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Amazon Echo and how Skills will revolutionize your home


Amazon just keeps on adding more features to the Amazon Alexa device, the recent of which has brought more support to the smarthome connected products, along with other new third-party compatible apps support for Amazon Echo skills.

First up, Amazon Alexa or Echo can now work with smart lights from Lightify, Leviton and Philips Hue. Amazon added this support feature for Wink controlled products in July and the extension to Lightify and Leviton going other compatible devices and hubs from Belkin, WeMo and much more.

Another big update of this device is an early look at the third-party Echo skills that are new in the market.  StubHub, Crystal Ball and Math Puzzles are the first three you can now check out. After enabling the skills in the Amazon Alexa app, you will now be able to ask questions like ‘Alexa, what is happening in Seattle this weekend, ask StubHub’, to stay updated with the nearby events.

Amazon Alex also provides a number of built in capabilities and skills. Some examples of Echo skills device is its ability to play music from multiple different providers, providing weather forecast information, answering general knowledge questions, setting a timer or an alarm, query Wikipedia and much more. The Amazon Echo kills kit lets you add new skills and capabilities to the device. In this way, customers can now access new abilities by asking Alexa different questions or by making requests.

When building and designing a skill using the Echo skills kit, you are defining intents that a user invokes with his or her voice. You can make use of Alexa cloud feature that accepts user interactions in the form of requests and then acts upon them.  Remember, you do not have do any handling yourself, the Alexa cloud service will also take care of the language and parsing issues.

It is very easy to get started and compatible with the Alexa skills kit, the reviewing the materials in the below mentioned order:

  • Start by going through the ‘Getting Started Guide’, which will guide you how to interact with Alexa skill.
  • Go through the AWS Lambda Documentations.
  • For best practices with the voice use interface review the Voice design handbook feature.
  • To know more about the syntax and style of the requests that will be sent to your device, check out the Alexa Skills Interface Reference.
  • For a sample code, review the reference skills.
  • Tests you new skill with Amazon Echo.
  • Make a free account and register you skill with the developer portal.

To pull all these new features off, Amazon is investing around $100 million to support the manufacturers, developing and start ups of all types who are creating innovative and unique experiences designed around the human voice by the Alexa Fund.  Whether it is about creating new capabilities of Alexa using the Alexa skill kit or building devices that use the voice f Alexa, or something entirely different, if someone has a visionary idea, Alexa Fund can help them out.

Amazon Echo and Alexa Explained


You’ve likely heard of the Amazon Echo, a smart device that reacts to voice commands. It’s essentially a 9.5 inch-tall, slender cylinder-shaped speaker that can be set on a table or other flat surface.

Alexa is the artificial intelligence or AI that “lives” in the Echo. All you have to do is speak to Alexa and she’ll respond. Instead of some weird voice, she sounds far more natural than what you would expect. It’s like having another person in your house, only she lives to serve you.

That might not sound revolutionary, but Alexa is deceptively useful. If you decide to buy an Echo, Alexa will become your new best friend. Her voice recognition is far better than Siri’s, so you don’t have to repeat yourself over and over or say things really slowly while annunciating each syllable. Instead, you can speak pretty much how you normally do.

When it comes to functionality, the Echo can already do quite a few things. Through the voice commands, you can start streaming music of your choosing, get the latest weather/news updates, even create a shopping or to-do list. You can even set reminders and alarms so you don’t leave the house late or forget to bring the cat in at night.

Do you usually go to Google on your phone when you’re wondering about something? Instead of digging the device out of your pocket, just speak up and ask Alexa the question, then get a verbal reply. Instead of there being a lag between your questions and the replies, Alexa is incredibly quick to answer.

The usefulness of the Amazon Echo skyrockets if you have other smart devices in your home, as long as they’re compatible, which quite a few are. Once everything is connected, all you need to do to check the door locks, dim the lights, switch the slow cooker to low, etc. is call out to Alexa. It’s incredibly convenient since you don’t have to get out your phone, tablet or computer, let alone walk around and check on different items.

If you’re like most people, Amazon is a go-to for at least some items. When you already know what you need, like laundry detergent or other products you buy regularly, you don’t have to get on the website. Instead, you can place an order through Alexa.

