What are people doing with their Amazon Echo devices?

(Greg Robson) #1

As Amazon have reduced the Amazon Echo from £90 to £75 in the pre-Easter sale I have bought one! :smiley:

This was partly prompted by the fact that Amazon’s Alexa division has 1,200 vacancies - more than the entirety of Google - that level of investment says a lot.

So far I’m impressed! It seems far more natural than Siri. It feels better to not have to say “Hey” like you do with Siri.

I can play podcasts, check the weather, listen to BBC News headlines, ask it to play <insert genre and/or decade> music and it just works! I’ve even linked it to Todoist to capture new to-do items. (Siri is just a pain - it hardly ever understands people saying “Todoist” when making the request.)

Does anyone else have one? What are you doing with it?

(Stuart Langridge) #2

Well, I ask Alexa about tech events in Birmingham for a start :slight_smile:

(Daniel Hollands) #3

I have one first-gen echo in the kitchen, and two echo dots, one in my office, the other in my bedroom.

I think I’ve spoken before about the fact that all I really used them for was to set cooking timers (too lazy to find the post), but since then my usage has increased to the following:

  • Listening to Deezer (this was added a couple of weeks ago)
  • Listen to audiobooks
  • Controlling my sonos speakers
  • Adding items to my todo list
  • Adding items to my shopping list
  • listening to the status of my plants via home assistant and some plant sensors

(Andy Wootton) #4

Do you get the spec of the interface or are you stuck with the app they provide for the plant sensor.

I was amused by the picture showing a £20 sensor in each £5 cactus pot.

(Daniel Hollands) #5

The sensors come with their own app for your phone, and uses bluetooth for communication, but there’s also a python package for it, along with support built into home assistant.

They’re quite expensive to buy from Amazon (not that that stopped me from buying four), but you can get the cheaper directly from China.

(Andy Wootton) #6

Thanks. I was expecting the app to be for Win + macOS with nothing for Linux but it looks like it’s the other way round for this. I’m going to have to learn Python, aren’t I? That’ll learn me.

(Greg Robson) #7

Breaking news…

The Echo Dot (RRP £49.99) that was on sale for £39.99 is now £34.99. I might have bought one based on how happy I am with the Echo! :wink: #ThatEscalatedQuickly

I have never found an alarm clock I truly liked (honestly, just search on Amazon… they are all mass-produced with no sense of style or build quality). My current alarm clock is pretty close, but only has one alarm tune.

I quite like the idea of music in two rooms as it’s so easy to call up a song/artist/genre/podcast by title/song lyrics/start sign/whatever you wish.

I’ve looked at the code for some example Alexa Skills - like this quiz - it genuinely looks quite simple: JSON, some statements to parse your chosen sentence structures to parse out variables and some logic to provide the correct output.

It certainly seems like a good target for hackathons and engaging school children: low barriers of entry, fun to make and interact with! Is this why Alexa seems to have the software edge on Siri?

(Stuart Langridge) #8

Not really (at least not in my opinion). Alexa has the edge over Google Home because they’ve done a better job of publicity; “Alexa” defines “home assistants” in the way that “iPad” defined tablets. Siri is nowhere in this fight; nobody’s got a homepod. And Siri is a way for Apple to surface new things; it’s not a way for developers to do so.

(Greg Robson) #9

Good points.

I was reflecting on why I’m using it so much and it’s largely convenience. The device is there and is accessible anywhere in my flat. Even if Alexa and TuneIn can’t automatically play a podcast it’s stupidly easy to use my phone now it’s paired. In either room I just say: “Alexa, connect my phone” and in a couple of seconds it’s connected.

I’m now trialling Amazon Unlimited because:

  1. Apple Music is £9.99/month - or £99/year (£8.25/month) (oddly enough I only found out about the annual plan yesterday… Apple don’t seem to promote that and I wonder how many people haven’t found that option deep within the menus!) :thinking: :face_with_raised_eyebrow:
  2. Amazon Unlimited is the same price as Apple Music OR £79/year if you already have Prime (which makes it £6.59/month!)
  3. The Amazon Music iPhone app is much better than the Apple Music app based on the first couple of hours experience. It helps you find and play music - that’s it. The playlists are are on a par with Apple Radio so far, and it doesn’t know much about my taste yet.
  4. The Amazon Music desktop App for Windows is much better/faster than iTunes has been in the last 5 years. It’s basically a slightly different shell to the web version… which brings me to…
  5. … Amazon Music web - you can stream straight off the web, really useful for when I’m at work as I prefer to install as little as possible on my work machine (especially when it’s resource hungry)

Oh and as a side note - Amazon Music imported my iTunes library. I believed I had purged my library a while ago (i.e. “scorched earth policy”): music tastes change and some stuff I’ll never listen to again. Amazon Music imported some of those tracks from Apple… which makes me think that Apple did not remove my choices. :angry: