If you own an Amazon Echo or even if you’ve just seen Alec Baldwin’s ads, you know that this gadget speaks back when you name it. Alexa, what’s going on in the news? Alexa, play relaxing music. Alexa, order more paper towels for me.
Last week, Amazon delivered a device that doesn’t respond to anyone, no matter what you call it. The $ 129.99 Amazon Tap is a standalone, portable Bluetooth version of the Amazon Echo. (Amazon is careful not to call Tap an Echo; it reserves the Echo name for devices that use hands-free voice recognition in the remote field.) Except it only works when you reach out and touch a button before speaking – you shouldn’t even bother to say “Alexa” out loud after pressing the button, or you can use the Amazon Alexa app for PC. Find more info at AlexaAppPc.com Despite its dissociation from the awakening word “Alexa,” Tap still works with all of Amazon’s Alexa voice services, so you (or Alec Baldwin) can still use it to set timers, play music, order diapers, or to dim the lights – then press the microphone button.
Amazon Tap is a black cylinder that measures approximately the height of a large glass of water. It’s slightly shorter than the $ 149.99 EU Boom 2 and considerably smaller all around than the $ 179.99 Amazon Echo. My favorite feature of the faucet is the included charging cradle, which saves you the hassle of getting behind a desk or sofa to unwind a charging cable when it no longer has juice. Amazon estimates that the faucet battery will take nine hours to play the music, and since it sleeps when not in use, and I regularly left it in the cradle to charge, I was never surprised by a dead battery.
The idea for Amazon Tap is compelling: you’ll get an affordable Bluetooth speaker, which also happens to do some smart assistant stuff. But this idea only works properly. The sound quality of Tap’s Dolby omnidirectional speakers is mediocre, at best, for listening to music. And every time I played the same song on it and on UE Boom 2, the latter sounded much richer, with a louder bass and a general sound. While UE Boom 2 can be paired with another UE Boom 2 to play the same music streaming from one source, Amazon Taps cannot pair with each other. The EU Boom 2 also has better battery life (15 hours versus nine hours) and is water-resistant (the faucet is not).
From time to time, I enjoyed using the physical tap buttons to quickly skip a song, adjust the volume, or check battery life (press the + and – volume buttons simultaneously) without saying a word. . But pushing a button to talk to Alexa can become frustrating. If Tap could automatically switch to the listening mode when docked in the cradle, its use would be more natural.
I prepared the faucet charging stand in my kitchen, but I carried the speaker around the house and out – most of the time, so I could bring some music that sounded. This could be seen as more convenient than the Amazon Echo, which can hear your Alexa calls from 20 feet away but stays connected and anchored in one place. However, after a few days of this “Carrying with me and touching to do anything” routine, Tap began to remind me how I already use my phone: it’s always on me and I use it to listen to NPR and music, setting timers, setting alarms, controlling a Nest device, and ordering Amazon products. Of course, using Tap’s Alexa instructions to do these things is more graceful. But much of Alexa’s experience comes from the fact that you never use your hands to do anything, and Tap takes some of that magic.
When you press the microphone button on the faucet to talk to Alexa, five tiny dots on the top edge of the faucet light up so you know she’s listening. These points change and shine in shades of blue-green as Alexa responds, giving Tap a hint of personality. Like the new Alexa Echo and Amazon device, Dot, Tap works with the Alexa app on iOS, Android, or Amazon Fire devices (of course). This app shows you a visual history of everything you requested from Alexa, as well as links to get more information or to tell the app that it heard you right.