If you’re particularly adventurous, you can use the Echo to check out the latest fashions or other trends, then choose which one you want to have delivered. When you have no idea what you might like, Alexa can use your past purchases and browsing history on Amazon to make an educated guess about what you’ll enjoy. It’s the easiest shopping experience out there.

After having Alexa in your life for a few weeks or even days, you might not be able to continue on without her. Not only can she help with everything listed out above, you can ask her to tell a joke or story, making her a separate form of entertainment.

Bringing the Amazon Echo into your home will transform everything for the better.

How to shop on Amazon with Echo


Amazon’s Echo is a voice-controlled home audio speaker system with Blue tooth and wi0fi connectivity. The cylindrically shaped home audio speaker is a personal voice assistant similar to the Siri and Google Now which is available on your smart devices. The Amazon Echo responds to the wake word (either Alexa or Amazon) and fulfills any of your spoken commands such as set the alarm, answer any question you have play your desired music, and even create your shopping list.

The Amazon Echo is constantly learning and adapting new things – your speech, your personal preferences and now even you shopping habits.

How can you shop on Amazon using the assistant of Alexa?

Of course, we all have done online shopping before – but that is of the past. Amazon has recently added Pantry for groceries, as well as an update to its voice-enabled speaker system allowing a better shopping experience. The Alexa allows you to shop without even raising your fingers. All that you have to do is just tell Alexa to re-order what you have already purchased using your Prime account. Your personal shopping assistant checks its database and asks you for confirmation before ordering the product and all you have to say is a “yes” and Alexa will take care of it for you.


The shopping benefits are not restricted to past purchases. If Alexa is unable to find the purchase in the past orders, then she will search for a similar product in that category, with a similar price. Alexa always confirms before finalizing the order and if you add something accidentally all you have to do is ask Alexa to cancel the current order. If Alexa is unable to find your desired product in her database, she will automatically add the items to your shopping list on your behalf for your next shopping trip – physical or virtual.

When I purchased the Echo a few months ago, it was only restricted to playing music and answering specific questions. But now Alexa has gradually become an important part of my household. Whenever something is finished in the kitchen, I call out to Alexa to add it to my shopping list. Her suggestions made on the most recommended alternative are also beneficial if you are looking for something in a specific category. Like children’s toys. All I have to do is ask Alexa to find play-doh toys for kids age 3 and she will provide me with some of the best rated and recommended products on the Amazon’s shopping website.

With the recent update in Echo, the way we shop will also change with time. First we used to go to shops physically to buy products and online shopping replaced that. And now with Amazon Echo – you can shop while hands-free. Your new shopping assistant lights up at all your shopping demands and processes your order for you without you having to make any move.

Music services compatible with Amazon Echo


Amazon started as a modest book seller and provided an effective online solution for people to get their hands on new books that have been launched. From that point, it has now become a giant that deals in a wide range of products. With an idea to expand its business through Internet of Things route, it launched its Echo product range which is in essence a music speaker which works through the internet. While the product has not really failed to impress us music lovers, it has not been the type of gadget that sell like hot cakes either.

Amazon continues to come up with gadgets with new and improved features which are highly appreciated by the users. Many of these compatible devices also come with equally compatible apps and take your usual music to the next level.

Here is what you need to know about Amazon Echo to make your music more relaxing and enjoyable at the end of a long they at work.


We think Amazon Echo has been designed as an amazingly designed gadget for music lovers, with its outstanding voice control system, its compatibility with your Wi-Fi is super easy and efficient work around. Amazon Echo comes with a new, never-heard-before feature called Alexa; with this feature you are guaranteed to enjoy an incomparable voice quality. While its functionality is still limited, it offers great sound quality.  Other than your Wi-Fi, you can also connect it via Bluetooth; with a number of alternatives to connect it with, you will never have compatibility issues with it.

With its 3-inch circumference, a number of users consider it very handy as it does not occupy a lot of space, but since it has to be plugged in to use, it limits its functionality as it cannot be carried around. Your Echo SmartSpeaker also functions as a personal assistant and through it you can go through your daily news, alarms, music and weather updates as well.


What a number of users have been complaining about is that its voice quality does not remain same at higher volume and gets distorted. Another thing that affects the functionality of this overall great gadget is that it does not come with rechargeable battery and needs to be plugged into a socket all the while you use it. But as Amazon is still improving the quality of this product we can hope for an improved alternative sooner than later.

