Road test: the Alexa Tap

Road test: the Alexa Tap

Amazon recently introduced two new members of the Alexa family:

Echo Dot (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

and

Alexa Tap (at AmazonSmile*)

I’ve been living with them for about a week, and I clearly had one misconception before I got them.

I thought the Tap would be more of a novelty, a special events kind of item.

It turn out, it’s far more useful than I had anticipated, in part because of how well Amazon has engineered the experience.

The Dot is fine, and does what I expected. I think that will be the most popular of the three non-Fire TV Alexa devices. It has a tinny speaker, like an old transistor radio, but can be paired with a Bluetooth or wired speaker…and you can do that for less than the cost of the original

Amazon Echo (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

which we also have.

The Echo is an elegant solution, in terms of combining everything into one piece (speaker and Alexa functionality), although it’s rather large.

The Dot tucks nicely inside our TV cabinet (which has open slats). Both my Significant Other and I think the Dot hears us better than the original Echo, although that might have to do with where it is in the room and what else is going on in that room.

As to the Tap…

I took it to work to test it out. I didn’t bring the charger, figuring it would last for the day without it.

It did.🙂

I listened to a podcast

The Kindle Chronicles

Specifically, it was the 400th episode: congratulations on the milestone, Len Edgerly!

I listened to some music.

I checked the weather and when a local sports team would play next.

I checked my shopping list, and my calendar.

I had someone play 20 questions with it, demonstrating it to a coworker.

After all that, it was still quite charged.

How do I know?

I asked.🙂

Just push the button (you have to push the button to talk to it…that’s one of the big differences between it and the original Echo. You don’t have to hold the button in while you speak, by the way. Just push and release the button, and it will start listening. Think of the button as similar to the “wake word” on the original Echo) and say, “Battery level”. You can ask it in a more natural language way, if you want.😉

After listening to the podcast and having done several other things, it was at 75%.

Oh, before I could do any of that, I had to put it on the Wi-Fi network, of course.

Fortunately, it talks you through that, telling you to go to the Alexa app on your phone (or you could, presumably, do it on your computer, but I didn’t test that).

Even though this public Wi-Fi network required me to tap a box to accept terms, it was quite easy to do through the app. I could have entered a password as well.

The phone, by the way, did not have to be on the Wi-Fi network after the set up. The phone is only involved in the set up, not in running the Tap.

This was not a robust network, and the Tap would sometimes pause while playing, but that was understandable. I have no issues like that at home.

I was also curious, so I tested the microphones.

I started that 20 questions “Skill”, so I could talk to it as I walked around the room…you don’t have to push the button for each response, just to get the skill started.

It appeared to hear as well as the original Echo, which surprised me. I easily got probably five meters (about 16 and a half feet) away from it, and from all sides (I was in a conference room). No problem with it hearing me speaking in a normal tone.

I had figured since you had to be next to it to push the button, it didn’t need great mike quality…but it has it anyway.

I was also fascinated to hear that it seemed to cache a couple of minutes of the podcast. I walked out of the building, heading to my car (which was maybe a block away), and I made it most of the way.🙂

When I got home and set it back on the charging cradle, it easily reconnected to my homework…I didn’t have to do anything.

The next time I went back to work with it and got to that public Wi-Fi, I had to accept the terms again….but that makes sense.

Everybody who heard it was impressed, even though I didn’t turn it up very loud (we were working and indoors, after all).

I like the “sling” as a way to carry it. Contrary to what some others have said, I find it easy to take in and out of the sling (which you do have to do to charge it in the cradle). The big trick is to put it in and out from the side (there was an illustration showing that when I first opened it). Stick the bottom of the Tap into the bottom of the sling, then just stretch the sling over the top. The other thing is that you want to look to see that you are putting on where the buttons show through the holes so you have access. It isn’t easy to twist it around inside the sling once you have it on the Tap.

Overall, a great experience, and one I expect to usually do every day!

One last note: I don’t have a Wi-Fi hotspot option on my (now discontinued) Fire Phone, so I didn’t test that…but I expect it will be easy as well.

Oh, sorry…one additional thing.🙂 It paired easily with Bluetooth devices to play them…only the Dot will connect to an external playback device, like Bluetooth headphones.

Update: today, I really came to appreciate the physical buttons on the top of the Tap! I was listening to a Prime playlist (Epic Scores, which is comprised of driving movie scores), and had to answer the phone rapidly. It was great to be able to just push the pause/play button and have it silenced. When I was done with the call, I could just hit it again to resume where I was. There are also up and down volume buttons…that’s also nice, so I don’t need to speak if I don’t want to do that.

Do you have more questions? Feel free to ask by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard 

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help!

For more information on the Echo and Alexa, see The Measured Circle’s Echo Central.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the  The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

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