Everyone knows Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa, who is active on Amazon Echo devices, by now. However, opinions on the Amazon Echo devices still diverge. What for some is a practical helper in everyday life is for others a bugging spy who is brought into the apartment voluntarily.
But what is it about intelligent speakers with voice assistants? What can the devices do, what benefits do they bring in everyday life, for whom are they suitable and how dangerous are they really in terms of data protection and security? We will answer these and many other questions about Amazon Echo and the voice assistant Alexa in this guide.
What is the best Amazon Echo?
1. Amazon Echo Dot
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The Amazon Echo Dot is the smallest member of the Amazon Echo family. Nevertheless, it is not inferior to the large Amazon Echo, because its capabilities are exactly the same as those of the larger Amazon Echo. The Amazon Echo Dot is equipped with seven far-field microphones, which ensure that the device understands your voice commands from the other side of the room and also in a noisy environment or while playing music.
The small Amazon Echo Dot is not only the ideal entry into the world of Amazon Echo, but it also brings Amazon’s Alexa easily and comfortably into any room. With the Echo Dot, for example, smart home components such as lamps, light switches, thermostats and more can be easily controlled by voice input and thanks to the integrated small speaker, the device can be used as an intelligent alarm clock or as an assistant in the kitchen, for example.
You can also use the Echo Dot to make voice calls, use the drop-in function or receive messages from other Echo devices. With constantly new skills and functions and automatic updates, the voice assistant Alexa is constantly learning and is constantly being improved.
2. Amazon Echo
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You can control the intelligent Amazon Echo speaker with your own voice. Whether listening to music, getting news or weather reports, getting information about the cinema or television program or playing audiobooks, the Amazon Echo does everything on demand.
You can also create lists, call a taxi and control your smart home components such as lamps or thermostats. Thousands of skills make your Amazon Echo a real helper in everyday life and new skills are constantly being added that you can easily activate.
The Amazon Echo speaker is equipped with a 63 mm woofer and a 16 mm tweeter with Dolby technology. The intelligent loudspeaker thus offers a clear, room-filling sound and a dynamic bass. No matter what you do, with the Amazon Echo, you always have your hands free. The seven microphones of the Amazon Echo react from every direction and also from the other side of the room, regardless of whether you are listening to music, the television is on or the room is quiet.
This allows you to communicate with your Amazon Echo at any time and, for example, you can adjust the volume of the music, you can set timers, alarms, and reminders or send voice messages or text messages to other Echo devices or the Alexa app. You can also make voice calls or use drop-in to connect to other Alexa devices in the home.
3. Amazon Echo Plus
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The Amazon Echo Plus is your reliable partner when it comes to smart home control. It is equipped with an integrated smart home hub, with which you can easily set up and control compatible lamps, plugs, and other devices.
In addition, the Amazon Echo Plus has all the capabilities that the Amazon Echo has. Seven microphones, noise suppression, and directional beam technology ensure that the Amazon Echo Plus hears you from every direction, even when music is playing or other voices can be heard in the background.
Use the Amazon Echo Plus with the integrated smart home hub to control all your smart home components and listen to music with the device, call up the weather report, the news or the traffic situation, have your audiobooks readout, set alarm clocks, reminders or timers, or ask questions to the smart speaker. You can also make voice calls, send voice and text messages to other Amazon Echo devices or the Alexa app, or easily connect to other Alexa devices in the home using Drop-In.
4. Amazon Echo Show
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The Amazon Echo Show offers you all the functions that the other Echo devices offer, but is also equipped with a 7-inch display with a resolution of 1,024 x 600 pixels. On the screen, you can watch your daily news summaries as a video, view the weather forecast, view your photos, shopping lists or to-do lists, track lyrics, or even have the images transmitted by security cameras.
The Echo Show is equipped with eight microphones, noise suppression, and directional beam technology and hears you from every direction, even when you are playing music. Powerful loudspeakers with Dolby Sound, passive bass radiator and 50 mm stereo driver ensure optimal sound. With the multiroom function, you can even play your music in several rooms on different Echo devices.
Of course, you can also control your smart home components with the Amazon Echo Show. However, this may require a Smart Home Hub, which is not included in the scope of delivery. Many functions provide extremely versatile application options and Alexa is constantly learning new skills.
5. Amazon Echo Spot
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The Amazon Echo Spot is an intelligent speaker with a 6.3 cm round screen and it is so small and compact that it can fit into any room. It is ideal, for example, as a music or radio alarm clock in the bedroom and reads your audiobook in addition to falling asleep and shows you the current time. But the Amazon Echo Spot is perfectly used in all other rooms.
