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Everything you need to know about the Amazon Echo



Editors' note, Sept. 21, 2018: Amazon revamped its echo lineup at a Seattle surprise event on Thursday, Sept. 20. A review of the event has been added to the top of the story. We want to continue to update it as Amazon's new products become available for review throughout the rest of this year.

Amazon's plan to take over the world is well underway. Alexa built in. On Thursday, September 20, Amazon unveiled a whole slew of new smart devices in a surprise event in Seattle . By the end of the event, Alexa's army of gadgets has grown to be exponentially.

new Amazon Echo Dot a second-generation Amazon Echo Plus and a new Amazon Echo Show . For the audiophiles, Amazon debuted echo subwoofer amp and a receiver along with software that will let you sync your Echo speakers in a stereo pair .

The Amazon Echo Auto wants to help the company's digital assistant Alexa spread to more cars, and Amazon debuted location-based routines ̵

1; so you can unlock your door and play your favorite Alexa with you on the road.

Smart smart and even at Alexa-enabled clock . Your Alexa devices will soon get smarter as well as they'll be able to Listen for smoke alarms or the sound of breaking glass . They'll be able to suggest routines . They'll help you set up your smart home . They'll even respond in a whisper

Amazon's big day was certainly impressive, and we're looking forward to testing these new devices and trying out all of these upgrades once they're live. Check out everything Amazon announced here . The entire Amazon Echo landscape as of May 5, 2018.


The Amazon Echo is the biggest tech breakout in recent memory – a voice-activated, internet- Alexa that answers your questions, follow your instructions and control your smart home devices . As Amazon likes to put it, the Echo is a Star Trek computer for your home .

Echo Dot and the touchscreen-equipped Echo Show homes around the world. If you're just curious about who you are, then you, my friend, have come to the right post

What is the Amazon Echo, and how does it work?

Let's start at the beginning. Amazon introduced the Echo smart speaker at the end of 2014. It's a standalone Bluetooth speaker with an array of "far-field" microphones that can be heard at a moderate distance plus a Wi-Fi connection to the Amazon cloud.

You wake up the echo by saying "Alexa," the name of Amazon's virtual assistant ( you can change this wake word to "Amazon," http://www.cnet.com/ "Echo "or" computer, "if you like). Alexa is actively listening for her question and command . Say something like, "what's the weather today," and Alexa wants to answer your question – in this case, with a quick summary of the day's forecast.

Here's how that works: Whenever you ask Alexa's question or give her a command, the Echo records the audio and uploads the snippet to Amazon's cloud servers. Those servers translate the audio into text, then figure out the best way for Alexa to answer. That info gets back to your echo speaker, where Alexa translates the text back into a spoken response.

 amazon-echo-plus-08

Echo and Alexa want to stop listening to the wake word.


Ian Knighton / CNET
                                                

So, Alexa is always listening to me?

Sort of. The Echo is always listening for the wake word, but it only starts listening to it. Alexa is recording and uploading what he hears in order to figure out how to respond.

Amazon uses encryption to protect those audio snippets whenever Alexa uploads Alexa heard and she thinks you asked. You can erase that backlog of audio snippets any time you like here's how ), and you can press the button to "mute" the microphone and keep listening to it Alexa is covering her ears.

OK. So what can Alexa do?

General : From kitchen conversions to celebrity birthdays to sports statistics, Alexa is awfully handy at pulling up a quick fact. Just ask. Alexa, what's my flash briefing?

Click here for a complete rundown on everything you can ask Alexa

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The Echo is great for streaming music, audiobooks, and podcasts. If you want, you can connect the Echo with your existing speakers via Bluetooth or auxiliary cable.


Ian Knighton / CNET
                                                

  • Music playback : Alexa can play songs, artists, albums, play lists, genres or podcasts on request. You can choose either Amazon Music or Spotify as your default music library, and you can choose between Amazon Music, iHeartRadio and Pandora as your default station service. Alexa also supports audiobooks via Kindle Unlimited and Audible, and you can also ask for live radio broadcasts through TuneIn, including premium access sporting events and newscasts for a monthly fee .

Click here for our top Alexa tips for music lovers.

  • Smart home control : Alexa works with thousands of connected devices – smart lights, thermostats, Wi-Fi enabled appliances, connected cameras, home security systems, robot vacuums and much more. Alexa to turn things on and off, or control them in other device-specific ways.

Click here for CNET's top-rated smart home gadgets that work with Alexa.