Our views on this product are mixed; it offers enough positive features for a new product in the market but to maintain its worth, Amazon needs to put some effort in to it and introduce some level of innovation. Another aspect that also may turn users against it is that its effectiveness is limited to other Amazon products only. If you are involved in the Amazon ecosystem then this product will give you very high level of efficiency but it is just another speaker if it fails to be compatible with the others gadgets that you own.


To enjoy its full functionality and the range of its features, make sure that you have Amazon’s range of compatible devices and compatible apps.

Now you can get Yelp reviews with Amazon Echo


Amazon Echo has recently updated and has added a new feature. This new feature can provide you business information by using Yelp. Yelp is an online city guide that helps people find places to eat, play, shop and drink. It is a guide made up of reviews from real people and their recommendations to the best places.

For those who are not familiar with Alexa or Amazon Echo, it is a voice command device, which is designed around your voice. Alexa is always listening and answers any queries of its users. The Amazon Echo is a tall cylinder speaker which includes a woofer and tweeter and a remote control. This 9.25 inch cylinder also consists of a seven piece microphone array. The functions of Amazon Echo include playing music, controlling smart devices and answering questions. Ask it for news, weather, information, music and even creating your own shopping list. And get your answers instantly. The device responds to the wake word, Amazon or Alexa.


You guys may already know how to set up Alexa. For those who don’t, no need to be stressed over it. It is really easy to set up .All you need to do is plug it in and download the app running on Fire OS 4.5.1 or on the android compatible device. The setup procedure allows you to add Amazon Echo to your home Wi-Fi network and link it to your existing Amazon Prime account. Setting up Yelp is even easier. All you need to do is plug your home address into the settings screen of the Alexa app. When searching about a particular business, Alexa will provide you a link to Yelp giving detailed information.

Amazon Echo has linked up with Yelp and has made it easier for their users. This new feature allows the Amazon Echo users to ask for information on businesses and restaurants and get details  in the same way that Echo delivers all other information. Simply ask about the nearby restaurant and Alexa will provide you all the necessary information such as the directions, contact number, and the hours which the restaurant is opened at. Alexa will also tell you the Yelp star ratings given by the people about particular places.

Alexa also answers questions as to which restaurant has the best Chinese or continental cuisine nearby.

Other updates on the Amazon Echo include a new sports update feature, which allows you to ask Alexa for the recent information about your favorite sports teams’ games and even their schedules.

Amazon has also added sleep timers to the Echo. That is makes the device slowly fade down a particular song. The Echo can now be integrated with your existing Instead or Smart Things setup, which will give you control over smart devices within your home simply by talking to your Echo.

Using iHeartRadio with Amazon Echo


With iHeartRadio you can choose your favorite music from a wide range of genres that match your taste and mood of the moment through any of your connected devices. iHeartRadio makes you to easily access music from more than 1,500 live radio stations through which you can browse according to your unique taste. With iHeartRadio you can choose your favorite type or music or even location then search through its various live radio stations; with it you will never be limited to music that is popular in your area. We include our listeners’ opinion in our running format as well, just give our DJs a call and give your opinion about an artist or genre, so we get to know what our listeners like best.
NOTE: Click here for Amazon’s own guides to using Echo.

Create your very own radio station

Since all of us have are preferences and sometimes listening to familiar music tends to be rather soothing; with iHeartRadio you are free to create your own customized radio station that plays your favorite music non-stop. What you need to do is simply choose an artist and iHeartRadio will custom create your own music radio station which features songs by that singer only. It may also play songs that are similar in their musical composition and style.

Control what you listen to

iHeartRadio has a collection of over 20 million songs by about 45,000 different artists belonging to a number of countries. No matter what your taste is, iHeartRadio will take care of all your musical emergencies. With a feature called Discovery Tuner, you can limit the variety of the music that you get to listen to. So if an artist or genre just doesn’t crack it for you, you don’t have to listen to it just because it’s on radio.

