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What is Amazon Echo?

What’s an Echo and what can it do?

The Amazon Echo is a smart speaker. It is a powered speaker that has a built in voice assistant. You give it voice commands and requests and it will follow your instructions. While most people know you can play music on speakers like the Echo, or even ask them questions, there’s a lot more interesting things an Amazon Echo can do.

Amazon Echo Dot
The Amazon Echo Dot is the baby brother to the Echo Dot

Alexa: what is it used for? Awesome things you can do with your Echo in 2024

Smart speakers are constantly being updated via software ‘patches’ that are delivered without you having to do anything, over the Internet. This means that the amount of things that the Amazon Echo can do is forever increasing. Here’s some of the main things people are getting their voice assistants to do for them.

  • Make phone calls (Alexa will use your phone)
  • Look up the answer to questions
  • Have a Kindle book read to them
  • Play an Audible audio book
  • Listen to a streaming music service, like Amazon Music or Spotify
  • Play many different games
  • Try out a new app
  • Get a recipe idea
  • Listen to streaming radio stations (free, yey!)
  • Smart home automation, from controlling light bulbs to making a cup of tea!
Amazon Alexa
The Amazon Echo – in all it’s gorgeous minimalist curvyness – Available on Amazon UK

Alexa can do WHAT?

It’s true. One of the things you can do with Amazon Alexa is get her to make you a cup of tea. Well, boil the kettle anyway. The phrase you’ll need to use is “Alexa, put the kettle on”. You’ll also need a smart kettle like one of the ones features in our Best Smart Kettle guide. Now if she can just bring it in, with a nice Rich Tea biscuit, that would be lovely.

How does the Amazon Echo work?

Amazon Echo: how to play music

Using your voice to play your favourite tunes never gets old

Amazon Echo Music

One of the original uses, and still one of the best things you can do with your Amazon Echo is get Alexa to play songs and albums you love. If you’ve got Amazon Prime, then you’ll already have access to a number of albums and songs.

If you want a serious music library at your fingertips, you might want to look into a subscription to Amazon Music Unlimited. It’s basically a huge library of songs you can listen to. Amazon Music Unlimited consists of a whopping 50 million tracks you can play anytime on your Echo.

Tech Spurt has full review Amazon Unlimited here:

Amazon Music Unlimited Pros

  • High quality audio
  • Massive library of songs
  • Easy to use with Alexa
  • Download and listen to stuff offline
  • Often good offers on where you can try it out cheap
  • Really good app that will suggest songs you might like

Amazon Music Cons

  • Monthly fee to pay
  • The odd (very obscure song) might not be found
The Amazon Echo is a great choice for smart home automation! (Grab one at Amazon)

Amazon Echo can play Apple Music too

The Echo plays nice with other music services

One of the good things about the Amazon Echo is that they don’t just lock you in to listening to their own streaming music service. Want to listen to Apple music? No problem. Interestingly enough, the same can’t be said in reverse. Apple definitely won’t let you listen to anything other than Apple Music service. *

* While you can technically stream Amazon music to your Homepod, it’s different to the smart speaker supporting it.

Can you listen to radio stations on the Amazon Echo?

It’s super easy to listen to radio on your Echo… and free!

One of the quickest and easiest ways to get some music on your Echo smart speaker is to get Alexa to tune into your favourite radio station. You’ll be hard pushed to find one that’s not on there and all the big ones like Capital, Heart, BBC stations and everything else you want to rock out to are all there.

Amazon Echo Show
The Amazon Echo Show – The screen adds a new dimension (kids love it too)

How do you get Alexa to play a radio station?

As the slogan says, “You’ve just got to ask”. But what exactly do you ask? Just say “Alexa, play…” and then the name of the radio station you’re looking for. Some examples:

“Alexa, play smooth radio” “Alexa, play classic FM” “Alexa, play BBC radio 2”

Amazon Echo Dot 3rd Gen: what does it do?

The Echo Dot is the mini version of the Amazon Echo. It’s a much smaller smart speaker that doesn’t have the same volume or power of it’s bigger brother, but the way it works is exactly the same. It has the exact same voice assistant on it. The 3rd ‘generation’ is the 3rd hardware version of the little speaker and saw a huge overhaul of the design, and a big improvement in audio quality.

What other smart speakers available?

The Amazon Echo has some real competition on 2024

The Amazon Echo is a fantastic product that you’ll get a lot of value out of, whether you’re planning to use it purely for entertainment, some serious home automation, or a bit of both. But this smart speaker hasn’t cornered the market just yet. There’s some interesting alternatives up for grabs that are worth looking into.

  1. Google Home / Google Home Mini – The search giant technology is used to great affect in this smart speaker, making for a really compelling alternative.
  2. Apple Homepod – While Apple’s smart speaker is the more expensive, it’s packed with Apple’s famous tech (including 7 tweeters) and sounds stunning.
  3. 3rd party speakers – like the Sonos One run Alexa and are an interesting alternative to the Amazon Echo.
Echo Dot (3rd Gen) - Smart speaker with Alexa - Sandstone Fabric
Above: Echo Dot (3rd Gen) – Amazon UK

As well as being an ideal music player, you can integrate it into your smart home and get the speaker to control everything from lights to your heating.

The Amazon Echo is available in a number of variations, such as the smaller, more compact Amazon Echo Dot and the Echo View – which has a large colour screen.

Amazon Echo – What do i need for smart home automation?

Smart home automation is a fantastic way to save time, save money and use tech to make your home a better place to live all round. And Alexa (and other voice assistants) are a big part of this. While most smart home appliances and gadgets will require you to do the bulk of control on their apps, using your voice to do tasks is also a big time saver ,and lots of fun.

There’s a lot of ways you can start to use your Amazon Echo in your smart home including:

  • Turning the heating up or down
  • Arming your alarm
  • Boiling a kettle
  • Controlling anything plugged into a smart plug
  • Setting off crazy disco lights in at 2am (or just dimming the bedroom light)
  • Calling someone up without reaching for your phone
  • Checking if a door is open
  • Feeding your pet
  • Setting your robot hoover off cleaning the floor
  • Changing the TV channel

Amazon Echo FAQs

Alexa or Echo, which is better?

There’s no such thing as a dumb question. And it’s easy to get mixed up in all these brands and product names. The answer to this question is that they are the same thing. Kinda. Echo is the hardware and Alexa is the voice assistant that you’ll find on the Amazon Echo. So neither is better! They’re working together.

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Hello, thanks for reading my guide. My name is Tom and I am a tech blogger who loves everything about creating a smart home. I live with my wife and two children in the North East of England.