Setting up the Echo is about as easy as anyone could ask for. When plugged in, the speaker instantly launches into readiness mode, acting as a Wi-Fi access point. Using a smartphone or tablet, you must temporarily connect to the Echo via Wi-Fi. The speaker will tell you when the connection is successful, and direct you to use the Echo app (which should be installed ahead of time) to finish the process. From there, all you have to do tell the Echo which Wi-FI router to connect to and feed it the password. That’s it. The Echo app will prompt you to watch an orientation video, but if you want to skip ahead, just scrub to the end and the app will let you move on.
HOW IT WORKS
The Echo comes pre-registered to the account of whoever ordered it. As such, the moment it connects to Wi-Fi, it has access to Amazon’s Prime music service and any music stored in the user’s music account. This will include digital copies of any CDs the user may have ordered from Amazon in the past.
The Echo can also draw on iHeartRadio or TuneIn for content, but you’ll need to enter account information in the Echo app in order for those services to be available.
To play music (or do anything else, really) you will have to start talking to Alexa – that’s your speaker’s name, like it or not. I hope you don’t have any daughters named Alexa, Alexis, Alex, or Lexie – or ever plan to – because you will be in for a frustrating time. Alexa’s voice recognition software is remarkably accurate, but she gets fooled by similar sounding names sometimes. You can change “her” name to “Amazon” instead, but that takes some of the personality out of the experience. I’d like to see some new names folded in by Amazon in the near future.
The Echo speaker is Amazon’s most interesting experiment yet. I poked fun at the marketing efforts around the Echo and its voice-driven assistant, Alexa. But once I had the speaker in my home, I couldn’t deny it was extremely fun to use. Time will tell whether the novelty will wear off and whether or not I’ll end up buying more music through Amazon as a result of the speaker’s convenience (which I think is one of Amazon’s chief goals here), but for now I can say that any Amazon user with even a mild interest in giving the Echo a try should go ahead and pull the trigger. At $99, the Echo more than earns its keep, and you can always sell it off if you lose interest – Amazon’s invitation game has sent eBay prices soaring well above $99. Just be sure to deregister the speaker from your Amazon account first.
- Tons of fun
- Intuitive, accurate and natural-sounding voice-assistant
- Quick response times
- Integration with Fire Tablets
- Loads of potential
- Limited Prime account integration
- Very average sound quality
- Wake word limited to ‘Alexa’ and ‘Amazon’
- Security limited to four-digit PIN