How to log in to iHeartRadio

With social media on the hype these days, iHeartRadio can always be at your finger tips; it is compatible with a number of popular platforms. You can easily get your account registered through Facebook, your email address or Google+ through a number of connected devices. Once you log in, you will be able to access all the genres of music and artists through your social media account. You can easily skim through our collection and create your own personalized playlist, filter the content that you don’t want and even share your favorite music with your friends.

iHeartRadio is supported by a number of gadgets and you can get seamless streaming if you use it from almost any device. So whether you log on to it through any online source, your mobiles, tablets cars and a number of other connected devices you are sure to receive a seamless streaming by iHeartRadio.

iHeartRadio takes the entire concept of listening to the radio to next level; you are no longer limited to listen to whatever is on. With it you can pick, choose, create, share and flaunt your music taste and be proud of it. iHeartRadio is revolutionizing the way people see radio today. With our lives like a roller coaster, we get little time to relax with music; why not do it in style with iHeartRadio.

Compatible devices and services for Amazon Echo

Well Hello to the future. You may not get a flying car now, but you can buy your own one of the famous compatible devices Amazon Echo, your companion on the go, the size about a small cylinder box that you can place anywhere near yourself and forget about ever getting bored. The new Amazon Echo is worth buying because they are too much fun and too addictive to not own. It would only take you a few minutes to get cosy and compatible with your new assistant ‘Alexa’, and soon you will find yourself spending time with her, asking her random questions and slowly getting addicted to it.

Just take a look at all the options already

When Amazon launched the Echo device, many did not want to know how to use it. The cylindrical small tower is a kind of an audio system that is always connected to the internet. It can easily stream your favourite music from Amazon Prime Music library and also play some local music. With the additional Bluetooth feature, Echo device can also play your personal playlist from local devices or Smartphone. The Echo device may seem a decent audio system, but at its base level, it is so much more than what you might think.

The Amazon Echo is technically a voice controlled Bluetooth speaker with smart features from the future. For about $100 to $200, Alexa has given Siri a head-to-head competition. After connecting it with Wi-Fi, it can even answer questions that can keep you updated with the latest news or help you with your homework or provide you with a recipe to cook something for your family or friends. This voice controlled speaker is used to listen to Amazon Prime, tunes, TuneIn and iHeartRadio. However, if you do wish to Spotify or Pandora or your own personal music collection, you can connect it over Bluetooth and then sit back and enjoy.

Well, voice assistants may not be new, but it is fair to see Amazon Echo is a first tsp taken towards building one’s own personal mobile assistant. Sure it is a stationary device, but let’s not forget the fact that Amazon is in the mobile device business. And well having a compatible gadget that listens to your commands inside your home will be the ultimate key to conquer a connected home. Voice is a natural interface compared to anything else.

But the good news does not end here! This Amazon Echo has just become a lot more interesting and useful.  You can now pair you Philips Hue light bulbs with your Echo audio device.  But wait what’s the best part about it? Well each bridge of Philips Hue blub comes with up to fifty light bulbs; so theoretically, you can easily control all the lights in your home just by directly asking Alexa. The hue system with Amazon Echo is insanely cool and if in the hands of a skilled interior designer, it could used to turn every single room into light flooded canvas.

Maybe it’s your lucky day, because the list of Amazon Echo skills keeps on getting longer and longer. The Belkin WeMo switches are now compatible with the Amazon Echo device.  You won’t anymore have to get up from your bed late at night to turn on or off your electronics such as lamps or specie heathers or lights from anywhere. All you will have to do is just tell Amazon Alexa, your echo device, what to do and she will take care of everything from you so you can sleep soundly without the worry of saving energy at night or any time of the day. While it may be a little pricy, the Belkin WeMo system now compatible with Echo is probably the easiest home automation feature to configure, taking about only a few minutes to set up and then easily control fans, lights, appliances and much more from your Echo device from anywhere there is data service or Wi-Fi available.

The Amazon Echo did not integrate with many of the Amazon services during its launch but that is gradually changing. Amazon has now launched the Echo software kit for third-party compatible apps. You can even connect Amazon Alexa to 116 other apps inducing evernote, Gmail, Reminders on your phone and many of Belkin WeMo products and ToDoist on your Smartphone. Amazon is looking forward to add more useful integration and features of it owns to the Amazon Echo device over time. However, you now do not need to wait for compatible apps to tap into the device. Instead with the help of IFTTT, you can now easily recreate your own used for Alexa with some simple tips and tricks.