You can view lyrics on the display, view your calendar or lists, listen to music or audiobooks, or connect with friends, family and other Amazon Echo users via video call, voice call, drop-in or voice message. Of course, you can also control your smart home components via the Amazon Echo Spot.
The Amazon Echo Spot has four microphones, improved noise cancellation, and directional beam technology and also hears you from across the room when you’re listening to music. The sound is output from a 36 mm speaker and to improve the somewhat poor sound, you can connect an external speaker to the Amazon Echo Spot via Bluetooth or 3.5 mm audio output.
You can extend the capability of your Amazon Echo with the Alexa Skills! Find a list with the most useful Alexa Skills here.
What is the Amazon Echo?
The Amazon Echo devices are a series of intelligent speakers that can be used by voice control. The virtual voice assistants are manufactured by the American company Amazon.com. To use an Amazon device, it must be connected to the Internet via WiFi or Bluetooth. The devices are activated by a signal word or by pressing an action button.
Depending on the version, the Amazon Echo devices are equipped with four to seven microphones that recognize the activation word and process the voice command. The Amazon Echo also has an integrated loudspeaker, quality, and performance of which differ depending on the device. Amazon now offers various Echo devices:
- Amazon Echo
- Echo Dot
- Echo Show
- Echo Plus
- Echo Spot
- Echo Look
The devices differ not only in the quality of the integrated loudspeakers but also in other technical features.
Although the Amazon Echo devices have only been on the market since 2015, some of them are already available in the second generation (Amazon Echo) or even in the third generation (Amazon Echo Dot). This and the ever-new devices make it clear that Amazon is constantly working on improving the devices and creating new uses.
This is how Amazon Echo works
The heart of the Amazon Echo devices is the virtual voice assistant Alexa. To be able to communicate with Alexa, the corresponding Amazon Echo device must be connected to your WiFi network. When this connection is established, the device waits for its activation word. Amazon provides different variants, from which you can choose one and which you can change at any time in the Alexa app.
The original activation words are
The activation word “computer” was added to the request of many customers. The voice software of the various Amazon Echo devices waits in the background for the activation word to sound and then switches on. The active listening of the virtual voice assistant is indicated by a blue light ring and you can also set the devices according to your personal preference so that a tone sounds when the voice assistant starts.
In order not to miss the activation word, the voice assistant must remain on standby and listen all the time. Amazon assures, however, that nothing is recorded or evaluated or exploited in any way, that is not related to the use of the voice assistant and that the devices perform an automatic deletion in standby at very short intervals.
If the activation word falls, you can give Alexa a command or ask the voice assistant a question. The computing power behind it takes place in the cloud. All communication with Alexa is transferred to Amazon’s server farms, where all the communication comes together.
Your voice commands to Alexa are saved and you can view them on your smartphone in the Alexa app. There you also have the option of manually deleting all voice commands issued.
The current status of your Amazon Alexa device is primarily visualized by a light ring. Different colors have different meanings:
- A blue light ring with rotating brighter lights: The Amazon Echo device is starting
- A blue ring of light with a brighter light pointing in the direction of the person speaking: the device is processing your request
- Alternating light and dark blue flashing light ring: The device reacts
- A solid red light ring: the microphones have been switched off
- A clockwise rotating orange light ring: The device connects to your WiFi network
- A pulsing purple light ring: An error occurred during the WiFi setup
- A pulsating yellow light ring: A message or notification awaits you
- A pulsating green light ring: you receive a call or a drop-in
- A clockwise rotating green light ring: You are in a conversation or a drop-in
- A white light ring: the volume is adjusted
- A flashing purple light ring: The “Please do not disturb” mode is activated
Amazon continues to expand its Alexa universe and in addition to new hardware such as the Echo Show or Echo Spot, many other Amazon devices are made Alexa-enabled and many other manufacturers are also developing Alexa-enabled products.
Amazon Echo devices
- Amazon Echo
- Amazon Echo Plus
- Amazon Echo Dot
- Amazon Echo Spot
- Amazon Echo Show
Other Alexa-enabled devices from Amazon
- Fire TV
- Fire TV Stick
- Fire 7
- Fire HD 8
- Fire HD 10
On the Amazon tablets Fire HD 8 and Fire HD 10, you can now use a hands-free Alexa function that you can only control with your voice. For the new Fire HD 8, a special show mode loading dock was also recently presented, with which the tablet can be put in to show mode.
