The first time you search for an Alexa to purchase, it can be a little confusing. “Am I buying an Alexa or an Echo? What’s the difference?” Technically, you’re not actually buying an Alexa. So, what is the difference? Alexa VS Echo?
At the most basic level of explanation, Alexa is the software that operates your Echo, which is the hardware. Most often, the Echo Dot or other Echo devices are referred to as Alexa. This is fine until you’re purchasing one for the first time. Then you may wonder if you’re buying the right thing?
Let’s break down the Alexa vs Echo question a little further in detail, to help you fully understand. We’ll also go over other Echo device options.
What Is Alexa? (Alexa VS Echo Dot)
Alexa is the voice that comes out of your speakers when you talk to them. Think of Alexa in the same way as you would Siri when talking about your iPhone (if you own one). Siri answers questions you ask your iPhone. Alexa answers questions you ask your Echo. Alexa is a cloud-based service (Alexa Voice Service, or AVS) designed by Amazon. Alexa is Amazon’s intelligent voice recognition service, she’s the brain behind your Echo Dot, and other Amazon voice-enabled devices. Alexa has infinite abilities (which Amazon refers to as skills).
Think of Alexa as the “wake word.” This is basically what you say to your Echo when you want to ask a question, ask what the weather’s looking like, or ask for local traffic updates. Saying the wake word to your speaker (the hardware) will allow Alexa (the software), to produce answers to your questions, or complete commands/tasks for you, in virtually seconds.
In order to use Alexa, you’ll need a device with integrated voice technology. Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Show and Fire TV are Amazon’s devices, however, Alexa is integrated with some non-Amazon devices as well (ecobee smart thermostat, LG InstaView Refrigerator, etc). You can also use her through a free smartphone app or Windows 10 Alexa App.
Alexa is also the center of many smart home systems. LogiTech Home, Wink, and some hubless devices like Nest and WeMo switches, are compatible with Alexa’s voice integrated technology. By saying the wake word (Alexa), you can tell these devices to increase/decrease temperature settings, turn on or off your home’s alarm system, or change the channel (or set a specific time to record your favorite show). As long as you’re utilizing an Alexa compatible smart device, you can use Alexa’s powerful brain and skill set from virtually anywhere.
What are Alexa’s Capabilities?
Again, Alexa’s capabilities (referred to as skills) are infinite. The brain behind Alexa is capable of doing plenty of smart tasks, around your smart home. It seems the list of commands Alexa is capable of understanding and performing grow on a daily basis. Owners can also utilize Amazon Blueprints to create even more skills to add to Amazon’s arsenal.
Some of the many things Alexa can do include:
- Find recipes and give you audible step-by-step directions to make a dish
- Tell you the local weather
- Give you up to the minute traffic updates and alerts
- Play your favorite playlist (or schedule a time to wake you up with your favorite song)
- Turn on/off your TV, radio, alarm
- Set an alarm
- Get movie showtimes
- Order a pizza or food locally
- Get tickets to local sporting events
- Read your emails, compose emails, compose and read text messages
- Secure your home (Guard Away and Guard Home), or through compatible home alarm systems.
- Adjust temperature settings on your smart thermostat to help reduce energy consumption and ensure the perfect temperature in every room.
- Give you advice (probably better than some of your friends. You know which ones I’m talking about!)
- Order items online or auto-subscribe to items you use regularly (Alexa’s smart enough to know when you’re running low on toilet paper)
- Set up location-based reminders (using GPS data on your smartphone)
- Pay your bills (Capital One app, the list is increasing)
- Call Uber or Lyft
- Guide your workout
- Play games
- Tune your guitar or even your piano.
- Guided meditation
This is by no means an all-inclusive list of what Alexa does. As highlighted throughout, Alexa’s skillsets keep growing by the day. These are just a handful of the skills she performs. Alexa can also set up routines with a single-word command. By saying “goodnight” you can train Alexa to turn off all the lights in the home. Or, saying “good morning” will let Alexa know it’s time to open your window blinds in the bedroom.