  • Alarms and timers : Alexa is always happy to be a timer, which comes in handy when your hands are messy. So you'll set a recurring alarm if you want to use your Echo as an alarm clock. wake up to a favorite song or station .

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Alexa can make calls and send messages to friends and family members "Echo devices, or you can just ask to dial a number."


Ry Crist / CNET
                                                

  • Calling and messaging : If any of the contacts in your phone use Alexa, you can send them a message. When you do, their echo devices wants to light up green and Alexa wants to announce that you're calling. Alexa, answer the call. " Echo Connect which plugs Alexa into your existing home phone line rather than just calling over Wi-Fi.
  • Click here to learn more about calling landlines and mobile numbers using Alexa.

    • Skills : It did not take long for Alexa to use software. Now, after just a few years on the market, Alexa has tens of thousands of "skills," which are basically just voice apps. Each skill teaches Alexa a new trick (ordering pizza, hosting trivia night, making fart noises – you name it), and none of them cost anything to try. Alexa to enable it herself.

    Click here for our regular-updated list of the 50's most useful Alexa skills.

    Oh, and you can buy something on Amazon, Alexa can help with that, too . Imagine that!

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    Alexa comes in a variety of different packages.


    Ian Knighton / CNET
                                                    

    How many different types of echo devices are there?

    Alexa's voice interface became a clear hit with the mainstream, Amazon didubled down and started releasing a number of offshoot devices. All of them offer the same Alexa features and different features. Here's a quick list:

    • Amazon Echo – The original Echo smart speaker, now in its second generation, comes in a variety of interchangeable cases called "shells," and sells for $ 100 in the US, £ 90 in the UK and AU $ 120 in Australia.
    • Amazon Echo Dot – In its second generation, the Echo Dot is just a smaller, cheaper version of the Echo that comes in white or black. It costs $ 50 in the US, £ 50 in the UK and AU $ 80 in Australia.
    • Amazon Echo Dot, Kids Edition – At $ 80, this kid-friendly version of The Dot adds a colorful bumper case, protections against adult content and voice purchases, parent controls and trial subscriptions to premium kid content. It is not available in the UK or Australia just yet, but it's about 60 pounds and AU $ 105.
    •  amazon-echo-spot-product-photos-10 "height =" 0 "width =" 370 "data-original =" https://cnet1.cbsistatic.com/img/S-3gfQxAtCe5wT83haMREoFzo7I=/370x0/2017/12/18/50831add-eaf9-4b65-9943-af69caf7350e/amazon-echo-spot-product-photos -10.jpg

      The Echo Spot is a small-sized Alexa speaker with a circular touchscreen for watching movies, making video calls and seeing information at a glance. [19659016] Tyler Lizenby / CNET
                                                      

    • Amazon Echo Show – At the price of $ 230 (£ 200 in the UK, not available in Australia but its price converts to AU $ 305), the Echo Show adds a touchscreen and a camera to the Alexa interface, which Alexa shows you information or stream video on demand.
    • Amazon Echo Spot – The softball-sized echo spot is basically a smaller echo show with a circular screen that works well as a high-end bedside alarm clock. It costs $ 130 in the US, £ 120 in the UK and AU $ 200 in Australia.
    • Amazon Echo Plus – Available in black, white or silver, the Echo Plus takes the original Echo and adds in a Zigbee radio Zigbee smart lights and other connected home gadgets without needing a hub to act as translator. It's also the only echo device that still includes a fancy volume ring instead of volume buttons. The cost: $ 150 in the US, £ 140 in the UK and AU $ 230 in Australia.
    • Amazon Echo Connect – At $ 35 (not available in the UK or Australia but would cost around £ 25 and AU $ 45) , the Echo Connect is the echo device everyone always seems to forget – even Amazon leaves it at the top of every echo listing. Instead, it's a little black box that plugs into your existing home phone other Echo devices, including international calls and emergency 911 calls.
    • Amazon Echo Look – At $ 200 (not available in the UK or Australia but would cost around £ 150 and AU $ 265), the Echo Look houses a tiny Alexa speaker inside a smart camera that can snap pictures of your different outfits, then advise you on what to wear.
    • Amazon Tap – Currently available for $ 100 in the US, the Tap is a portable, battery-powered version of the Echo that lets you take with you around the house or even outside. While it's not currently available in the UK or Australia, its US price converts to £ 75 and AU $ 130.

    Beyond those, you'll find Alexa in Amazon's Fire tablets and Fire TV voice remotes – as well as a growing number of devices not made by Amazon. Alexa into their devices [194559004] Bottom line: Amazon does not care voice-activated device you buy

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    The Echo had a head start, but Google Home is nipping at its heels.


