Amazon Echo now available as a refurb – If you have been sitting on the fence about buying an Echo, you may have noticed that they tend to sell out quite frequently. Amazon now sells the Echo as a refurbished unit. These are certified refurbished units, which means that Amazon has refurbished, tested, and certified them to look and work like new. They come with the same 1-year warranty as a new Echo. My only concern about the unit is the price. Personally, I don’t think the price is reduced enough from the new item price to reflect the refurbished status. But it is an option if they are sold out and you have to have one right now…. You can find the link to the refub model on the Amazon Echo page, right under the description.
Apple is opening Siri to developers and smart speakers: Just ahead of what are rumored to be some Siri-themed announcements at the upcoming World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC), there’s news that Apple will open Siri to developers and launch Amazon Echo-like smart speaker, report says (Mashable). There has been very little integration between Siri and other third-party apps, unfortunately. It is good news that Apple is going to be opening this up more, especially for iPhone and iPad users. One can’t help but wonder if, given the way that Alexa is always adding more skills and functions, Apple may find that they are too late entering into the game to compete with Amazon and Google on the smart speaker front. IMHO, out of all of the digital assistants, Alexa and Google have the most life-like and natural sounding voices, so it will be interesting to see what happens as the competition opens up.
Echo and Home are endpoints, not the endgame (Recode) It was big news last week that Google was going to have a device that would compete with the Echo. Google is releasing a bit more info about the assistant behind the device (and, yes, please note the small “a” in the word!). According to this article, Google intends for the assistant to be an integrated part of a group of services, not just the Home. Google intends to integrate the assistant with its Allo messaging app for starters, even before the Home shows up on your, … um, doorstep.
According to this article, Alexa, too, is going to be branching out. She’s already expanded her family into the Dot and the Amazon Tap. She is a part of the Fire TV system and, if the rumors are true, there will be a Fire tablet with Alexa features on the horizon soon. With Apple also entering the smart speaker game, that going to mean a lot of choices for the consumer.
The article brings up the topic of meeting the needs of individual users and how much users hate the concept of switching profiles. It will be interesting to see how all of our digital assistants solve that issue. I have to bounce back and forth between profiles often. The Amazon Prime account (and therefore Prime Music) is in my husband’s name. All of my ebooks and my audiobooks from Audible are in my account, so naturally, I do a lot of switching back and forth. Integrating the two is one of the key features of how well these devices blend into our lives in the future.
Amazon Tap on the Go: Last weekend, I went out of town and decided to take my Amazon Tap with me. Beside the use of the wake word to activate, one of the big differences between the Echo and the Tap is that the Tap is designed to be portable. I brought one of my Fire HD 6 tablets with so I had the Alexa app for set up – on the Fire I can switch between mine and my husband’s accounts because of family sharing. I knew that I would have to use the app to set up the Tap when I got there, but I had no idea what I was in for.
After this weekend, I have to say that using the device on hotel WiFi was a less than optimal experience. Like many public connections, the WiFi kept disconnecting and requiring me to login again. Every time the WiFi disconnected, so did the Fire tablet. That meant my Alexa app was offline and Alexa gets a little bit less reliable. By Saturday night, the Tap wouldn’t even set an alarm for Sunday morning without me running set up through the app again. I know the Fire tablets are a little touchy about the WiFi settings because mine disconnects every time I restart my router. So I think the problem was the tablet, not the Tap, but it was still frustrating. I plan to be doing some further testing with it on public WiFi over the next few weeks.
If you have traveled with your Tap, please leave me a comment and let me know what your experience was.
Echo How-to Books: I have started reading some of the how-to books available on the Echo and the Tap. Most of these are available to read for free as part of the Kindle Unlimited program. Over this past week, I read Amazon Echo: The 2016 User Guide And Manual: Get The Best Out Of Amazon Echo by Martin Butler. This book is really, really basic. It is less than a hundred pages and the first third of it is dedicated to describing the Echo and what it is. For anything too involved, the author relies on sending you to the Echo help page for further assistance. There is very little here that you cannot get by simply reading the device product and help pages yourself. I would give this one a pass. 😦
Things to try: In honor of the 2016 Scripps National Spelling Bee that took place yesterday (May 26th) on ESPN, Alexa has a few new tricks. Ask Alexa: “Give me a Spelling Bee word.”
Also, say “Good Morning” to Alexa and see what happens. Every day, she helps you celebrate something new. For National Fan Fiction day, she confessed to me that she had “recently been busted for reading sci-fi fan fiction.” There’s a different answer every day.
Need more help with Alexa on your Echo or your Tap? Here’s the help page.