Is 'Alexa' the Newer, Better Siri?

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This post was updated on August 3 with news that the Amazon Echo is now available at Staples, the product's exclusive third-party retailer. With the purchase of the Amazon Echo at Staples, customers can benefit from free shipping on for Staples Rewards® members and up to 5% back in Staples Rewards.

Alexa is the brain of Amazon's newest product, Echo. Echo is a Siri-like device but does much more than the mysterious AI woman on your iPhone. Echo is aims to organize your entire life, from building your shopping list to managing your calendar. No more making a mess of all the to-dos in your life through 10 different planning apps!

With an open platform, your inner nerd can even integrate different technologies with Echo. This way you don't have to worry about shifting your entire life to a completely different tool. For example, Evernote is one of the apps that is integrated with the product, and I personally use Evernote every single day, so this is a perk for me in keeping all of my current lists and notes organized in the same place. What the Echo promises to do is make my note-taking easily accessible. If I don't have my computer, tablet or phone nearby, I can tell Alexa to add whatever I need to my notes.

A friend of mine let me borrow the Echo, to see if "Alexa" and I could bond and convince me to buy an Echo of my own. All you need to do is place the Echo in your home and starting talking to "Alexa." Here's what happened:

Hello, Alexa

Saying, "hi" to Alexa is like saying hi to Siri. Her jokes are cheesy and full of puns, but I'm a sucker for puns, so she won me over. All you have to say is, "Alexa," and the Echo will be activated for your question or request. Easy and simple to use, check!

Built For Home

Like Siri is built for the iPhone, the Echo is built for your home. You can place the Echo anywhere and yell for Alexa when you need her. The Echo is also integrated into Amazon Fresh, which is the ah-mazing grocery service provided by Amazon. (I've been meaning to try this, too.) If you have Fresh, you can just tell Alexa to add toilet paper or tampons or whatever to your order, and it will be done immediately.

Connected to (Almost) Everything

The Echo prides itself on being able to integrate into multiple products, (Wink and WeMo, among others), and when I discovered it integrated into Hue, it peaked my interest. Hue products are these awesome connected lightbulbs with multiple-colored light settings that I control from an app on my iPhone. Yes, I actually have personalized settings for when I'm watching Game of Thrones or Teen Wolf. It's fantastic.

But it's frustrating when you get comfortable on the couch – popcorn, blanket and dogs all in the prefect spot – and right before your favorite show comes on, you realize you have to get up to turn the lights down. With Echo, I can just say, "Alexa, dim the basement lights," and it will dim the lights based on my Hue app settings. Of course, you have to integrate the Hue app with the Echo first, but it's smooth sailings from there.

Another big perk (for me) is the Google Calendar integration. Once you sync your calendar to Echo, you can ask Alexa what's on your schedule for the day, and she'll tell you. She's basically a personal assistant that you don't have to worry about being nice to all the time. Sometimes I'm just in a bad mood, OK?!


Alexa should be able to hear you from anywhere in the house, but even when sitting next to the Echo, Alexa didn't respond to me consistently. I'm not too hung up about this, though, since not all technology is perfect, and it doesn't happen every time.

Pandora is integrated into Echo, but Spotify isn't. Echo is Bluetooth and WiFi enabled, so you can play your Spotify music on Echo from your phone or tablet that way; however, that kind of defeats the purpose. I don't use Pandora - I pay for a premium Spotify account, so I'd rather use the Bluetooth speaker I already own. I will give it to Echo on its efforts for sound quality, though - it has 360-degree immersive sound, so at least the speaker is (sort of) legit.

All in all, I would grade the Echo a B. This product is ripe to disrupt many markets; it just needs a little more time to get its feet wet. Amazon left the product capability open to integrate with existing and new products, so the product will improve and add on new features at a fast rate. The Echo retails for $179 for Amazon Prime members and $199 for non-members.

What do you think - is the cost too much for what you get in return? Will you try Echo?


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