10 Reasons to Buy the Amazon Echo Virtual Personal Assistant

 
 
By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2016-02-09 Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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    10 Reasons to Buy the Amazon Echo Virtual Personal Assistant
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    10 Reasons to Buy the Amazon Echo Virtual Personal Assistant

    Amazon, with its Echo virtual personal assistant, is taking on the likes of Apple Siri and Microsoft Cortana. Here's what sets the Echo apart from its rivals.
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    It Actually Looks Nice in a Room
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    It Actually Looks Nice in a Room

    Amazon designed the Echo to look good in a room. The device has a simple black finish with a colored ring at the top that lights up whenever it's interacting with the user. The Echo is a little over 9 inches tall and 3 inches wide, allowing it to be placed in just about any location in the home.
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    It's a Hardware-Based Virtual Personal Assistant
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    It's a Hardware-Based Virtual Personal Assistant

    Amazon Echo is a virtual personal assistant first. Users can ask it questions and get answers, learn about traffic along a busy route and find out what's on their schedule for the day. Alexa, the virtual assistant baked into Echo, will even perform a local search, so users can find information about nearby businesses and restaurants.
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    Application Support Is Growing
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    Application Support Is Growing

    Since Amazon released the Echo in November 2014, the company has done a fine job of adding more apps to its platform. Users can listen to songs from Pandora, audio books from Audible and their music playlists on Spotify. The Echo even supports a wide array of smart home apps. Best of all, Amazon plans to add even more apps as time goes on.
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    The Core Virtual Assistant App Is Improving
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    The Core Virtual Assistant App Is Improving

    Amazon Echo has been criticized for having a less-than-stellar companion app. That app, which is a free download to iOS and Android, is required to use Echo. It helps users set up the device and includes all of the features one would need, including controlling volume and launching apps. It's essentially the software-based way to interact with Echo for those who don't want to use their voices. In recent months, Amazon has improved it considerably, worked out some of the bugs that caused it to crash too often and made it easier to interact with the assistant. It's still not perfect, but it's become a nice alternative to voice for interacting with Echo. In fact, I often use it to boot up Pandora or find a playlist I want to hear.
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    The Alarm Clock Function Is Effective
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    The Alarm Clock Function Is Effective

    For folks looking for a different kind of alarm clock, the Amazon Echo is a great option. With a simple voice command, users can tell Alexa to set an alarm, eliminating the usual fumbling with settings on a smartphone, or regular old alarm clock or clock radio. In addition to alarms, the Echo can be used as a timer and will sound alerts for important events.
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    Audio Quality Is Solid
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    Audio Quality Is Solid

    Although the Amazon Echo doesn't come with the best speakers on the market, it actually sounds quite good. The device has a 2.5-inch woofer to deliver solid bass and a 2-inch tweeter to hit the high notes. Together, they produce enough sound to fill a room when listening to music or audio books.
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    Let's Talk About the Smart Home
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    Let's Talk About the Smart Home

    Over the past several months, Amazon has considerably improved the Echo's smart home support. By giving Alexa some commands, users can turn down the lights, turn on connected devices and more. The best feature, though, is that all of those smart home commands can be delivered without ever lifting a finger. Just speak a simple voice command,and your lights will flash on.
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    New 'Skills' Are Being Added All the Time
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    New 'Skills' Are Being Added All the Time

    Amazon often promotes that it's regularly adding "skills" to the Echo. As of this writing, Amazon claims to have added more than 100 "features and skills" to the Echo since its launch. Its most recent additions have been the ability to order Domino's pizza and Uber cars from the device.
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    Alexa's Audible Range Is Remarkable
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    Alexa's Audible Range Is Remarkable

    One of the more surprising things about the Echo is just how far away a user can stand from the device and still communicate with Alexa. Even while standing across a room, the 360-degree listening feature built into the Echo will pick up the "Alexa" command and respond accordingly. It's nice to know users don't need to stand next to the Echo just to get it to work.
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    There Are Options to Pay
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    There Are Options to Pay

    The Amazon Echo is available on the company's Website for $180. With Amazon Prime, the e-commerce giant promises to get it to a customer's home within two days. Those who don't want to come up with all the cash at once can also pay for the device with five monthly installments of $36.
 

Amazon.com made the surprising move during the Super Bowl 50 broadcast to premiere a commercial featuring Amazon Echo, its hardware-based virtual personal assistant. The National Football League championship game has become a favorite television event for advertisers, and this year a 30-second commercial cost as much as $5 million. Amazon bought some of that Super Bowl on-air time to show millions of people who may have not seen it before what the Echo is all about. The Echo's early success has been built in large part on its features. The device is similar to the Apple Siri and Microsoft Cortana virtual personal assistants. But it is also a stand-alone speaker that can play a user's favorite tunes. Plus, it plays audio books and supports smart home integration, making the Amazon Echo a fairly versatile device. This slide show covers some of the Echo's more significant features and shares some of the author's experiences as an owner of the device and his views on why anyone might seriously consider buying Amazon's take on the virtual assistant.

 
 
 
 
 
Don Reisinger is a freelance technology columnist. He started writing about technology for Ziff-Davis' Gearlog.com. Since then, he has written extremely popular columns for CNET.com, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move at http://twitter.com/donreisinger.
 
 
 
 
 
 

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