The Internet of Things and how you’re already doing it.


In today’s era of technological advancements, the level of compatibility keeps on getting better and better. The internet-enable devices and appliances we use at home, will significantly change the way people live in the future.

The Amazon Echo is the latest popular gadget experiment on the internet, with a personal voice assistant and Bluetooth speaker feature that will blow your mind. You can easily control the device with you own voice and tell it do things like ready today’s news, play music, make to do lists and much more. IN other words, this device is like a companion and the realization of HAL 9000, only without the pulsating red eye camera and not as much intelligent. The Amazon speaker is a very attractively designed ‘must have device these day. The device’s Wi-Fi set up its very straightforward and you can also control different devices compatible with the Echo via Bluetooth or internet connection. The Amazon continues to make it better and add more useful features since the product has been launched. Well who would not want Alexa, the echo device, to rescue them from the world of boredom and at the same time keep them updated with everything?

But the compatibly doesn’t end here, next on the list of compatibility devices is Philips Hue Light Bulbs. These creative light bulbs are introduced with the light changing feature. No longer the need for amorphous lamp blobs, the hue bulbs can easily fit into your old light fittings and do more than what a regular light bulb ca for you. These bulbs come with the additional feature of home automation. With the help of a compatible app, you can now connect these bulbs with your tablet or phone, and literally control every bulb in your home just by sitting at one place and bathing yourself in an unlimited range of custom lightings in different colours.  Philips Hue light bulbs have given a new age to the home automation system. The starter pack costs about $199.95, which individual bulbs can be bought at the cost of $59.95 from Amazon or Apple store. The set up is pretty easy, as long as you have the latest type of light fittings. All you have to is just plug in and then screw the bulb into which light fittings or bulbs you want to use.  So what are you waiting for? Get your Philips Hue tarter pack now and customize the lightings in your house however you want and whatever colour you want them in.

Home automation controlled with smart phones is the new trend. As such, we see many tips on the internet to how to conqueror a connected home. Next on the list is the Belkin WeMo switch that allows you to control all your electronics appliances from your phone or tablet. All you have to do is just connect your WeMo and Smartphone to the same Wi-Fi and then welcome and all new innovation system of home automation. Once everything is set up, you now have the ability to switch whatever light or electronic device on and off without leaving the comfort of your sofa or bed. The WeMo switch is slowly replacing the old single wall mounted manual on/off switches and allows you to control your electronics with the internet connection from anywhere. So as long as your tablet or phone is connected to the internet, you easily modify and monitor light settings of your home with only minimal effort required. If your internet connection may be disabled for some reason, you can still easily turn on lights off or on in the old fashioned way.

Bonus Tip: Activating the motion senor of the WeMo switch will give you a better automated setup.

The Amazon world is just full of surprises ad lots of compatible devices for all its members’ .Amazon made quite a big splash in the technology world when it announced that it would use drones of the insanely fast delivery service. Well we might be many years from this Prime Air method to turn into a reality; there are still a number of cool features today available for all the members of Amazon Prime.  If you have an Amazon fanatic in your life and you want to make them really happy? You can give them a year of membership without worrying if the recipient already has an account or not and when that person would get the notification, he or she will also have the option of changing the membership for a gift card at the same amount.

Amazon Echo Explained


Manufactured by Amazon and released on November 6, 2014, Amazon Echo is a pretty neat voice command device. It’s a 23.5cm tall cylindrical in shape speaker which comes with woofer, tweeter, remote control and a microphone. The AI in this gadget is known as Alexa. Alexa continuously listens to everything which is said in the room or the house and responds accordingly when asked about anything.

Based on cloud processing, Echo runs on Amazon web services and requires a good Wi-Fiinternet connection to work properly. Being a voice recognition based device, a good internet will not only help in minimizing processing time but also will reduce any miscommunication between the user the gadget.


Looking at the hardware, Echo comes with a cortex A8 Processor, 256mb ram and 4GB of data storage. It’s made of plastic but the quality of the device is pretty good. Connectivity is given by dual band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4. Alexa has to be always plugged in as it does not comes with any battery. It has seven microphones built into it which can hear you in any direction. In terms of sound quality the amazon echo actually delivers a rich and crisp sound. With the 360 speakers you can actually fill the room quite nicely. That being said, the echo doesn’t have the best sound quality but for the price it’s not really bad at all.

