Dave Smith/Tech InsiderOne week ago, I activated my Amazon Echo for the first time. It's quickly become one of my favorite tech gadgets.
Unlike most virtual assistants that are tethered to smartphones, Amazon's speaker, which responds to either "Alexa" or "Amazon," stays plugged into a wall outlet in your home, and it's always on and listening.
And thanks to its stellar audio system, with seven different microphones for listening and a 360º omni-directional audio grille for speaking, it works exceedingly well wherever I am in my home. Perhaps what's most impressive is that Echo is incredibly accurate and quick to respond after I finish my question or command.
In many ways, it's transformed the way I live in my apartment — and it's all for the better.
Here's what I like to do with Amazon Echo on a daily basis.
"Alexa, play some Kanye."
Amazon Echo can play thousands of songs from the Prime Music catalogue. It's also way easier and less consuming to pause and skip songs compared to other virtual assistants that control music playback.
"Alexa, what time is it?"
Don't bother searching for your phone just to know the time. With Echo, I can ask the time from anywhere in my apartment and I'll get the answer immediately.
"Alexa, set a timer for 10 minutes."
Amazon Echo is the perfect cooking or baking companion. When the timer's up, a radar-like ping will sound until you say "Alexa, stop."
"Alexa, heads or tails?"
What should we eat for dinner? Where should our next vacation be? Sometimes the answers to these questions are best decided by a coin flip. And luckily, you don't need a physical coin if you have Alexa, who will flip a virtual one for you (I've tried it several times, it really does appear to be truly random).
"Alexa, how's the weather outside today?"
Amazon Echo will not only tell you the current temperature, but it will also tell you the day's expected temperature highs and lows, and other conditions such as clouds and rain.
"Alexa, what's on my calendar?"
Since Amazon Echo can sync with your Google Calendars, you don't need to look through your phone to see your upcoming schedule. Just ask Alexa to hear details about your meetings and appointments that day.
"Alexa, add 'buy a winter jacket' to my to-do list."
Just like shopping lists, you can sync to-do lists to your Alexa app(s) across your devices. You can add to-do items using Alexa and add notes, complete or delete items via the app.
"Alexa, what was the score of the last Cavaliers game?"
I love basketball, but I don't always have time to watch games. But it's actually much easier and faster to ask Alexa sports scores instead of visiting a sports website or app and looking through all the box scores to find the one you want.
There's still so much more to explore.
I've only owned Amazon Echo for a week, but there's so much more to the device than what I've experienced thus far. For example, I can get traffic and commute information straight from Alexa, and you can even create IFTTT (IF This, Then That) "recipes" or phrase triggers that can do things like call your phone if you can't find it. There's even something Amazon calls "Skills," which are Echo-friendly apps that can respond to different phrases Alexa probably wouldn't understand otherwise. For example, there's an app that will come up with insults for you, an app that will read top headlines to you, and much more.
Amazon Echo is a device that keeps growing and evolving. I'm excited to try out more functions and features in the future.