What can Alexa do?
Amazon focuses on voice control as a trend of the future. But what exactly can Alexa do and how can you use Amazon Echo devices in everyday life? Indeed, the possibilities are very diverse and too extensive to list them in detail here. Below we give you an overview of the most important and popular functions of Amazon Echo devices. We will first introduce you to the functions that you can use with any Echo device before we go into the special features of the individual devices.
Listen to music with Alexa
You can stream music with all the Amazon Echo devices. This is possible with Spotify Premium, Amazon Music Prime or Amazon Music Unlimited. To use the services, you must have a corresponding customer account and a paid account. You can play your selected music via an Amazon Echo device, but also via a Fire Tablet, a Fire TV or, if applicable, another Alexa-enabled product that was not manufactured by Amazon.
Using voice control, you can select tracks, albums or artists, or play playlists or compilations tailored to a specific genre or artist. You can also listen to a variety of radio stations on TuneIn Radio.
With voice control, you can adjust the volume, pause, jump forward or repeat a song while listening to music. You can also play audible audiobooks and podcasts.
Important voice commands for music streaming with Alexa are:
- “Alexa, play artist / album / music genre from Amazon Music / Spotify”
- “Alexa, louder”
- “Alexa, quieter”
- “Alexa, volume (choose a value between 1 and 10)”
- “Alexa, break”
- “Alexa, continue”
- “Alexa, repeat song”
Timer, alarm clock & reminder functions
Other functions that are available on all Amazon Echo devices are timers, alarm clocks, and reminders. Timers are started immediately and count down the desired time. When the time has run out, you will hear a signal tone that will not stop until it is stopped by voice command.
The voice command for the timer is “Alexa, set a timer to XY minutes”.
You can use the alarm function to wake up once or regularly. For example, you can set an alarm for weekdays and a second alarm for the weekend, or set an alarm for a specific day of the week. You can also select an alarm tone or, for example, be woken up with a specific radio station or your favorite music. As with a clock radio, you can use a snooze function on the alarm clock.
Use these voice commands to activate the alarm clock:
- “Alexa, set an alarm clock to XY time”
- “Alexa, wake me up at 7 a.m. on weekdays”
- “Alexa, wake me up at XY o’clock with radio station / artist / music genre”
The reminder function helps you to keep an eye on your appointments. You can be reminded of all events by voice command, so you never forget an appointment or a call. Just say “Alexa, remind me of the day / date at (time) (event)” and at the selected time Alexa will remind you of your appointment by voice.
You can also set repetition intervals for reminders and, for example, be reminded of a specific event or appointment every Tuesday, every day at 2 p.m. or every working day. You also have the option of linking supported calendars, such as the iCloud calendar or the Gmail calendar, to your Amazon Echo so that you can query your appointments.
Create lists with Amazon Echo
With your Amazon Echo, you can create and edit shopping lists, watch lists, to-do lists and other lists.
You create shopping lists with the following voice command:
“Alexa, put (items such as milk) on my shopping list”
You create to-do lists with the voice command:
“Alexa, put (task such as refueling) on my to-do list”
You can easily access your lists by asking:
“Alexa, what’s on my shopping list / to-do list?”
If you want to delete entries from your lists, you have to use the Alexa app on your smartphone or the Internet. There you can add individual points, mark them as done or delete them from the list. If you forgot to check your lists at home, you can view them at any time on your smartphone in the Alexa app.
You can create more lists using third-party apps. You can find these so-called Alexa skills in the skill store in the Alexa app and there you will find numerous offers under the item “Lists”, with which you can, for example, send your Alexa shopping list directly to your mobile phone or share it with others.
Shopping with Amazon Echo
Amazon would not be Amazon if you could not buy directly from the echo devices. What you need to do this:
- An Amazon Echo device
- Bank account and a billing address
- A delivery address
- Membership in Amazon Prime
If these requirements are met, you can easily buy from Amazon using a voice command. Possible voice command is “Alexa, order (hair shampoo)”. If you do not name a specific brand, Alexa will suggest an Amazon Choice product. Name a brand, Alexa searches the offers for Prime-compatible products of this brand and then makes appropriate suggestions. You can also reorder goods with the voice command “Alexa, XY brand dog food order again”.
