Day 2 With The Echo Dot UK (2nd Gen) - A Nerfed US Version


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Now that the initial novelty of getting the Amazon Echo has worn off, I am beginning to see some shortfalls with the unit as I try to integrate it into everyday life.

I'll start with the Good:

The unit itself is very good for the price, the speakers are loud enough but will not blow you away if you want to listen to music in high quality. If it's spoken word however the unit is very clear. The "Always On" ability makes me want to use it much more than any other AI assistant and combined with some Smarthome kit, this will make a very powerful unit. I'm not a prime member so I haven't been able to take advantage of the music part, or ordering things off amazon.

Getting traffic, weather, news and especially playing podcasts and radio however have gone excellently without a hitch.

And on to the limitations:

Most of these will be complaints about the fact that I have a UK model, and will likely be introduced further down the road, as although the Echo has been out for over a year, it has only been in the UK for a month as of posting. However, if you plan to get the Echo Dot right now, here's what to expect:

  • No movies/cinema listings (offered in the US)
  • No IFTTT (offered in the US)
  • No Kindle Book Reading
  • No Translations
  • No Voice Training
  • No Alerts
  • A Massively Nerfed Skills Store
  • Skills are difficult to locate (now fixed in the US)
  • No Prime Account? No Spotify Premium? You are stuck with uploading songs to Amazon Music (max 200)
  • No Keep support for shopping lists

The Skills store is a big one, because it appears that the top rated apps have 19 ratings (most have 0 and are next to useless), however just looking at the "Amazing Word Master Game" on the main alexa store shows 289 ratings, seriously missing the boat here. The maturity of the US Store shows much more in the way of expand-ability and it's unclear if we will ever see UK versions.

Having no IFTTT supports means no custom triggers unless specific smart hardware is bought, seriously increasing the investment needed for the device, when the biggest investment of the device is the cloud. I would like Alexa to tell me where my phone is, how much battery life I have, and if there are any alerts on my phone.

Speaking of alerts, although some may see this as a positive, Alexa is silent until triggered (or an alarm/timer goes off). I would definitely find it more useful as an alert device, even if the top lit up with something that has happened, requiring the user to say "alexa, whats my alerts".

Google Home does seem attractive at this point due to it's machine learning investment and sheer quality of answers, and will definitely pose big competition to Alexa. I hope that Amazon continues to improve the echo, especially with UK support, as at the moment it seems as a "good" device rather than an "excellent" one, hindered by fixable drawbacks.
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