want the Echo Dot powered by a voice spoken assistant called Alexa, you can add more features, called skills. The USA has over 3,000 skills. The UK is somewhat behind that number, but it has only recently been launched in the UK.

So what can the Echo Dot do now –

– Amazon Echo Dot is a hands-free, voice-controlled device that uses Alexa to play music, control smart home devices, provide information, read the news, set alarms and more
– Connects to speakers or headphones through Bluetooth or 3.5 mm stereo cable to play music from Amazon Music, Spotify and TuneIn
– Controls lights, switches, thermostats and more with compatible connected devices from WeMo, Philips Hue, Hive, Netatmo, Nest, tado° and others
– Hears you from across the room with 7 microphones for far-field hands-free voice control, even in noisy environments or while playing music
– Includes a built-in speaker so it can work on its own as a smart alarm clock in the bedroom, an assistant in the kitchen, or anywhere you might want a voice-controlled device
– Always getting smarter – Alexa updates through the cloud automatically and is continually learning, adding new features and skills

So in no particular order these are the lows and highs, starting with the lows first –

– sometimes it did not understand my voice/accent.
– you have to remember to start every sentence with Alexa. It is not aware of context and any commands have to be spoken precisely as it has been programmed
– my Belkin Wemo Smart Lights did not work with the Echo Dot without adding a skill (or service) from Konomi. Once added I could say things like “Alexa, lights on”. This was all working perfectly, and then none of the voice commands worked. I got this working again, only for it to fail again
– Be careful with compatibility. I though Wemo products were supported by the Echo Dot. Turns out it is only certain WeMo products and not my smart lights. (in hindsight it would have made more sense 2 years ago to spend the extra and buy Philips Hue lights)

And now for the highs –

– setup was a breeze
– I really like the small size of the Echo Dot. It is small enough to not disturb the look of any room. The microphones work really well.
– despite the issues with Belkin WeMo Smart light bulbs, this is the only product that has been able to connect to these and allow operation by voice
– Amazon’s Echo and Echo Dot has vastly more connectivity services than Apple’s HomeKit.
– The speaker on the Echo Dot is much louder than I expected and sat on a solid wooden shelf delivers a lot of punch for its size
– With Prime Music (the free option) I can play music from most genres
– If the sound is not loud enough, connecting to a bigger speaker is easy.
– Its early days but the amount of stuff and services the Echo can connect to is vast

The big plus is it doesn’t need voice training. That means my wife can turn the lights on, off or dim them using her voice. Early days but so far, its great fun and impressive little piece of kit.

Useful Links
Amazon Echo Dot


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