Alexa then searches your order history on Amazon and selects the desired product. You can also order goods by saying, for example, “Alexa, put an Amazon Echo in black in my shopping cart”. Before the products are ordered, Alexa repeats the selection and you must confirm with “Yes” that you want to order the articles. With a “No” you can cancel the purchase. Wrong purchases or inadvertently ordered goods can be canceled with the voice command “Alexa, cancel my order”.
Retrieve information such as news or traffic information
Another function that all Amazon Echoes have is the retrieval of information such as news, weather or traffic information. Besides, you can have the cinema program announced, train connections selected, knowledge questions answered or, for example, solve arithmetic problems and have currencies and units converted.
These functions are possible both via Alexa itself and with the help of the numerous skills. Further information that Alexa can provide is telephone numbers, addresses and opening times of shops, simple translations or information about certain people.
Possible voice commands are:
- “Alexa, what’s new?” To query the messages
- “Alexa, what’s going on in the cinema?” To have the cinema program announcements
- “Alexa, what is the weather like in (location)?” To have the weather announced at a specific location
There is a lot more information about the skills, such as the dates of the weekly garbage collection, information about the television program and much more.
Drop-in, voice messages and telephony
You can communicate with other devices through your Amazon Echo devices. There are three ways to do this:
Drop-in with Amazon Echo
Use Drop In to connect to other Echo devices. If you activate the function in the Alexa app, you can connect directly to another Echo device using a voice command. You can use this function within the family, for example, to let family members in other rooms know via drop-in that the meal is ready. With the drop-in, however, you must note that after the devices have been released, you are connected directly to the corresponding room and, depending on the hardware equipment, you can see and / or hear everything that is going on there. Here you should not neglect privacy and handle this function carefully.
The voice command to use the drop-in is:
“Alexa, Drop In (name of the Amazon Echo device you want to connect to)”
Calls with Amazon Echo
Unlike the drop-in function, you are not directly connected to the other device when calling via an Amazon Echo, but the subscriber must first accept the call. To use the call function, you have to enter your mobile phone number in the Alexa app and give the app access to the contacts in the address book.
To make a call with an Echo device, say “Alexa, call (contact name)”. The called party can accept or reject the call with the voice command “Alexa, answer the call” or “Alexa, reject the call”. You can also make video calls with the Echo Show and Echo Spot.
Voicemail with Amazon Echo
You can send voice messages within the Alexa app. From there, they are sent to the recipient’s Alexa app and the associated Amazon Echo devices. Again, you have to grant Amazon access to your address book to be able to use the function outside of your network.
If you have set up the voice messages in the Alexa app, you can send them to a selected contact by voice or text. You can listen to incoming voice messages by saying “Alexa, play my messages”.
Smart home control with Amazon Echo
Another big part of the Amazon Echo functions is the control of smart home components. For example, you can use a voice command to switch the lights on and off or dim them, regulate the temperature of the radiators and much more.
Using so-called routines and scenes, you can have several actions carried out with one voice command. You can set up these routines in the Alexa app and, for example with the voice command “Good morning”, turn certain lamps on, your favorite radio station to be played and the coffee machine to start up at the same time. To be able to access devices such as the coffee machine via Alexa voice control, it must be Alexa-compatible or you can choose the detour via a WLAN socket that can be controlled via Alexa.
Spy in the living room?
Alexa divides minds in this country. While some see technical progress and relief in everyday life in the Amazon Echo devices, others see above all a data collector. The fact is that the smart voice assistant always listens in and waits for his activation word. However, not everything is recorded, but only when the activation word is heard does the smart loudspeaker become active.
However, words may be misunderstood and Alexa, for example, responds to the mention of names similar to Alexandra or Alexander, although she was not addressed. However, activation is shown by the blue light ring and if you want to be on the safe side, you can set your Amazon Echo so that an additional acoustic signal sounds when activated. This way you are warned if an accidental activation occurs.
Customer data is collected
It is no secret, however, that Amazon collects customer data and uses it for business. This generates user-oriented advertising, for example, and Amazon specifically suggests products that may interest you. Even though Amazon is already collecting huge amounts of data about all customers, the company has so far been denied some areas of data that are available to Google or Facebook, for example.
We are talking about location data and telephone contacts. With the Amazon Echo devices, Amazon is now able to access this data, because the location data is important, for example, to inform the user of the regional weather forecast, traffic news or the regional cinema program. To use the phone functions of the Amazon Echo devices, Amazon accesses the phone contacts that are stored on the mobile phone in its app.
Are the devices in the living room listening?
