Smart speakers have quickly gained popularity in Canada and we now have a wide range of speakers ranging from room-filling boomboxes to small and versatile tabletop speakers. The Amazon Echo Dot 3rd Generation is the latest iteration of Amazon’s popular entry-level smart speaker. This latest version retains the popular puck-like shape, but this time the industrial design leans towards a softer and more organic look.
The most important smart speakers are the smallest ones. Not only are they reasonably priced, they set the groundwork for adopting an entire smart home strategy. This means that anyone who tries out and likes what a smart speaker has to offer, will likely get more units from the same company and likely get accessories and smart home devices that work well with that initial speaker.
The key features that have endeared Echo Dot devices to users are all still here. We get the far-field microphones that make it possible to call ‘Alexa’ even from across the room. The Echo Dot also has Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity to easily access smartphones and Wi-Fi hotspots.
Perhaps the most under-appreciated, yet important, feature is an audio-line out port for connecting to larger or more powerful speakers.
Audio output ensures that owners of larger speakers can now integrate them into their smart home and infotainment setups without having to pay a premium, which means you can enjoy the latest streaming technology with the hardware you already have.
Out of the box experience
The Echo Dot 3rd Generation comes with a micro USB cable and a 9W charger. Everything is designed for quick and easy setup provided you have the Amazon Echo App on Android or iPhone.
What is evident as you unbox the Echo Dot is that this year’s device is larger and thicker than the previous Echo Dot. It is almost as if someone put the old Echo Dot on a high-protein diet and wrapped it with fabric. The old generations of the Echo Dot seem a bit bare style-wise; the latest version is more enticing in terms of design and materials.
The slightly larger size does yield some advantages. A larger speaker and driver make sound louder, clearer, and supposedly less noisy. A bit of added weight also helps to hold the Echo Dot down, so it isn’t easily moved.
What the Hardware offers
The Amazon Echo Dot is a connected speaker with far-field microphones. More importantly, it is a gateway to Amazon’s cloud and services. The key cog is the Alexa voice assistant, which serves as the interface to connect to various services, devices, and controls.
You can use the Amazon Echo to:
- Ask Alexa to play music, answer questions, read the news, check the weather, set alarms, and control compatible smart home devices
- Stream songs from Amazon Music, Spotify, SiriusXM, and other platforms through the improved speaker for richer and louder sound
- Pair with another Amazon Echo Dot for stereo sound support
- Call and message almost anyone hands-free
- Instantly drop-in on other rooms in your home or make an announcement to every room with a compatible Echo device
- Use your voice to turn on lights, adjust thermostats, lock doors, find TV shows, and more with compatible connected devices
- Shop and purchase items on Amazon, as well as track shipping for items on the way
What the Software offers
Hardware is just part of the equation. Amazon is first and foremost a software company, so a lot of the powers of the Amazon Echo smart speaker are due to the software component.
The best thing about smart speakers like the Echo Dot, is that the software updates automatically and allows for more functionality as time goes by. Since I have started using Amazon Echo speakers, there have been numerous updates which have unlocked functionality with new smart home devices.
There are also updates to various Alexa Skills. Skills are services (as well as apps) that integrate with the Alexa voice assistant. There are hundreds of skills for various things ranging from weather, news, entertainment, games, and various services.
Living with the Echo Dot
The Echo Dot becomes more than a cool accessory or gadget once you integrate it into your life.
You can use it to keep tabs on the news with the ‘Flash Briefing,’ which collates a bunch of short news feeds into a neat and cohesive mini-podcast.
I can also get it to play music from streaming services like Spotify and Amazon Music. I can access global radio stations thanks to TuneIn Radio, which also gives me ESPN sports news and NPR Radio, which I play while working in the office.
Combined with Philips Hue lights, I can use the Echo Dot to turn lights on or off, dim them by degrees, or trigger specific scenes (purple and red for watching Toronto Raptors games, green for gaming, as well as a range of colours for watching specific movies).
At home, the Echo Dot is useful for setting timers while cooking or making tea. It helps set reminders for checking on laundry, getting ready to pick up my son from school, as well as converting measurements for recipes.
People in my family use Alexa on the Echo Dot to play music, check the weather before going out, ask the distance to specific locations, and even translate words in various languages. The quick and friendly performance of Alexa makes it a suitable conduit for getting things done hands-free. Another cool feature I discovered is the Echo Dot can read audiobooks from Audible.com: Just ask Alexa to continue reading your book.