Remember, Alexa is the brain (the AI software). So, when you talk to your Echo Dot, your Nest thermostat, or your smart home theater system, you’re really talking to Alexa. And, Alexa is giving out the commands and making appropriate adjustments, so that your Echo Dot plays a song, or your Nest thermostat reduces the temperature by 3 degrees in the living room. Instead of asking what Alexa can do, you should be asking what can’t Alexa do (the list is far shorter).
Other Skills Popular In My Household:
- Flash Briefing (just ask Alexa, “What’s my flash briefing”) to get customized audio updates from worldwide news outlets (CNN, Fox, WSJ, NPR, etc.)
- News from around the world BBC and other popular updates
- Economics and marketplace news
- Daily tech news and highlights updates
- Ability to manage your bank account and credit card accounts
- Xbox Alexa for the gamers
- Ted Talks
We can keep the list going and going, but let’s not beat a dead horse. Alexa has an enormous list of capabilities. Whether you enjoy gaming, sports, news, or keeping up with what’s going on around the globe, there’s a command you can speak to Alexa, in order to keep up with the latest and developing stories of interest to you.
Does Alexa Understand Me?
Alexa is smart, however, there are some accents that might trip her (or him) up. Alexa understands five English dialects, which are
Alexa also understands:
- Portuguese (Brazilian)
What does Alexa’s future hold in terms of language support? Amazon has put in plenty of research through Amazon Polly, which is capable of reading texts out loud in 24 different languages. There’s no word yet as to which additional languages will be added to the Alexa repertoire, however, in regions of the world where Alexa is popular, additional English dialects might soon be added. We’ll have to wait and see on this front!
What Is An Echo? (Alexa VS Echo Dot)
Okay, now that you know Alexa’s the brain behind the operation, what’s the Echo? As noted above, the Echo is the hardware. Think of it as the conduit. Imagine your computer for a minute. If you’re on a PC, Windows is the operating system or brain. If you’re using an iPhone, then iOS is the brain. The thing is, neither Windows nor iOS can operate by themselves without a device to run on. This is where the Echo comes in.
The Echo is Amazon’s voice-powered smart speaker system. It’s compatible with the AI software we’ve come to know as Alexa. The Echo Dot is one of the speakers in the Echo family. Think of the Echo Dot as a miniature Echo speaker. It’s more compact and operates similarly to other speakers in the Echo family lineup. It’s also cheaper.
Are There Monthly Charges?
No. In order for your Echo to operate, all you’re going to need is a powerful wi-fi connection in your household. You can set one up in the bathroom, kitchen, living room and/or your bedroom, or other rooms of the house.
Having an Amazon Prime Account does come with several perks for Alexa users (even though a subscription is not required for you to use the Echo or Alexa). Some of the perks include:
- Free two-day shipping
- Free same-day or one-hour shipping (in some areas)
- Discounted access to Amazon music subscription
- Discounts to Amazon Prime Pantry
- Prime member deals (savings which are offered to Amazon Prime members only)
So, being a Prime member won’t actually change how your Echo Dot operates (how the hardware actually works). But, it will afford you several great discounts, perks, and speedier shipping through Amazon which you can do with Alexa.
Do I need to Plug in Echo Dot for it to Work?
Although the Echo Dot is pretty smart, there isn’t a built-in battery, so you do have to plug it into an outlet for it to work. It’s possible that a future version of the Dot or other Echo speakers will have a built-in battery for operation which owners can simply recharge with a USB. However, there was a similar portable device called the Amazon Tap which was discontinued.
There is a workaround though if you’d like to make your echo device portable. A few companies make aftermarket, rechargeable bases for your Echo device. If you go this route, just make sure you get one that’s compatible with your model. Click here to see one on Amazon that works great with the Echo Dot 3rd Generation.
For the individual who’s looking for affordability and the power of Alexa from their speaker, the Echo Dot is more than sufficient to deliver what you’re looking for and provides the great powers of Alexa’s simple voice commands. We’ll go over all your Alexa powered Echo devices in just a second.
What Will I Use Amazon Echo Dot for?