A lot of data is collected by the Amazon Echo devices without question. But are the devices listening to you in the living room? This fear is great for many people and there is theoretically the technical possibility that, for example, hackers infiltrate the system and listen in, but concrete cases of this kind are not known. And what about Amazon itself? Measurements carried out by IT experts have shown that Alexa does not carry out any data transfers to the servers during normal operation as long as the activation word does not fall.
The devices only check the WiFi connection regularly and every 5 seconds there is an automatic deletion at the device level without contacting the Amazon server. The fear of voluntarily bringing a spy into your home with Alexa is therefore rather unfounded when used properly, especially when you consider that every computer, tablet, and smartphone is now equipped with cameras and microphones and these devices often also have voice assistants such as Cortana or Siri and are therefore in no way inferior to the Amazon Echo devices in terms of the potential for spying.
Careful handling of data by the user
Rather, every user of Amazon Echo devices should handle the information they want to share as carefully as is advisable on the entire Internet. Information such as the address of the workplace or access to the address book in the cell phone should not be granted to Amazon lightly and the function of transmitting the WiFi password to Amazon’s server for the sake of simplicity should under no circumstances be activated.
If you use the Amazon Echo primarily to listen to music, use timers or alarm clocks or switch your lights on and off, Amazon does not receive any relevant information that could be dangerous for you and your privacy.
How to set up your Amazon Echo device
You can easily set up an Amazon Echo device yourself. No special knowledge is required and the device guides you through the entire setup process.
The following steps are necessary:
- Download the free Alexa app from the Amazon App Store and log in with the data of your Amazon account
- Connect your Amazon Echo to an electrical outlet using the included power adapter
- Now a blue light ring lights up, which changes color after a short time and turns orange
- Follow the instructions of the voice assistant and connect your Amazon Echo to a WiFi network. For this, you need your WiFi password
- Once the Amazon Echo has connected to the WiFi network, the setup is complete and you can use the device.
Servicing & maintaining your Amazon Echo device
Special maintenance and care for Amazon Echo devices are not necessary. The software updates are usually carried out automatically, so you don’t have to worry about them. To maintain your Amazon Echo, you should wipe the devices regularly with a soft cloth, avoiding detergents and water.
Accessories for Amazon Echo
Accessories for Amazon Echo devices are particularly available in the area of loudspeakers and smart home components. Speakers that can be connected to most Amazon Echo devices via Bluetooth or a 3.5 m jack plug ensure a significantly better sound, especially for the smaller Echo Dot and Echo Spot devices. If you place great value on good sound, you can also connect all other Amazon Echo devices to external speakers.
In the Smart Home area, light bulbs, thermostats, WiFi sockets and much more are offered so that you can operate numerous components via Alexa voice control.
Amazon Echo accessories also include Alexa gadgets such as the Echo Buttons, which you can use to play games, devices such as Echo Connect (enables landline and VoIP telephony with Amazon Echo) or Echo Sub (subwoofer for Amazon Echo), as well as covers and stands for the different devices.
Pay attention to this when buying an Amazon Echo
Amazon Echo devices have great potential to make life easier and more comfortable.
Once you’ve decided to buy an Amazon Echo, the most important question is which device is best for you. We have therefore introduced you to the various Amazon Echo devices in this guide in detail. The basic functions are the same for all devices, so you should answer the following questions before buying:
Would you like to control your smart home components with the Amazon Echo?
In this case, Echo Plus is best for you because the device comes with an integrated Smart Home Hub
Do you want your Amazon Echo to have a display that you can use to make video calls, for example?
In this case, Echo Show and Echo Spot are the most suitable devices because they both have a display. The rectangular display of the Echo Show with a diagonal of 25.6 cm is, however, significantly larger than the only 6.3 cm large, round display of the Echo Spot, which does not show much more than the time and a background image.
Would you like to use your Amazon Echo to listen to music without additional speakers?
The right device, in this case, is the Amazon Echo. It has a powerful speaker, so you can use the device without external speakers. If you also want to control smart home components, you should choose Echo Plus.
Are you looking for a small device that fits in every room or do you just want to get a taste of the Amazon Echo world?
Then the Amazon Echo Dot is well suited. It can do everything its big brother Amazon Echo can do and when connected to a Bluetooth speaker it delivers good sound. Without an external loudspeaker, however, it resembles a second-class kitchen radio, which is, however, completely sufficient for the speech output.
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Last product update on 2022-09-29 | Source: Amazon Affiliate