The Echo can play music, answer questions, get the news on weather or create a do list and much more. You don’t actually have to yell at it as it uses far field technology so it can hear you anywhere in the room. It’s an astonishing gadget as it knows everything. All you have to do is ask. It’s always updating itself through cloud so it can answer any of your questions for example, how tall is Mount Everest?

It’s an ever evolving device. The more you use it, the more it gets smarter and gets accustomed to your speech patterns. Recent updates from Amazon lets Echo to play music through Pandora, Apple store and much more prime online music stores. The Echo can be access through any compatible app which you can download from your play store or apple

Alexa performs great when coming to home automation. You don’t even have to lift a finger. Echo can switch on/off your lamps, fans and heaters, dim the lights and much more. Echo is compatible with Belkin Wemo, Philips hue, SmartThings, Insteon and wink connected devices.

Alexa is always on, always connected and is ready to give you any information you require. In addition to that she’s a personality similar to Cortana and Siri and can give personal replies. She works with conjunction with amazon app which is compatible with IOS and Android. From the App you can control all the aspects of the device like to do list, shopping list, timers, alarms and much more. You can even enable voice purchasing and one click payment methods.

For the current price which is $150 to $200 I think she is a tiny bit over priced in terms of voice functionality. The sound quality however surprisingly is good, I mean for a Bluetooth speaker so that might justify the price. Keeping in mind there is no auxiliary port you have to rely on prime music and any compatibility apps or you can stream music from your phone via Bluetooth.

Alexa is just an icing on the cake. This futuristic Bluetooth speaker is based on the cloud so her functionality will keep on improving from time to time. The Echo is far from necessary but it pretty darn impressive.

Key Features

Easy Setup

Connect to your home network with a simple setup, guided by the free companion app on Fire OS, Android, iOS, and desktop browsers.

Just ask

Echo is always ready, connected, and fast. Just say the wake word, “Alexa,” for:

NEW – Audible: Play audiobooks from Audible with Echo. Plus, Echo supports Whispersync for Voice to continue right where you left off.

NEW – Calendars: Check your upcoming schedule by asking what’s on your Google calendar.

NEW – Shopping: Restock on previously purchased items by re-ordering Prime-eligible products in your Amazon shopping history.

NEW – Connected home: Control compatible WeMo, Philips Hue, SmartThings, Insteon, and Wink devices with your voice.

NEW – Traffic: Hear commute time and the fastest route to your destination.

NEW – Sports: Ask for sports scores and schedules from the NFL, NBA, MLS, MLB, NHL, NCAA, WNBA, and more.

NEW – Pandora: Listen to and discover music from Pandora’s library of over 1 million tracks.

Music: Listen to your Amazon Music Library, Prime Music, TuneIn, and iHeartRadio.

News, weather, and information: Hear up-to-the-minute weather and news from a variety of sources, including local radio stations, NPR, and ESPN from TuneIn.

Questions and answers: Get information from Wikipedia, definitions, answers to common questions, and more.

Alarms, timers, and lists: Stay on time and organized with voice-controlled alarms, timers, shopping lists, and to-do lists.

More coming soon: Echo automatically updates through the cloud with new services and features. Find out what’s new.


Should you get Amazon Echo?


Amazon Echo launched in a campaign that went pretty much unnoticed by the public at large. While most people were wondering if the newest Kindles or the Fire Phone would finally revolutionize the tech industry, the little smart home device flew under the radar. Then, almost all of the sudden, the Echo has come into the public conscious as people have raved about its features.

As the tech has been adopted by those who love cutting-edge products, they’ve helped spread the word that it could be a really great thing to own. At the same time, Amazon has stepped up its advertising for Echo, including airing commercials with famous celebrities in starring roles.

Naturally, anyone who knows pretty much nothing about the Echo wonders if it’s even worth spending the money on. To answer that question, you need to understand what the Echo is all about, then weigh how it would impact your daily life.

Quite a few people are still confused about what Amazon Echo is, even with those snappy commercials. Basically, it’s a fairly small cylinder-shaped speaker with a microphone and a voice recognition system. The AI that comes preloaded is called Alexa, kind of like Siri for the iOS or Cortana for Windows.

