I am particularly interested in the Amazon Echo right now. My husband wanted an Echo for Father’s Day and so I just ordered it this week. I have to say, though, I had one question to him: why?
It seems like just another thing to dust. Unless I want to carry it around the house, it is likely only useful in one room of the house. And I have to learn the language of another operating system. Siri travels with me anywhere I go, after 5 years of having Siri I know how to talk to it, and it can make calls, text, and give me directions.
I think Amazon would be wise to address the elephant in the room. Why Alexa? What material advantage is there to paying almost $200 for a stationary device that has similar functionality to my mobile Siri. And why Amazon’s Alexa over Google’s Now and Microsoft’s Cortana?
Dave Smith of Tech Insider addressed 5 reasons Alexa is better: It’s faster at responding to commands, more accurate when it does, distance and background noise are non-factors, and superior audio quality and improvements are made every week and communicated to consumers.
Geoffrey Fowler of The Wall Street Journal was less impressed. Though there are a few neat features that can be used in the home, he says he can’t recommend the Echo to “more than the curious”. He points out a few things that are holding Echo back. It doesn’t have access to your calendar or email if you use any system other than Google. She can’t call or text anyone for you. She can’t help you with a purchase other than one through Amazon Prime. Her companion app for Apple and Android phones is a silo, providing limited capability to interact with any other apps.
It is fun to have a new gadget and I’m sure my husband will enjoy saying things like, “Alexa, play some U2”, but I wonder if the novelty will wear off and we will go back to using Siri (even at home) when I need to perform tasks like building my shopping list and sending texts.
Have you purchased an Echo yet? How does it compare to Siri? Do you see it as a fun gadget or a useful tool worthy of almost $200?
***Addendum*** My husband just read my post and needed to justify his gift felt compelled to set the record straight about Alexa. He addressed some important updates the Amazon folks had made to Echo. First, you can buy a Dot, which allows you to add Alexa to other room of your home without purchasing another Echo. And he writes, “Oh, and you can tell Alexa to order it for you.” :) Second, you can buy a Tap, a portable version of the Echo that you can take form room to room or take with you on the go. Third, Echo is partnering with Jaguar for a vehicle-based service which has technology that is evolving faster than Siri. He thinks I didn’t notice the soft plea for a Jaguar.
Finally, he reminds me that “Amazon is taking over the world. Don’t fight it. Join J.”