Monday, January 01, 2018

**UPDATE** REVIEW Echo Dot (2nd Gen)

Okay, for those of you who read the original review, I wanted to come back and update you on what I call The Best of Echo Dot. I've had time to play around and use the device more, so here goes a bullet list of the best stuff:


  • Rain, thunder, forest, wind chimes - there are so many ambient sounds to choose from. I've used probably 20 so far. There are the ones I use for when I am writing and need to concentrate, then there are others I like to use for falling asleep. You can also request that Alexa play something specific, like "study music". (You can specifically ask that the device to "Play some music to help me sleep.")
  • You can set the sounds and music to play for a certain amount of time. For music, it's great to be able to play a song on repeat.
  • Alexa/Echo lets you voice command the device to turn the volume up or down, skip a song, pause/resume, etc. 
  • If you are listening to a random playlist (my favorite command is, "Alexa, play the Temptations"), you can ask the device what song is playing. You can also tell it to play more songs like the one you are listening to.
  • "Alexa, call -----" Device uses your contact list.
  • Calls are over wi-fi and don't use your cellular minutes. And... hands-free!
  • Think about being able to call for help from family or your doctor if you can't get to your phone! Seriously. Think about that.
  • Call a particular number ("Alexa, call 123-456-7891") *except for 911*
  • I have not explored how to send messages but, apparently, that's possible.
  • You can instruct the device to make a list for you - grocery, to-do, etc.
  • "Alexa, add a 1 pm meeting to my calendar."
  • "Alexa, when is my next appointment?"
  • "Alexa, what time is it?" and "What time is it in *city or country*"
  • "Alexa, how many days until summer?"
  • You can ask Alexa math questions (i.e.: What's 4859 divided by 8)
  • For writing, I love that I can ask things like: "What's another word for ---" and "What's the definition of ---"
  • "Tell me a recipe for---"
  • You can control a Bluetooth-connected device: "Restart" or "Disconnect"
  • "What's the status of  Delta flight 213?"
  • "Alexa, tell me a joke." (Most are corny but cute!)
  • Try asking the device this if you want a little giggle: "Alexa, who you gonna call?"
  • You can request that it tells you a story, sing to you, or chat with you. (The chatbot feature is fun but it's also collecting information.)
  • "What's the difference between Ice Ice Baby and Under Pressure?
  • "How many people live in Barrow, Alaska?"

Find your phone. If you download the TrackR app, Alexa will use it to ring your phone so that you can locate it. Here's the best part: it will ring the phone full volume even if you have silenced your ringer. Nice, right?

Find just about any other object - which is even better (or scarier). There are little tracking "pixels" you can buy and attach to things like your car keys, purse/wallet, or lover who is trying to hide from your stalker ass! These devices then work with Alexa to help you locate the item. (Not sure how I feel about this one, guys. There are some shady people in the world and they will find shady uses for the best of things...)

"Drop in" on family and friends. This is another feature I'm not sure the world is ready for. I know I'm not! This Basically, this one will let you and other device owners use Alexa as an intercom system. For example, I could "drop in" on my brother and his family and they could do the same with me. Off the top of my head, I could only think of one reason I would ever want to use this feature. Let's say I am home alone and am expecting a repairman. I might want to let my family hear what's going on just in case the repairman is a serial killer. Thankfully, there are a lot of permissions that have to be agreed upon between users. 

Smart Home Controls. I have a dumb apartment that I love so I have no use for these features. However, I did try out a complimentary smart light bulb that didn't work so... You have to read up on some of this stuff for yourself but you can control lighting, temperature, appliances, etc - as long as they are smart-enabled, I guess.

Check for hacks & email breaches. This one requires adding one of the skills in Alexa. One app lets you check whether you have been hacked (you need an account with a specific site). The other checks for email breaches (you will need to link your Amazon account).

In Summary

Again, this thing is an awesome addition to my life. With my cognitive problems, the device is not just fun but really useful. I think I've just about worn out the Timer feature!

It's very nice to use the VAUX (or just Echo) speaker to listen to music from my Bluetooth-connected phone or computer. And, for people using a limited minutes cell phone plan, the calling feature is awesome. 

I noticed that some people own the Echo Spot and Echo Show. They can have those. I'm perfectly happy with my $40 Echo Dot. Matter of fact, Turbo Future ranks the Dot higher than the other Echo devices. 

Just for giggles, I am including a video of me hanging out with my new favorite roommate:

Ding ding ding dinga ding ding