As promised, Amazon launched the Echo Show last week, the newest version of its smart speaker. This model has been enhanced with a video screen that takes Alexa, Amazon’s digital assistant, to a new level.
As an avid Echo fan for the past two years, I have been consulting Alexa daily for a morning greeting, weather report and flash news briefing. I also ask her to set timers, ask her questions about conversions, and do Internet searches.
I also use my Echoes as Bluetooth speakers, connecting my iPhone and playing podcasts, audiobooks and music.
Now, with Echo Show all that seems much more advanced, with the Show being able to display information, videos and photos on its screen. I can use the touch screen to navigate and make selections. I can view what Alexa is showing me, instead of just listening to her.
With its touch screen, Echo Show can do a whole lot more than the original Echo.
This video introduces Echo Show:
What You Can See on the Echo Show
With the Echo Show you can watch full videos from Amazon Video, YouTube and more. You can also watch movie trailers and news updates from CNN.
Movies Near You
Ask Alexa what movies are playing near you and you will see a list on the screen. Scroll through to find more choices.
So far, you can’t buy a movie ticket through Alexa, but that would be a handy update to have.
The screen will display a list of ingredients and the cooking instructions so you can follow along as you prepare the recipe.
Alexa’s home screen can scroll through displays, sort of like a screensaver. Echo Show entertains me with displays suggesting what I can try, gives me news updates and shows me the current weather.
I realize Show is still a new tech toy, but I find myself checking it out frequently to see what’s up with Alexa.
Using the Alexa app on your phone or tablet, you can link calendars from Apple, Google and Microsoft. Then you can add appointments and see your schedule from the Show.
The Echo Show can be a digital photo frame. See photos you have added to Prime Photos on the Show’s screen.
You can also set one of your own photos as the background wallpaper for the Echo Show. Use the Alexa app on your phone to select one of your photos from your Amazon Photo library.
Echo Show can play music directly from Amazon Music, Pandora, Spotify, iHeartRadio, TuneIn and SiriusXM. If you play a song from Amazon Music, the Show will display the lyrics as they are being sung. For other music services, the Show lets you see which song is playing, including the cover art.
I especially like reading song lyrics as the music is playing from Prime Music. Yes, I know my iPhone can do this now, as of iOS 10 with Apple Music, but I’m often not looking at my phone when I’m playing music.
You can use the Echo Show to make video calls to other Echo Shows and to your contacts who have the Alexa app on their phones or tablets. You can also use it to make voice calls to your contacts who have an Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Show and the Alexa app.
If you’re not in the mood to chat, you can leave a message for others by using the Echo Show. Your message will be recorded and played on their Echo device and transcribed so they can read it in their Echo app.
If you have more than one Echo Show in the house, you can use them as a video intercom to chat with others in your family. To use this feature, go into the Alexa app on your phone and name each device.
Calling and messaging are free.
One new feature on the Echo Show is Drop In that lets you use the Echo Show as a video intercom. Ask Alexa to Drop In on a contact (who has given you permission to Drop In), and the video call will connect automatically.
The person being Dropped In on gets a notice that the Drop is starting and has 10 seconds to either reject the call or change the call to audio only. The caller sees a blurred screen for those 10 seconds.
You can choose to allow this feature, or not, depending on whether you think it’s cool or creepy.
Having a linked camera in your home may not feel comfortable for everyone. You can turn off the camera and/or put tape over it until you need to use it for a video call.
Do Not Disturb
The Echo Show has a Do Not Disturb setting that you can schedule using the Alexa app. You can use this feature so that the Show doesn’t pester you during a certain time of day.
When Do Not Disturb is on, the screen turns black and the time is displayed in gray. The Show won’t disturb you, except for alarms and timers when it is in Do Not Disturb mode.
Screens for the Future
Suddenly, my Echoes without a screen seem downright primitive. I put them in other rooms to use them as a voice intercom in my house, but I truly prefer using an Echo Show to the original Echo.
Amazon’s leap into the future does not bode well for smart speakers that don’t have a screen, such as Google Home and Apple’s upcoming HomePod.
Room for Improvement
One feature that I would like to see added to Echo Show is Mayday, the 24/7 live operator that comes with some Kindle Fire tablets.
Using the Show is mostly intuitive, but sometimes I am challenged to figure out how to do something. I ordered two Echo Shows and when I tried to register the second one, it showed an error message that I could not register it to the same Amazon account.
I was able to use Amazon’s online help chat where an agent resolved the issue for me. But it would have been quicker (and more fun) to use a Mayday agent.
A back button ← on the screen would be helpful return to the previous step. For example, when you ask Alexa to show you recipes, then choose one, you have to ask again if you don’t like the recipe you chose and want to see others.
Better Voice Recognition
My original Echo speakers could always hear my when I summoned them, even while playing music. Sometimes my Echo Shows have problems hearing me, especially above music and videos.
Combining Recipes and Lists
When you find a recipe you like on the Show, you should be able to add the ingredients to a shopping list. Perhaps when Amazon completes its purchase of Whole Foods, this could be a handy update.
The Echo Show is available for $229.99. Amazon is currently offering a discount of $100 off if you buy two with the offer code: SHOW2PACK.
Launch dates for other countries have not been announced by Amazon.
Do you like the idea of the Echo Show? Do you see the benefit of having a screen? Do you think the Drop In feature is creepy or cool?
Share your thoughts in the Comments section below!
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