Voice search and voice-control are becoming more and more popular, and the services and products that feature it are improving every day. The Amazon Echo, often called “Alexa” because of the disembodied voice that Echo owners communicate with, is the entry into this market from Amazon.
The Amazon Echo can integrate with your Amazon account to play music, order products, and answer general questions that you might have. It can also interface with other Amazon products that you might have, such as the Fire TV Stick, as well as certain types of smart home products.
By purchasing and installing an Amazon Echo in your home, there is suddenly a lot that you can do by simply saying “Alexa” and following it with a command that she understands.
Unfortunately the Amazon Echo is a little pricey, and certainly isn’t for everyone. But if you have read reviews of the Alexa, understand its capabilities, and are still thinking about purchasing one, then our list below will point out some of the things that you will want to know about the Echo and Alexa before you finalize your purchase.
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1. Owning an Amazon Echo doesn’t automatically give you Amazon Prime.
Like almost every other product that Amazon sells, the Echo is much better with Prime. Amazon Prime gives you free two-day shipping on items sold by Amazon, as well as streaming music, streaming video, access to the Kindle lending library, and much more. Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial (Amazon link)
If you already have an Amazon Prime subscription, then you will get to use the Amazon Echo to the fullest extent of its capabilities. But purchasing an Echo does not also give you access to Prime features, and the device is much more limited if you aren’t able to take advantage of Prime features when you use it.
2. The Amazon Echo works much better if you have Amazon Prime.
This point continues from the previous one – you are going to miss out on several Alexa features that are only available to Prime members. This includes the ability to play music automatically by simply talking to Alexa, and you won’t be able to tell Alexa to play something on your Fire TV Stick unless you have already purchased it and it is in your video library. You can purchase new videos and music using Alexa, but the lack of that “free” content from your Prime subscription can definitely factor into the utility and enjoyment that you can gain by having an Echo in your home.
You can take advantage of some voice-controlled music functionality if you have Spotify or TuneIn Radio.
There is an option to get an Echo-specific Amazon Music Unlimited subscription, however. Read more about it here on Amazon.
3. The sound quality is good, but not perfect.
When you look at the Echo, your first impression is usually of a tall, skinny, cylindrical speaker. It is visually comparable to some Bluetooth speaker models, like the Ultimate Ears Boom (view on Amazon), and the Amazon Tap (view on Amazon), which is Amazon’s portable Bluetooth speaker, looks very similar to the Echo.
But if your purchase of the Echo is primarily for its music-playing capabilities, and you don’t intend to make use of much of the other Alexa functionality, then you might be disappointed in the sound quality of the speaker. While it is certainly an above-average speaker, there are dedicated Bluetooth speakers in this price range that offer a superior audio experience.
4. The Amazon Echo AI, called Alexa, is incredibly responsive if she hears her name.
Every command that you give to the Echo must be prefaced with “Alexa.” So, for example, if you wanted to play Stairway to Heaven, you would say “Alexa, play Stairway to Heaven.” This is meant to ensure that the Echo is not automatically acting upon every voice command that it hears. Amazon is very proud of Alexa’s ability to hear its name in a loud room, which is an important characteristic for a device that will presumably be playing music.
However, if Alexa is near another audio source, or if you have someone in your home named Alexa, then it might start acting on commands that it hears which are not meant for the Echo. If someone on TV or the radio mentions Alexa, then that will activate the device. If you call out to your family member with the same name, then the Echo will be awaiting a command.
5. The Amazon Echo does not come with a remote.
There is a remote control for the Amazon Echo, but it is not included with the Echo by default. This may not be a problem if you are only intending to use the voice interaction, but it’s worth noting if you were expecting to receive a remote control with your Echo.
(Honorable mention) You need to have a Wi-Fi network in your home.
The Amazon Echo relies on the Internet to stream content, access information, and generally perform almost every function of which it is capable. The Echo does not have an ethernet cable, and is only able to get on the Internet via a wireless, or Wi-Fi, network.
If you are purchasing the Echo for yourself, or giving it as a gift, then an important prerequisite to consider is whether the house that will be using the Echo already has a configured wireless network.
If you have read through this article and none of these factors have scared you away from purchasing an Echo, then I would definitely recommend getting one. Alexa is a very useful feature to have and, if you already have Amazon Prime and use Amazon services a lot, then there are many things that you can do with the Echo that will improve your daily life.
Thinking about getting a Fire TV Stick? Check out our article on things to know before buying a Fire Stick.
Matthew Burleigh has been writing tech tutorials since 2008. His writing has appeared on dozens of different websites and been read over 50 million times.
After receiving his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Computer Science he spent several years working in IT management for small businesses. However, he now works full time writing content online and creating websites.
His main writing topics include iPhones, Microsoft Office, Google Apps, Android, and Photoshop, but he has also written about many other tech topics as well.