Amazon Echo Dot has been on the market for a while. For those who has not been using it, this article may help you to know what is the good and bad points to consider before buying this product.

First things first, let’s have a quick look at some information about Echo Dot and the Alexa.

1. What is an Amazon Echo Dot?

An Amazon Echo Dot is originally a Bluetooth speaker. When using together with the Alexa (a voice-controlled virtual assistant you can download to your smartphone), the Echo Dot can answer questions, read news, set alarms, add items to your shopping list, control smart gadgets around the house, and more. Read more on this article to know about Alexa Skills.

2. Do you need an Alexa to use with Echo Dot?

No, you don’t need Alexa to use Echo Dot. Without Alexa, Echo Dot can be used as a normal Bluetooth speaker.

3. Is there a monthly fee / subscription to the Echo Dot?

For the basic Echo Dot, no. It is just a Bluetooth device so once you bought it, the purchase was done. However, if you connect to some Amazon services with the Echo Dot, for example Amazon Music Unlimited, you have to pay for its subscription.

4. What is the biggest difference between the 3rd and 2nd generation of Echo Dot?

The sound of 3rd generation is better.

5. Is it difficult to set up an Echo Dot with Alexa?

If you know how to create an account, how to connect smartphone to wifi networks, then setting up an Echo Dot is not difficult for you.

6. What are the differences between Echo Dot and Echo?

The size, the sound quality and cost. If you are looking for a music player, choose Echo. If you only want to use Alexa, an Echo Dot is enough.

To know more about this product, read on!

1. How does the Amazon Echo Dot work with Alexa

Amazon Echo Dot is originally a Bluetooth speaker. I personally think that the quality of sound in Echo Dot is not very much impressive than other Bluetooth speaker. I am using the Echo Dot 2nd Generation, and Amazon has come up with the 3rd Generation with an improve on the sound quality. Just for your information.

amazon echo dot overview
Amazon Echo Dot. Photo by Andres Urena on Unsplash.

Alexa, or Amazon Alexa, as you may know, is a virtual assistant like Siri for iOS, Cortana (Windows) or Google Assistant. It can be installed on a smartphone or smart devices nowadays.

If you have never used these virtual assistant, you can imagine that it supposed to be able to answer all your questions related to all kind of stuff on the Earth, for example today’s weather, who is the tallest person in the world, how many hours are there in one month (I find this question very useful when calculating Google Cloud services’ pricing).

It also can create you a shopping or to-do lists, or remind you that your soup is probably overheated when you are here looking at the screen (if you set a reminder on that soup, lucky for you).

These two products alone are probably kind of boring, but the combination of the two brings about a cool thing. This is also the base of home automation.

echo dot white color
Echo Dot white color. Photo by Status Quack on Unsplash.

If you connect Alexa to Echo Dot, it becomes a hub to all the smart gadgets around your house. You can talk to Echo Dot and tell Alexa to turn Roomba on and vacuum away all the trash after the pizza party last night, or to light up some smart bulbs that you don’t even remember where the switch is.

Even though this product may create more couch potatoes as people don’t need to move around much anymore, it is quite interesting to automate the process of housework. It seems like the whole house is listening for you, waiting for orders. Kind of cool!

2. What people can do with the Alexa and Echo Dot

What does Alexa help with? Originally, Alexa can:

  • Set a timer. There is a saying, “Dinner is ready when the smoke alarm goes off.” Alexa won’t let this happen if you remember to set an alarm. This feature is very useful for people with short memories. Tips: listen CAREFULLY when Alexa repeats your timer. She may misheard it (for example 15 minutes to 50 minutes), especially if your pronunciation is not perfect as the native English speakers.
  • Set a reminder: similar to timer, but Alexa will say a message when alarm. This is useful when you want to alarm other people, not you. For example, you can set a reminder when your husband is watching his favorite movie, reminding him about your birthday tomorrow.
  • Connect with smart devices. Smart light-bulbs, robot vacuum cleaners, or smart TV that you can tell Alexa to change channels (this need a bit more setup and not all smart TV can do this but Alexa have this ability, yes).
  • Answer questions. Alexa is like a Google but you can ask with voice. She can answer very difficult questions but for many silly simple questions she cannot give any answers.
  • Add stuffs to your shopping and to-do lists. And you can check them anytime by asking Alexa.
  • Roll a dice. This does not seem to be so important and may even belong to “Answer questions” category, but my little friend like it so much that he used to ask Alexa to roll the dices for him many times when we play board games. So I think it deserves a shoutout here.
  • Play music. Echo Dot can play music from your Amazon Music account, so you would need a subscription to have access to many songs. Also, it can play music from your phone because originally Echo Dot is a speaker. But in order to tell it with Alexa, you would need to install a skill.
  • Set up routines. Start a morning with Echo Dot reading the news when you are having coffee, sounds great?

What is Alexa skills?

echo dot and roomba

Now this comes the best part. Probably like plugins or add-ons, you can install Alexa skills to extend its ability. Or, in other words, to make it smarter and be able to do more jobs.

You can get your kids hook in with many games in Alexa skills store such as Kids Quiz!, or Would you rather.

You can ask Alexa to ring your phone even when it is in silent mode with Mastermind or send the shopping list to your phone with IFTTT.

Also, you can ask for some jokes of the day, or some recommendations for a hot TV show to watch at weekends, etc.

More and more skills come up every week, and Amazon will even send you email to inform that, so just enjoy whatever you can imagine to do with this. Installing new skills is simple, and also when you want to remove it.

And this, sounds a bit stupid but sometimes you can talk with Echo Dot as a friend that will not tell anybody else your secrets. Okay, maybe she will tell the Amazon about your use data and stories. But anyway, you can have a little chit-chat with her when you feel lonely. It may cheer you up when hearing her say: “Sorry, I don’t understand.

3. The Cons

These are personal thoughts, but something you would want to contemplate before buying yourself an Echo Dot. Along with all its good, here are the cons:

Always with the cable

Yes, Echo Dot cannot be without its cable. So you should plug it in all day like any other not-so-smart electric products.

Lack of language options

The voice commands for Alexa is only in English and German.

How smart is Alexa?

This probably is the biggest questions. For controlling the smart devices around your house, Alexa is quite useful. But to ask questions, she may not know a lot of things. For example, we asked what was a durian and she did not know this kind of fruit which was rather common in tropical countries. Instead, she told us something about Games of Thrones.

Many times we were disappointed at what Alexa could not answer. But, as Amazon said, they are improving her. So let’s hope for a better future.

4. Where to buy the Echo Dot

Echo Dot (3rd Gen) - Smart speaker with Alexa
Echo Dot (3rd Gen) – Smart speaker with Alexa

You can purchase from Amazon: