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Definition: Amazon Echo


A family of extremely popular devices from Amazon.com that combines a wireless speaker, music streamer and the Alexa virtual assistant in one unit. In the millions of homes that have multiple Echos, individual units can be configured to play their own tunes. Echo devices are also used to control lights and home appliances (see smart home).

Although an Echo is the hardware, and Alexa is the service, people mostly refer to the device as Alexa. Introduced in 2015, several variations followed (see all models below).

Play Music From the Internet or Locally
The Echo can stream from the Internet via Wi-Fi (Amazon Music, Apple Music, Pandora, etc.) as well from a user's own computer or mobile device via Bluetooth.

Voice Calling and Messaging
In 2017, voice calling and messaging (both text and voice) were added so that users can call and message other Echo devices. In addition, Alexa users can install the Alexa app in their smartphone, which integrates the contact list and allows hands-free calling from Echo devices to the phone.

Intercom Capability
A year later, Echos were enabled to broadcast messages to all other Echos ("dinner is ready"). In the same year, Amazon put Echo on the road (see Echo Auto).

"Alexa - What's the Capital of Maine?"
Always connected via Wi-Fi, when any of the Echo's seven microphones hears the word "Alexa" from across the room, it "wakes up," emits an audible signal and waits for a question. Most people use the default Alexa wake word; however, "Amazon," "Echo" or "computer" can be selected instead. Alexa devices can be made to not listen (see Alexagate).

The Alexa App
Available for the user's desktop and mobile devices, the app provides device setup and logs all questions and answers. It also manages a to-do list, timer, alarms and music sources, and it accepts general questions as well. See Alexa Voice Service, virtual assistant, Bluetooth speaker and Amazon Dash.




Echo, Echo Plus and Studio
This was the first Echo in 2015, which is 3" taller than the next generation. The Echo Plus includes a ZigBee smart home hub, and the Echo Studio adds high-fidelity speakers. See Echo Studio and Bluetooth speaker. (Image courtesy of Amazon.com.)








Echo Dot
A puck-shaped Echo came out in 2016 that can optionally connect to an external speaker for louder sound. Color models (top) debuted in 2018 that include a year of entertainment and education. In 2020, the Dot's shape switched from a puck to a ball, which Amazon dubs an "orb." Animal models were also introduced (bottom). (Images courtesy of Amazon.com.)








Echo Show and Echo Show 10
The Show is a smart display for information, entertainment, video calling and home control. A verbal command might turn on music, dim the lights or switch to the babycam. The original Show (top) in 2017 was stationary, but the Show 10 in 2020 (bottom) rotates to face the person speaking. See smart display. (Images courtesy of Amazon.com.)






Echo Spot
Debuting in 2017, the Echo Spot's small screen can be an alarm clock, kitchen timer or security camera. Users can also make video calls to other Amazon users. See smart display. (Image courtesy of Amazon.com.)






Echo Input (Use Your Speaker)
Debuting in 2019, the Input adds Alexa to an existing speaker either via Bluetooth or a 3.5mm cable. A battery-backed version was made available for the Indian market. (Image courtesy of Amazon.com.)






Wall-Mounted Echo Flex
The Flex is a wall-mounted Echo with a USB port. Introduced in 2019, a third-party night light plugs into the bottom of the Flex. (Image courtesy of Amazon.com.)






Echo Buttons
Echo buttons are paired via Bluetooth to an Echo for game playing as well as activating smart home devices. Up to four buttons can be connected to one device. (Image courtesy of Amazon.com.)






Amazon Tap (Discontinued)
The Amazon Tap (not named "Echo" Tap) was designed for music on the go. Rechargeable in its cradle, it connects to Wi-Fi. The Tap came out in 2016 and was dropped in 2018. (Image courtesy of Amazon.com.)






Echo Look (Discontinued)
Introduced in 2017 and discontinued in 2020, users could ask Alexa to take their picture and give them fashion advice. Style Check would analyze which of two outfits looked best, and the Look also played music. (Image courtesy of Amazon.com.)