Meet Triby, a kid-friendly fridge speaker with Alexa inside (but no Amazon badge)

Nearly a year ago, Amazon opened its SDK to developers, allowing them to put Alexa’s AI into their own devices. That means you’ll someday be able to ask Alexa the weather on your non-Amazon alarm clock, instead of through an Echo speaker. The family-oriented speaker Triby is the first device not made by the retail giant to incorporate Alexa.

The portable, magnetic speaker, made by Invoxia, is meant to live on your fridge and has big, child-friendly buttons. One of its main functions is its ability to let kids call their parents using voice-over-IP with the push of a button, as long as said adults have the iOS app (Android is available in beta starting today) installed. It can also stream internet radio from Prime Music, iHeartRadio, or TuneIn. Now with the addition of Alexa, it can also tell you how tall the Empire State Building is, what the weather will be like, and when Bran’s next violin lesson is.

“The Triby is a shallow device with relatively little space for speakers, and that makes achieving robust sound a significant challenge.”

After spending a couple days with Alexa on Triby, I’m not sure it’s a total Echo replacement. It has four microphones to the Echo’s seven. And while its 15-foot range (Echo’s is 25) should work in most mortal-sized kitchens, I still found myself occasionally having to say “Alexa” over and over, like I was disturbing a sleeping child.

Alexa was able to turn off my SmartThings-connected lights, tell me the number of ounces of in a cup, and set a 10-minute timer. These were all useful things to have in the kitchen. The Triby also used the voice assistant to play me NPR and the latest episode of RadioLab. But when I asked Alexa to play my Kevin Devine Spotify playlist, she told me, “Spotify is not supported for this device.” Now, I was able to pull up Spotify on my phone and because my phone was paired with the Triby, I could play the music through the device’s speakers. I could also say, “Play Kevin Devine” and get some songs through Amazon Prime. However, Spotify is supported through the Echo, so this could be one very convincing argument as to why the Triby isn’t for you.

And if you’re listening to more than “The Wheels on the Bus,” you might find the sound-quality lacking. “The Triby is a shallow device with relatively little space for speakers, and that makes achieving robust sound a significant challenge,” Digital Trends senior editor and A/V expert Caleb Denison told me after giving the Triby a listen. It doesn’t hold up to many $100 Bluetooth speakers he’s tested.

“At first, the speaker’s overall volume of sound is surprising; robust, even. But it doesn’t take an audiophile to quickly learn the Triby lacks clarity and definition. I think a little too much emphasis was put on the midbass region for the sake of getting that ‘big’ sound from a small device. And the tradeoff is vocals that sound a little recessed, and treble that fails to shine. There also seems to be a ‘click’ around bass drum hits that sounds artificial,” he adds. While it’s not a terrible experience, it’s just not going to do your Mariah Carey playlist any justice.

The Triby has some adorable features. You can make little doodles or notes in the app and send them to the speaker’s e-Ink screen. When you do, a plastic yellow rectangle pops out from the side of the device. Your kid can pop it back in, so you’ll know your message was received. They can also hold down a button below the rectangle scroll through some emojis to let you know how they feel about your work of art.

The Triby feels like what it is: a speaker made for communicating with smartphone-less kids and providing some entertainment — and now it has some Alexa functionality tacked on. If you already had a $199 Triby, then the new voice assistance will be a welcome upgrade, but if you care about using your speaker to actually play music, you may want to look elsewhere.

Updated 4/28/2016: Updated to include the news that the Android app is available in beta today.

Product Review

Step aside, Sonos: Riva's Concert is the best smart speaker you can buy

The Riva Concert series speaker is a fantastic, small-profile smart speaker with Alexa integration, truly excellent sound, and great looks, making it the perfect addition to your kitchen, living room, or bedroom.
Smart Home

With a simple command, Alexa can arm all your security devices

Alexa customers can query status plus arm or disarm home security systems several companies. New Alexa Guard skills set your home to away mode, send alerts when alarms or sensors go off, and contact home security monitoring services.

Today’s best Amazon deals: Echo Dot, Fitbit, and Anker

Black Friday and Cyber Monday may be over, but for retail giants like Amazon, the savings are only getting started. We've scoured the depths of Amazon to find you the very best deals going on right now.
Smart Home

Amazon Alexa enhancements add geolocation, kids’ Routines, and more

Amazon's digital assistant Alexa continues to evolve and its newest features should appeal to busy people and parents on the go, including location-based routines and reminders as well as Routines aimed toward kids.
Smart Home

These accessories take your already awesome Instant Pot to a whole new level

If you're familiar with the Instant Pot, you know that this bad boy acts as a pressure cooker, rice cooker, cake maker, egg boiler, and a lot more. Here are some must-have accessories to make Instant Pot cooking even better.
Smart Home

Amazon shows off compact cashier-free store that could show up at airports

Amazon is testing its smallest Amazon Go store to date as it considers taking the grab-and-go technology to new venues such as airports and train stations. The compact store is a quarter the size of its current locations.
Smart Home

Amazon sent me a Christmas tree. Did it leave me pining for more?

Is driving to a Christmas tree lot or farm to get some fresh pine a daunting task that you dread every year? Good news: Amazon is now selling real Christmas trees with free shipping. We decided to order one to see how it went.
Smart Home

Cops go after porch pirates with dummy Amazon boxes and GPS trackers

Amazon is helping police in Jersey City to catch thieves who steal delivered packages from outside people's homes. Within just minutes of the operation's launch this week, cops nabbed their first porch pirate.
Smart Home

A couple’s recalled dishwasher caught on fire — and now they’re warning others

A Wisconsin couple has been using the dishwasher in their house for a year, unaware that it was recalled in 2009. Then the appliance caught fire. Now they are warning others to check appliances for risks when buying or renting a home.
Smart Home

Amazon has some killer deals on vacuums through the holidays

Whether you're buying for someone else or for yourself, Amazon has some great deals on vacuums running through the holidays. Score them while you can and keep your home cleaner than ever.
Smart Home

Got an Emerson thermostat? 135,000 of them are being recalled due to fire risk

Most recalls are relatively benign but if you own an Emerson-branded thermostat, we encourage you to check your model number because the company has alerted consumers to the potential of the device starting a fire.

You don't want to sleep on these red-hot bedding deals

We've rounded up some of the best discounts and sales happening right now, so you can buy yourself (or your loved ones) new bedding without breaking your budget. Trust us when we say these are deals worth losing sleep over.

Best deals for smart home plugs that control your lights and appliances

Smart hubs and speakers play central communication and management roles in your home, but smart plugs let you add lights and appliances to your system. Any smart plug you buy must support one feature or anything you plug in stays dumb.

G’day, Google: U.S. users can now give Assistant a British or Australian accent

U.S. Google Assistant users can give their Assistant a different voice. Google has updated Assistant with the ability for users to give it either a British or Australian accent, which could make it a little more personal for some.