With the setup, owners can ask Alexa all sorts of questions, like what the weather is like, when a certain movie is showing locally or even when the War of 1812 started. You don’t have to touch the device before speaking. In fact, you don’t even necessarily have to be in the same room, depending on the size of your house, thanks to Amazon’s clever use of far-field voice recognition. Don’t try doing that with your iPhone, because it’s impossible. The feature is absolutely necessary, considering the Echo needs to be plugged into an electrical outlet and so is pretty much stationary.

You’re probably thinking that you have a smartphone that lets you Google all sorts of things. While that’s certainly true, Amazon Echo is just more practical for using while you’re actually doing things around the house, not just sitting on the couch watching TV. You can ask the questions while cooking, working out, fixing something, or doing anything with your hands full. The device makes accessing information at any time incredibly easy, so you actually get more done.

Since Echo is a speaker, it also can play music, eliminating the need for a home stereo. The speaker plays in 360 degrees and the sound quality rivals some of the nicer setups on the market today. In other words, Amazon didn’t cut any corners making the Echo, and the result is superb. Just plop it on your desk or a table, and let it fill the room with whatever your heart desires.

Echo can stream music through the Amazon Prime Music service, or using Pandora, Spotify, TuneIn, iHeartRadio and more. You can do this by telling Alexa to connect to an Android device running the music service of your choice, which is incredibly easy to set up. If you want to skip a song, play a specific artist or start a playlist you created or have subscribed to, all it takes is telling Alexa what to do.

If you’re into audiobooks, Echo can read those out loud as well. Then you can do things around the house while keeping up with your latest read. The device can also read the news to you, filling you in on whatever’s going on in the world so you’re in the loop.

You might have heard of Amazon Echo being called a smart home device. That’s an accurate description, but it goes far beyond other smart home hardware, making it incredibly useful. Echo has the ability to control some other smart devices like door locks, lights, slow cookers, thermostats, etc. Amazon is constantly looking to expand how many other connected items Echo plays well with, plus you can use a IFTT workaround to connect Echo to even more smart home devices. This allows homeowners to merely speak and control things around the house, which is fun and also practical in ways you might not realize until you have the tech in your hands.

You might be apprehensive because Alexa seems so smart, the tech might be difficult to set up and use. To be quite frank, you don’t have to be a genius to set it up. When you receive the Echo, all you need to do is plug it into an outlet. Then, you download the Echo app on an Android device, and it walks you through the setup process. You even designate the word you say to “wake” Alexa, so she knows when you’re speaking to her and not someone else. Even people who aren’t that tech savvy can get Echo up and running in less than an hour.

Alexa can work as a personal assistant, without employing a stranger to sit in your house, awaiting your every request. You can set up alarms and reminders for different tasks, which is great if you’re really busy. For example, if you always forget what night you need to take out the garbage, tell Alexa to remind you each week, and you’ll never miss it again. If you run out of something in the kitchen, Alexa can add that item to your shopping list or even order it from Amazon for delivery.

A growing number of non-Amazon products and services are available through Echo. You can order food for delivery from Domino’s. If you need, you can order an Uber ride just by speaking.

Amazon is always working on new abilities for the Echo, making it more useful all the time. It says that since the device launched, over 100 new skills and features have been added. You don’t have to buy an updated version of the device to enjoy these, because they automatically download and install. That’s great, since Alexa becomes even more useful around the house each time Amazon does this.

So the bottom line is the question of if the Amazon Echo is a good buy or a waste of money. Right now, the device costs a mere $179, which is far less than a modern smartphone. Know that you must have an Amazon Prime account to use Echo, so that will set you back a little more. While you can pay for a year of the service up front, Amazon is now letting people pay by the month. If you don’t have a Prime account, which just about everyone seems to these days, and you don’t want to get one, many of the Echo features won’t be available and the device quite frankly won’t be all that useful. That could seriously limit any benefits you’d enjoy from the tech.

If you love Amazon Prime and playing the latest and greatest technologies, you should get this device in a heartbeat. Even though you can’t take Echo along with you when you’re out and about, it’s such a useful thing when you’re around the house that for the price it’s a steal. After having it for a week or two, you’ll seriously be wondering how you ever functioned without Alexa. So go ahead, try out the Echo and see how your daily life changes for the better.