The Digital Assistant is one of today’s hottest technologies, and Techcrunch predicts that Amazon will soon be dominating the market to a tune of a projected 70 percent. Amazon Alexa, Echo, and Dot are already household words. But what are these things? More to the point, what can they do for you, and how can you get the most out of them? Let’s take a look.
Before Shopping Around for Amazon Echo Accessories, Choose Your Device.
Even without the Amazon Echo accessories, these smart home devices are impressive. Think of Alexa as a category—that is, a virtual home assistant made by Amazon. Echo and Dot are types of Alexa device. Amazon calls them intelligent speakers, but they’re so much more than that. The Dot is a second-generation Echo. Echo itself has a number of different variations both on the market and in development, including:
- Echo Dot: The sleek, compact design and lower price tag offers a stripped-down version if the Echo. The modest price and smaller size let you add Echo Dot to any room in your house for just $49.99.
- Echo Plus: The Echo Plus retails for a modest $149.99 and has lots of improvements over the standard Echo, including high-quality speakers, more hands-free capabilities, and a selection of colors and styles.
- Echo Spot: The small, circular Echo Spot costs $129.00 and has a screen so Alexa can show you things. Plus, its stylish design and smaller size fits easily on your desk, kitchen counter, or nightstand.
- Echo Show: For $299.99, the Echo Show does everything the original Echo does, with a focus on delivering audio and video content. You can make hands-free video calls, listen to music on high-quality speakers, watch music videos and other video content, and more.
- Echo Look: Billed as Amazon’s “camera and style assistant,” Echo Look is well-priced at $199.99. It allows you to take video and photos of your daily outfits, create your own personal lookbook, get a second opinion on your outfit with Style Check, the AI fashion assistant, discover new fashions and accessories, and more. This is currently only available by invitation, which you can request here.
Amazon offers a side-by-side comparison of its current Echo models here, so you can find the best buy for your needs. However, most DAs perform a lot of the same functions. And many of these functions require additional Amazon Echo accessories.
Three Basic Amazon Echo Accessories You’ve Got To Have
Below, we’ve broken down some of Alexa’s most popular functions and the Amazon Echo accessories you need in order to use them.
1. Smart Hub: Alexa devices can play music, perform an internet search, and answer questions right out of the box. However, more complicated functions—for example controlling lighting, television, smart locks, and other external devices—often require a smart home hub. A hub is like a middleman. Echo and Dot lack the ability to interface directly with many of these devices, and the hub makes this connection. A hub will typically run between $70-$150. You can find a list of some popular ones and their capabilities here.
2. Voice Remote: If your Echo device is downstairs or in another room, a voice remote allows you control your device when you’re out of Alexa’s hearing range. You can buy an Amazon Echo remote from Amazon for around $30.
3. IFTT: IFFT (If This Then That) is a third-party service through which you can create routines—also called applets or recipes—that combine the functions of your connected smart devices, using the if-then relationship. For example, “If my smart smoke detector detects smoke, then contact emergency services,” or “If my Fitbit registers I have awakened, then turn on the lights downstairs and start my connected coffee maker.” Creating applets is easy, fun, and free. Plus, if you don’t want to make your own, you can browse through hundreds of applets that other users have created, and discover uses for your Alexa device that you might never have even imagined.
Smart Hardware: The Best Amazon Echo Accessories
Some of the most important Amazon Echo accessories are smart variations of things you already have in your home.
Smart Plugs, Switches, Dimmers and Outlets: Smart plugs, switches, dimmers and outlets allow you to control ordinary devices with your phone or Alexa device. You can use switches and dimmers to control lighting—or even to monitor energy usage. Plugs and outlets allow you to use Alexa to control devices. Some of these require a hub; some work without one. Prices start around $50, though you can spend much more than that. You can read more about some of the more popular smart plugs, dimmers, outlets and switches here .
— Backlights & Buttons (@bnb_blog) October 5, 2017
Door Locks: You can use your Alexa device to control home security, as well. To do this, you’ll need smart door locks that are specifically enabled to work with Alexa. These come in a wide range of prices, starting at around $100, from a variety of well-known lock companies like Kwikset, Schlage, and Yale. Not only will your smart lock allow you to remotely open your front door when your hands are full of groceries and packages, but some will even allow you to issue temporary digital keys to visitors.
— Liam Alexander (@Liam_axe) July 26, 2017
Home Security: In addition to locks, Alexa can interface with a variety of home security devices such as alarms, cameras, smoke detectors and C02 detectors. You can find an excellent guide to securing your home with various Alexa devices here. The author considers Echo Dot the best buy for your home security needs, but everyone’s needs are different, so do your research.
— Tennie _Dechert (@Tennie_Dechert) July 28, 2017
Thermostats: Although it might seem that having a voice-activated thermostat would just create a new opportunity for coworkers or family members to argue about the temperature, smart thermostats are a very popular accessory. With some, you will have to work through your Alexa device, but others have Alexa built in. Some allow you to program your daily temperature needs with an incredible degree of specificity, while others learn your schedule so you don’t need to program them at all. Smart thermostats generally start at about $100. You can peruse some of the most popular types of Alexa-compatible smart thermostats here.
— Frontier Comm (@FrontierCorp) October 14, 2017
11 Great Amazon Echo Dot Accessories.
Since the Amazon Echo Dot’s the budget model, you’ll want to make sure accessories are compatible before buying them. Here’s a list of 11 Amazon Echo Dot accessories that have gotten great reviews on Amazon.
- Smart plug: Tp-Link Mini. $34.99.
- Smart bulb: TP-Link Smart Light. $19.99.
- Light Dimmer: Lutron $87.89.
- Smart light strip: Lifx Z (Starter Kit) $79.99
- Soundbar: Bose Soundtouch $699.00
- Speaker: Bose SoundLink Mini $179.00
- Waterproof shower speaker: UE ROLL 2 $64.95
- Smart entertainment: Harmony Hub. $89.88.
- Smart home coffee maker: Mr. Coffee Smart Wifi-Enabled Wemo (10-cup). $83.27 (Third-party sellers)
- Voice Remote: Alexa Voice Remote for Amazon Echo and Echo Dot. $29.99
Figuring out how all the pieces fit together might seem daunting. However, the possibilities for simplifying and enriching your life through your digital assistant are limitless. All you need are the right accessories.
Featured image: CC BY 2.0 Michael Sheehan via Flickr.