    Tyler Lizenby / CNET
                                                    

    What are the alternatives?

    The close competitors would be The Google Home smart speaker ($ 130 in the US, £ 130 in the UK and AU $ 200 in Australia). Powered by the voice-activated Google Assistant – it comes Alexa's wide variety of features and integrations . Like Amazon, Google offers a smaller-sized version for $ 50 (£ 40 in the UK, AU $ 60 in Australia) called the Google Home Mini . It also offers a king-sized version called the Google Home Max for $ 400 (£ 400 in the UK, AU $ 580 in Australia) that offers superior sound quality. Amazon does not do that.

    Apple does, though. Its Siri-activated HomePod which costs $ 350 (£ 320 in the UK, AU $ 500 in Australia), so offers better sound than any Echo device, but the features and integrations feel narrower and less developed than what you

    The Cortana-powered Invoke smart speaker from Harman Kardon, and the abundance of third-party speakers that make use of Alexa or the Google Assistant to offer a fully developed voice interface. Most noteworthy among these: the $ 200 Sonos One smart speaker (£ 200 in the UK, AU $ 300 in Australia), which offers excellent voice quality for your Alexa or Google Assistant for voice controls. [19659082] http://www.cnet.com/ "height =" 109 "width =" 194 “/>


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    We've covered the basics, so let's take a look at some of Alexa's more advanced features and how they stack up against the competition :

    Voice recognition : You can train Alexa to recognize different voices. You can also use this to keep your kids from making voice purchases – just know that the feature is not foolproof .

    : Arguably one of Alexa's most useful features, routines let you trigger multiple things all at once using a single, customizable voice command . For instance, saying "Alexa, good morning" Alexa reads the day's weather forecast. You can also create custom Alexa commands using the free online automation service IFTTT but they'll each start with the word "trigger," as in, "Alexa, trigger party Fashion." The Google Home speakers have routine-like functionality, too-and-like-the-echo, so they let you craft custom voice controls using IFTTT. Plus, with Google home, no "trigger" word is necessary.

    Drop in : If you like, you can authorize this to "drop in" on your Echo device to check in on or just use the feature like on intercom system That's it! Let's get your contacts in the mood for an Echo Show or an Echo Spot with no input from you. Sounds creepy, yes, but it might make sense if you want to use Echo device to keep an eye on a mischievous kid or an aging parent. Alexa wants to let you "announce things" to the other Echo devices under your roof –

    Memory: Always forgetting birthdays or other little pieces of info? You can ask Alexa to remember them for you . For Instance, just say, "Alexa, remember that Kevin's shoe size is 8" and when it's time to buy your kid's shoes, "Alexa, what's Kevin's shoe size?" And they'll remind you.

    External speaker support : The entire lineup of Echo devices can connect to external speakers using Bluetooth or a 3.5mm auxiliary cable. That's especially nice with the Echo Dot, which is a pretty puny speaker on it's own. [194559003] : Entertainment is on. : Entertainment is an ever-increasing point of focus for Alexa. Echo devices can already act as voice remotes for Fire TV streamers and for compatible smart TVs from names like Vizio and we're so seeing more and more content providers taking advantage of Amazon's software development kit for video playback controls . Dish and Logitech Harmony that lets you surf the web using your voice. More services like they are certain to follow suit.

    Google is not far behind here. Its home smart speakers can already sync up with Chromecast streamers to launch content on Netflix or YouTube and recently added new integrations of its own with Dish and Logitech . Watch this space

    The easiest place to get one of Amazon's echo devices is from Amazon itself, but you'll also find them at major retailers like Best Buy, Bed Bath & Beyond, Staples, Sears and Home Depot. Amazon is also selling them in-store at Whole Foods Grocery Store for $ 13.7 billion last year .

    Should I buy one?

    If you ' I read this far, then you should certainly consider it. In-home voice control is evolving rapidly, with new features and capabilities arriving week in and week out. Echo Dot speakers available for just $ 50, £ 50 and AU $ 80 or less, Alexa's barrier to entry is nice and low.

    Of course Google Home Mini . And if you're loyal to Apple, then the HomePod's Siri controls might have you tempted to splurge. quiz can help you zero in on answer. And as always, our smart speaker reviews

    Smart home compatibility tool: Find out what smart home platforms work with your existing kit and vice versa.

    CNET Smart Home : We transformed into a test lab for the hottest category in tech.


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