Amazon is dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s in the Internet of Things with its newest releases: the Echo Dot and the Echo Tap. Released together, though not dependent of each other, these new products send a message loud and clear: Amazon is in it to win it with its family of home automation products.
I’ll review the Tap later, but the first product I want to tackle is the Dot. The Echo Dot is basically the Echo’s little brother (or sister if you’re so inclined). It’s not a tower like its big brother. It’s a small, round hub; the Echo without the speaker cylinder. It’s voice activated, like its big brother (because who would care about it if it wasn’t), and is equipped to be a personal assistant just like the original Echo.
What it does:
I mean, basically this mini-Echo does the same things that the Echo does. That’s not to discredit it – it is an exciting addition to the home automation game – but in a nutshell that covers it. Just in case you don’t know what an Echo does, I’ll cover some of the highlights.
The Echo Dot is a hand-free device that answers your questions, helps you find food and rides, controls your connected home devices, and entertains with news, music, and games – all through its “brain”.
All you have to do is know the right command for your Dot, and the world opens up to you. Like the Echo, the Dot is always connected and always on, listening. You can turn the power off, of course, but then you have to turn it on again to use it – which seriously violates the code of home automation users.
While its big brother has a speaker that can stand on its own, the Dot has a speaker that is mainly just there to facilitate communication. It’s meant to be connected to a Bluetooth speaker for more power (or for the less tech-savvy, you can connect Dot to a speaker with an audio cable). The Dot speaker is great for alarms and timers, but isn’t going to be your main speaker.
Using Alexa, your Dot will also continue to “get smarter” the more you use it. It also gets smarter as Amazon continues to add new available features and skills. Worried about whether or not it will hear you over the music you’re playing? Amazon backs the Dot’s ability to respond to you, even over noise, with its far-field voice recognition.
For those Internet of Things stalkers that already own an Echo, you should know that you can use different wake words for each device. Amazon now allows you to choose “Amazon,” “Alexa,” or “Echo” to wake your device.
Why you want one:
The most appealing thing about the Dot is that it allows you to connect every room in your home. Sure, you could buy up all the original Echo devices, but it’s not likely that you need a full echo in every room. The Dot makes a great Echo companion for bedrooms or even man-caves. Or if you have your main Echo in the bedroom or man-cave already, the Dot can go in your living room. It’s also $100 cheaper than an Echo.
The Dot is a great addition for bedrooms, since it can connect to your lights, thermostat and your blinds, and using integrated Skills, you can have the room set to light up and heat up when it is time to wake up. In the kitchen, Dot can be your timer or your grocery list. You can connect Dot to your entertainment system and all of a sudden your voice can command your stereo.
With the new releases today, we also learned that Alexa can now order you pizza and request an Uber. If skills like these don’t sell you on the Echo family, I don’t know if anything will.
How to get one:
So here’s the bad news: if you weren’t an early adapter to Amazon’s products, you will have to get on the waiting list (but not literally, since there isn’t one). Only users that already have an Echo, or the Fire TV, can order the Amazon Dot right now. Oh, and you have to be a Prime member.
That’s not all – you also have to order it through Voice Shopping using Alexa. There is no “add to cart” button on the Amazon website for the Dot. It is a pretty genius way of pushing consumers to use the Voice Shopping. The final twist of the dagger is that quantities are limited; you can only get one Dot per order, and two Dots total for your account.
The Dot is currently $89.99, but we can’t be sure that price will hold. This is pretty similar to the beta testing that Amazon did when it released the Echo. It was available to Prime members only, through an invitation-only buying scheme, for a reduced cost. Amazon eventually released the Echo to the public, for $80 more than the beta testers paid.