Everything Alexa does! Thanks to Alexa, you can utilize your Echo Dot to do just about anything for you. You can tell it to
- Play your favorite song
- Order pizza to arrive in one-hour (or when you get home from work)
- Read you an audio or e-book
- Tell you a joke
- Tell you what your bank statement’s looking like
- Give you sports scores from your favorite leagues and teams
- Call an Uber or Lyft ride while you’re in the shower getting ready for work
- Turn your lights out
- Set your security system
You can simply use that powerful “wake word” (Alexa), and your Echo Dot is ready to complete the tasks or commands you start speaking its way. Check your calendar to make sure you’re open for lunch in the afternoon. Set your alarm an hour earlier to get to the gym before work. Or, make sure your alarm system is set up so your family’s safe when you’re ready to go to bed. The Echo Dot will do all of this for you, with the Alexa-backed brain inside of it.
Most of the functions that the Echo Dot is capable of, will work right out of the box (ie, asking for local weather, playing songs, checking sports scores or movie times, etc.) However, there are some skills or commands you can teach your Echo Dot over time. And with new features, and new commands turning up on what seems like a daily basis, you’re going to keep teaching your Echo Dot to power your home, and your life, in more ways the longer you own it.
Alexa’s Echo Lineup – What’s the difference?
The Echo Family is growing. As mentioned, the Echo Dot is the most basic unit, it’s the most compact, and is the most affordable. However, I thought it important to expand on all your options.
Echo Dot (3rd Gen)
Again, this is the most basic. While Amazon’s budget Echo Dot has the least powerful speaker and poorer sound quality than it’s larger siblings, the 3rd Generation Echo Dot delivers dramatically improved sound over Generation 1 and 2. This makes it an even better buy than previous versions for a budget-level Alexa speaker.
Alexa’s Echo Dot with Clock
At about $10 more, you can add a digital clock display with the Echo Dot with Clock. Don’t forget, if you don’t want this option, you can always ask Alexa what time it is……in literally any timezone or city in the world.
Amazon’s Echo (3rd Gen)
This is the original Echo but the third generation, which includes a 3-inch woofer for more bass and increased back volume, which were originally only featured in the Echo Plus. This speaker doesn’t have the integrated smart hub like the Echo Plus, but we hardly find it necessary. As long as you use Alexa enabled smart devices, the smart hub is kind of obsolete.
Alexa Echo Plus (2nd Gen)
The Echo Plus is designed to offer a more powerful and clearer sound. It also has a temperature sensor to initiate routines inside your home. With a built-in Zigbee smart home hub, you can set up your smart devices that are Zigbee compatible even if they aren’t Alexa capable. Unless you plan on basing your home on Zigbee smart products, it doesn’t quite justify its $50 premium.
The Echo Studio has the best sound quality of the line-up. It features object-based 3D surround sound with three midrange speakers, a directional tweeter, and a 5 ¼-inch mini subwoofer. This gives you crisper highs and deeper lows than any other Echo device so far on the market. It’s pretty impressive how the Echo Studio fills the space comfortably covering a large area.
Echo Show (2nd Gen)
This model offers twice the display area as the original, plus improved sound quality and a 10″ HD screen. The show versions allow you to make phone video calls to other Alexa’s, view movies through 3rd party services while you’re cooking or you can display your favorite recipe. You can open a web browser via voice commands and even type a website URL with the on-screen keyboard.
Conclusion – Alexa Vs Echo Dot
So hopefully, now you understand the difference between Alexa and the Echo Dot, or any other Echo for that matter. We’ve laid out what exactly Alexa is and the different versions of Echo’s available which house the Alexa AI.
This smart software is not only capable of improving daily tasks around the home, but can truly revolutionize your home into a smart home by integrating all of the important tasks you can possibly automate with a simple voice command. Keep checking in for the latest updates, as Alexa’s getting smarter by the day.
If you’ve enjoyed this article and are looking to build a smart home, check out our Smart Home Installation Kit.
Want to know how to turn your lights on with Alexa? – Click here
Would you like an Alexa Baby Monitor? Click here