Just over a year ago, Amazon’s Alexa came to live with us in the form of the original Amazon Echo device. Since then, I’ve gone all in with Alexa, purchasing teeny tiny Echo Dots for different rooms plus an adorable little Echo Spot with a touchscreen face for my nightstand. Here’s the video review I recorded last February for the original, but scroll down a little for the nine reasons I’ve fallen in love with Alexa.
By the way, just because I love what Alexa can do doesn’t mean I trust it entirely. It’s always listening, and, with the video-enabled versions, always watching. We all know that can’t be good.
Nine Reasons I Love Alexa
- Our house is filled with music
Before we got Alexa, we really lived life without a soundtrack. We had an old stereo in the garage that D.J. would use when he was working on his bikes. But if we wanted a little music at dinner, we’d have to turn on the TV and surf to one of those music channels.Now every meal has a musical theme. On Valentine’s Day, we had romantic concertos. While packing up the holiday gifts I sent to more than 500 of you (did you get yours?), Alexa filled the house with Christmas music. When I found myself missing Mom on her birthday this month, I asked Alexa to play a little Waylon Jennings. It’s just SO EASY. I just ask her to play a genre, give her an artist’s name or simply say, “Alexa, play something I might like.” (Of course, I just did that to test it out, and she played “The Merry Old Land of Oz.” So….)
In addition, a podcast addict like myself is in heaven with Alexa. Just ask her to play Radiolab, and the latest episode starts playing.
- Alexa helps me at work
“Alexa, what’s my next appointment?” The integration with my work calendar has made staying on task so much easier. At any moment, I can check what’s coming up and any tasks on my list. I can also set a timer to help me practice the Pomodoro Technique, where I work on ONE task (and only one task) for 25 minutes or so, then take a break for email, Facebook, etc.
Have an Android device? Alexa will even let you dictate a text message. Apple is stingy with its SMS access, so I can’t do this yet. But the integrations just keep getting better. Amazon is hoping to move more into the workplace with more uses.
- Alexa finds my phone
I can’t tell you how often I wander around the house looking for my phone. I used to grab D.J.’s phone to call myself, but now I just ask Alexa to make it ring. Alexa also will remind me of tasks and appointments.
- Alexa finds my husband
Speaking of phones, the Alexa system is basically a messaging app as well. You have the ability to call and message individual devices or even phones associated with those devices. D.J. often turns off his ringer when he’s in court (he’s a lawyer, not a criminal). And he forgets to turn it back on at home. So when I track his location (via Apple) and see that he’s at home but not answering his phone, I just “drop in” to the living room Alexa device. It chimes into the room, and all D.J. has to do is say, “Hello” to connect the call. I think it annoys him a little, but I’m good with that.
- I always know the weather
So far this year I’ve visited ten cities in two countries. I’ve experienced a snowstorm in Toronto, a deluge in Houston and an exquisite day in New Orleans. Packing for the weather is a total pain. Rather than looking up each city, I can keep packing and simply ask Alexa about the weather in Detroit on Tuesday and Atlanta on Wednesday. My husband laughs at me when I check the weather here in San Diego by asking Alexa instead of just looking outside. But I bet I’m not the only one who does that.
Another really cool (but very basic) feature makes me happier than it should… I love being able to ask Alexa what time it is. The Echo Spot in the bedroom has a clock face so I can see it at night, but during the day, I often lose track of time. I rely on it so often that I am thinking of putting one near my vanity so I know what time it is while I’m putting on makeup to get on a plane at 4 am. Asking for the time is easier than looking at a device. It’s just so annoying to have to find my phone, pick it up, push a button… whew. I’m tired just thinking of it.
- I’ve solved a 10-year marital issue
My husband has a super-human ability to see well in very low-light conditions. So he can flip out the bedroom light and tuck himself safely in our bed while I grope, cuss and shuffle in the dark. So I set up Alexa with some smart plugs so that I can say, “Alexa, turn on Beth’s side” or “Alexa, turn on the bedroom” so I have the lights I need to get to my side. I adore this solution because we no longer have to coordinate our bedtimes, and I don’t have to wake him up to turn off/on the light so I can get to my side safely.At first, I thought it was the perfect setup, but then I returned from a trip and had this conversation with D.J. on Valentine’s Day.
Yeah, so one thing you still have to remember about having a smart home is that you need to get everyone else to think it’s as wonderful as you do.
- Alexa lets me show off a little
I don’t use Alexa for shopping very much because if you say, “Alexa, order Nerds Candies,” you will get annoyed by Alexa’s reading the first couple of results on the search page to you. But sometimes D.J. will ask me to buy him something on Amazon, and I’ll show off a little. Every six months, he’ll say we need a new refrigerator water filter, and I’ll just say, “Alexa, order the water filter,” and it shows up the next day. Then I get to give D.J. the look that says, “Yes, I CAN do everything.”
- Alexa integrates with my other Amazon devices
If you don’t have an Amazon Firestick, you’re missing out. Amazon’s streaming media gadget is super cheap and totally convenient and plenty of fun. I’ve even taught D.J. how easy it is to search by voice to find his shows across all the subscription services we belong to (Netflix, Hulu and Amazon, mainly). And with Alexa, I don’t even have to dig the remote from between the cushions of the couch. I can just tell her to play Big Bang Theory, and our options pop up on the screen.
- I look forward to the future
One of the things I love the most about Alexa is its potential. I’ve already integrated it into much of what I do here at home and in the office, and I can’t wait to see how the technology develops. I probably should have waited a while to get extra Alexa gadgets because we’re going to see the technology absorbed into other appliances and devices. Alexa will be in our cars, our fridges and our lamps — in fact, I think she already is. So if you hold off a little longer, you won’t have to always buy the stand-alone versions.
I need to be able to say anywhere in the house: “Alexa, where’s my [bleeped] iPhone? ” and have her tell me, “Beth, you’ve left it on the water heater again” or “it’s still in your purse, fool.” Without me having to call it. When Alexa can do that, I will be one happy camper.
Great job. So what happens when your friend, Alexa, comes over? Is there an identity crisis or can you change Amazon’s Alexa’s name?