The Amazon Echo family just added two new members, the Echo Dot and the Echo Tap. You can read my thoughts on the Dot here. I’ve referred to the Dot as the original Echo’s younger sibling; I’ll call the Tap the original Echo’s cousin. A cooler, older cousin that gets to stay out later. The Tap is a completely independent product, and it’s giving other products a run for their money since the Tap offers a portable speaker that isn’t crap, along with a digital assistant.
The Tap is a tower, like the Echo. It’s a tall, cylinder shape, and it comes in black. It responds to voice commands, as pretty much all future tech products will, and it has one major difference from the original: the Tap is portable. Yup, that’s right: Alexa-to-Go.
The Echo Tap, Deconstructed:
The Tap is actually the exact same thing as the original Echo – functionality-wise. They both offer a hands-free way for you to interact with the world (or, at least, with the Internet). Using voice prompts, you can have the brain behind the Tap (Alexa) tell you about the news, the weather, or the traffic. She will also answer your questions (with some limitations), order you food, hail you an Uber, entertain you with music, and even control your other smart devices.
The Tap uses an Amazon-approved wake word (But seriously, when are they going to let people choose their own wake word? I’m calling dibs on Alfred.), in combination with a tap (get it?) of the microphone button, to activate. It is not “always on” or “always listening” as the Echo is (but that won’t fool the conspiracy theorist out there to believe Big Brother isn’t listening), which is why you are required to tap the microphone button.
Tap can be used on or off a WiFi network. You’ll have more functionality when you are connected to WiFi (full Alexa capabilities), but even when offline, the Tap can connect to your phone and play your music through its speaker.
The original Echo is tethered to your home, in whatever room you set it up in, since it always has to be plugged in; it has no portable power source. This was a major pain point for early adopters of the Echo. The Tap is Amazon’s answer to their cry. The Tap has a charging dock that allows it to go outside, while its cousin, the Echo, is stuck grounded. This means that you can take Tap into your garage, into your backyard, or even to your neighbor’s house. Amazon claims that your Tap’s curfew will be about 9 hours after you took it off the charger; after that, your device will be “tap”ped out.
The Tap itself is small, and only about a pound, but nothing in the design makes it particularly portable. Don’t worry, though, you can purchase a colorful sling (sold separately, of course) that protects your Tap and offers a loop so that you can connect it to a bag.
How to get one:
There is good news here! Unlike the original Echo, and the Dot, there are no restrictions on purchasing the Tap. You don’t have to be an owner of any other Echo products, you don’t need an invitation, and you don’t need to use Alexa voice purchasing to order it. The Tap will be available to ship starting March 31, 2016, and is available for pre-order now. You can go to the Amazon site right now and place the item in your cart (along with optional items like a sling cover and a product warranty), and just like that, your Tap will be on its way soon. Well, maybe not that soon. Right now, with Prime shipping, the Tap is estimated to arrive by April 26, 2016. Seems like there has been a high demand for the Tap which has resulted in a bit of a backorder. The Tap is also limited to only 3 per order.
The current price of the Tap is $129.99 (about $50 cheaper than the original Echo; but $40 more expensive than the Dot), and since this wasn’t a limited release we can expect this price to hold.
Why I’ll Wait to Get One (besides having to wait due to stock):
While I do think it is exciting to see an expansion of this product family, I’m just not ready to take my Echo to go yet. I already have an Echo, and I’ll probably add on a Dot or two soon, so I just can’t justify getting a portable version too (for full disclosure I do not have a garage or a backyard so maybe I’m not a reliable source). I’m not completely convinced that I’ll get a full 9 hours of playback, and I just don’t know how much I’d get out of it without WiFi. How often will I really need a speaker or a digital brain while I’m at work or out with friends? I will say, though, that if I had a yard or garage that I spent a lot of time in, I’d probably already have my order in.