This review is of the Amazon Echo (Second Generation), which retails in the UK for £89.99 (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Amazon-Echo-2nd-Generation-Heather-Grey-Fabric/dp/B0749YXKYZ).
I first used the Echo in late September while visiting family in Liverpool. I was so impressed with the technology that on my return to London I purchased my own Echo.
As a registered blind person I was drawn to the Echo as one can control the device by voice. I have, thus far had the Echo read titles from my Kindle library, search for (and play) samples from audible.co.uk, find and play music and carry out searches in response to questions posed by me.
In order to gain access to the widest range of music, I signed up for Amazon Music at a cost of £3.99 a month (the first 30 days being free with the ability to cancel, without charge within that time-frame). I’ve found the selection of music extremely varied and the fact that one can simply say “play “No Angel” by Dido) and the Echo does so is wonderful.
The sound quality in terms of music, Kindle and audio books is good, however for those who wish to further enhance their experience there is (I understand) a means of attaching an additional speaker.
The Echo’s ability to respond to questions is reasonable but, on balance I think that this is one of its weaker points. For example (as someone who is interested in politics) I asked it “what was the British Union of Fascists?” and Alexa read out a relevant snipet from the web. However on asking “what is the Socialist Worker’s Party?” Alexa provided information on the US-based far-left party (with no mention of the UK-based organisation). So anyone wishing to find out about the (UK-based) SWP would be better served by trusting to Google or another search engine.
Notwithstanding the above, asking questions such as “what is the weather in central London” will render an accurate result, as will questions such as “what is the capital of Germany?”
The Echo can control smart devices. However I have no such devices in my home, therefore I was unable to put the device through it’s paces here.
When purchasing an Echo, the user should be aware that all information is being sent through to Amazon’s servers. I looked back at my interactions with Alexa on the Amazon site and saw a record of all the questions I had posed to the device (although not the answers provided). One can delete this record. However there is a risk (as with any web based activity) of one’s interactions being intercepted (although this is no greater than the danger of one’s computer being hacked when using Google or another search engine).
I was able to sign up to Amazon Music by voice (without the need to enter my Amazon password as the device is already logged into my account). On the one hand this is extremely convenient as there is no need to log on to one’s computer etc. However anyone with children should, in my view seriously consider disabling this feature (there are many stories in the media of teenagers running up bills on smart devices due to their parents not having disabled or password protected the ability to make purchases without first having to enter security credentials).
All in all I highly recommend the Echo.