When we got our hands on the Amazon Echo in India, we were elated. Finally, the popular Alexa was hitting the Amazon crazy Indian consumer – that too at a discount. We did a review for the same, which was aptly done as an anti-review.
No unboxing, no first impressions. We took the Echo and gave it to a real person to use it and asked him about his experience. Here’s our conversation with Nagesh Pai – who works for the popular website publishing company Automattic (WordPress). His thoughts? The Amazon Echo makes an awesome executive assistant and that too with an Indian accent!
Amazon Echo India – ideal use-cases, pros, cons, how well does it work? Check out the video below:
And here’s a full demo and understanding of the technicalities of the product – for the geek in you:
Music. News. Shopping. E-books. If I’m asked to describe the feeling of having a companion who makes life much, much easier, I’d say “Echo”. After spending 3 days and nights with this feature-packed voice assistant, I was quite impressed.
What did I like?
- One step forward into the future.
- Ability to control Smart homes, book cabs, tell recipes, etc.
- Skills, which always keep the prospect for improvement.
- Learning based command receiver, which gets to know your commands well over a period of time.
- Minimalist design, and no complications with setting up or using.
What Didn’t I Like?
- No battery backup.
- No auxiliary input.
- No controls for bass, treble, and balance.
- Echo pauses/suppresses every ongoing audio activity to listen to your command. This can get irritating when you just have to increase/decrease the volume.
- No scope for giving multiple commands. You have to call out the speaker every time for a single command.
If you’re looking for an upgrade from your normal speaker, then go for it.
If you’re heavily reliant on technology for reminders, alarms, etc. – Go for it.
If you’re just looking for a speaker, you can definitely have cheaper alternatives.
If you’re expecting a full-fledged voice control system, you should probably wait for technology to progress.
Value For Money
Phenomenal. We don’t doubt the Echo on this one. As of now, the promotional price is Rs. 6,999, which makes it the best smart speaker one can buy in India at a reasonable price. If we talk about the MRP value, i.e Rs. 10,000, I believe that’s when it becomes a little expensive for the ordinary man; but if we look at the better half of it and in Echo’s defense, you also get one year of Prime subscription free of cost, which would compensate for the reversal to the MRP. At the same time, this can be disadvantageous for you if you’re already a Prime user and have paid Rs. 500 for a year’s subscription. For the people who use the Amazon Fire TV Stick, it would be an unnecessary overlap of Prime memberships as they’d already have purchased one. All in all, the value for money is subjective between Amazon and non-Amazon users; and frugal and splurging customers. The elite class must be having advanced home automation technology installed, provided that they’re up to date with the latest technological luxuries. This makes Echo a great choice for them as they can fully use the home automation features – note that this is only possible with the Amazon Echo Plus. For frugal customers who do not have smart lights and other home automation technology installed, that aspect of the Echo goes unused.
Echo is very smooth in terms of response time, provided that you have a good, stable internet connection. Command detection is commendable as the Echo can hear your voice even when music is playing. The speaker shows no signs of heating or sound lag. Overall built and the material is quite suitable for home storage. Although, the speaker’s inability to function without the internet makes it a bummer if you want to take it to someone else’s house – you’ll have to set up the internet connection again. It also has no battery backup, so you’ll have to keep it perpetually plugged in. Other than this, I did miss the option of an auxiliary input. Perhaps if I had the 3.5mm Jack with us, Echo would have definitely earned brownie points with us. But to fix this, Amazon has provided us with the Bluetooth Cloning – which gives it the ability to connect to 1 Bluetooth speaker and replicate the sound. We also have the option to change the covers. Although currently, only three colors are available –black, grey and white.
I did a comparison of Echo and JBL Flip 1 and Flip 2 and the Echo is a way better choice. The sound quality is phenomenal but it is missing out on custom controls for Bass, Treble, and Balance – considering that the speaker is omnidirectional. I personally played songs ranging from Genres of Jazz, Metal, EDM, Dubstep to Instrumentals, Ghazals, and Classical Music. You wouldn’t complain about the maximum volume, considering Echo can be used as a house speaker and not a house party speaker. There is no sign of voice cracking or bass overpowering the vocals.
Alexa Voice Assistant
Alexa lives inside our friendly neighborhood Echo. It is backed by a cloud-space database and can learn what your commands mean via the Alexa application for Android and iOS. The wit and humor still need a bit of work and it is important to mention that as of now, as Siri would clearly win the game in terms of response database. Echo still impresses me with its instant responses. It is noted that Alexa only answers to factual questions and still has to learn a lot if it needs to step up its spontaneity game. Echo speaks only English and I believe that non-English speaking people must be disappointed. There is no option of changing the gender of Alexa and the accent is subjective to the region of use.
One of the most advantageous aspects of Echo is Skills. This feature allows Echo to have its own Application Store and a wide range of Applications which enable new features. Skills can make Echo do a variety of things such as –
- Speak Hindi – https://alexa.amazon.in/spa/index.html#skills/dp/B077LVCF23/?ref=skill_dsk_skb_sr_0
- Book cabs – https://alexa.amazon.in/spa/index.html#skills/dp/B01AYJQ9QK/?ref=skill_dsk_try_gw_0
- Order Food – https://alexa.amazon.in/spa/index.html#skills/dp/B075C8HK3P/?ref=skill_dsk_try_gw_1
- Play ambient sounds – https://alexa.amazon.in/spa/index.html#skills/dp/B01M5E92TH/?ref=skill_dsk_try_gw_4
The Skills store also gives us a variety of recipes, workouts, games and other lifestyle skills. India still has to get features that enable one to order pizza, track delivery orders, thermostat controls, etc.
Does it make sense in India?
Yes, although it still has to gain a lot of features like better Smart home control – which is fairly limited and possible only with selected manufacturers, as the slew of products in India are also limited.
Considering buying it? Check it out on Amazon: