Just got my hands across the Echo Plus device from Amazon. It was an invitation only sale by Amazon. Expressed my interest to procure a device and received an invite on 5th October, purchased it the same day. Amazon India was to start shipping the Echo products from the 1st of November and as usual Amazon lived up to the expectations and delivered the same on 2nd November, packed neatly.
Unboxing and Initial Setup
Took about 5 mins to unbox. Plug the device in and switch on the power. The all famous Orange ring illuminates. Just takes a couple of seconds and voila greetings by Alexa, the voice assistant, with the device in setup mode. Alexa prompts to download the Alexa app from PlayStore. Download the Alexa application, search for the wifi devices on the phone you will see a device like Amazon-XXX (XXX being some number) hit the connect, start the Alexa android application and about 3 screens down the device is set with my Home wifi. Within seconds Alexa is ready for use. The regional settings set as India.
Alexa Voice Experience
I have used the Echo Dot, have built some custom applications earlier, for my organisation and have pretty good experience with it. The Echo Dot used earlier for my development was a US import and the region settings were also US and Alexa had a US accent. The Echo Plus has an Indian accent. The sound from the Echo Dot is a lot flatter whereas from the Echo Plus has more depth. After some questions to Alexa by my daughter we were able to ascertain that this is an Indianised version of Alexa, where Alexa’s favourite actor is Shah Rukh Khan, the actress Kangana Ranaut.
The next step includes adding skills to Alexa to put her to real use. Searched the available skills in the app and it was a surprise to find some great apps which would really help take the overall personal assistant experience to the next level. The list has Uber, GoIbibo, FoodPanda to name a few. Expecting a lot of apps to hit the skill store considering so much excitement around the Echo devices in India. Downloaded the mentioned apps and did some fiddling with it and things really work. Didn’t want to lose 43 Rs on my Uber cancellation so gave that a skip.
After the usual tests, it is time to test Alexa’s audio quality. Considering the premium to buy the Echo Plus rather than settling for Echo Dot, I expect it to perform in this section. So, downloaded the Saavn skill and asked Alexa to play a few songs and boy the audio is crisp and clear has a great punch on the bass and can fill the room even at Level 5 Volume. Have seen the Echo devices as more of an assistant, but this can really play music like few of the expensive smaller speakers delivering enough clarity and bass, so great work on that one and the premium is worth every dime spent. Have similar review from another friend who also purchased the Echo Plus instead of the Echo Dot.
Zigbee the plus in Echo Plus
Unlike the Dot, the Echo Plus also offers a built in Smart Home Hub which can connect and control ZigBee smart devices. You can automate your home by purchasing compatible lights and accessories from Philips, Syska, OAKTER, TP-Link to name a few. It is as simple as telling Alexa “Discover my devices”. I have to get some devices to try it out, before I can review on this.
So that’s it for now. I am working on a few apps to help with home automation and take the experience to the next level. Will keep posting about it more. Will be great to hear from you guys on what you like to hear more on. So please do keep those comments coming in, because I am listening :).