Echo: Amazon’s Answer Machine

Posted at 6:10 PM, Feb 05, 2015
and last updated 2015-02-05 18:10:34-05

Online retail giant Amazon has introduced the Echo. It’s similar to Apple's Siri and Google Now, using voice recognition to respond to your questions and commands. But instead of having to pull out your smart phone, Echo sits in one spot, making it particularly handy in a home or office.

You can’t buy the Echo yet, but you can request an invitation to buy it on Amazon for $199. If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you get a discounted price of $99.

The Echo is always on and ready but won’t respond until it hears the “wake up word,” which you can set as “Amazon” or “Alexa.” Consumer Reports found that the Echo is great for spitting back quick facts. But there are some limitations—most notable when you try to buy items from Amazon. It doesn’t actually go into your Amazon wish list; it puts it into a shopping list on the Echo App. Then you have to go to Amazon separately and get it. It’s also not ideal for local information or sports.

Amazon also claims that the Echo serves as a speaker that can “fill any room with immersive sound.” But when Consumer Reports testers tried it out in their audio lab, they found that it provides only mediocre sound.

Still, Consumer Reports says there’s big potential for the Echo because its intelligence is stored in Amazon’s cloud. As Amazon increases the intelligence on its servers, it makes the product that you bought today potentially much better a year from now.