Now everyone can buy Amazon’s Siri-like Echo smart speaker

Amazon Echo review wide light
Greg Mombert/Digital Trends
Amazon Echo, the Bluetooth speaker/home automation equivalent of Siri, is finally becoming available to the broader Amazon community. Amazon previously bottlenecked purchases by requiring an Amazon Prime subscription and a spot on a months-long waiting list, but the $179 cylindrical speaker will finally go on sale to the public at large starting today.

The Echo is best described as an always-on personal assistant. It packs a 360-degree microphone array from which its voice-operated assistant (with the default name of Alexa) can derive all sorts of actions from voice commands: playing music from Amazon Prime Music, Pandora, and other services through the built-in speakers, spelling out words, announcing the weather, and reporting traffic, to name a few. Echo pulls all of this data from the cloud, which Amazon says allows it to constantly improve accuracy and speech recognition, and the speaker also integrates with Amazon’s Fire Tablets for added functionality.

The Echo has gotten a lot more capable since its launch last November, too. It’s gained support for reading aloud synced Kindle audiobooks, re-ordering items from Amazon (if you’re a Prime member), and serving up schedule and score information from MLB and MLS. And in April, Amazon introduced arguably the most useful addition to Echo yet: integration with smart home products from WeMo and Philips. You can instruct Alexa to dim the lights, for instance, or turn on the WeMo Switch connected to your coffee maker.

We gave the Echo fairly high marks in our review, but noted the app selection as something to be desired. Now that Amazon’s committed to filling feature gaps, it seems the Echo may very well one day contend with the virtual assistant on your smartphone. Alexa already has the benefit of convenience — it’s on and continually awaiting instructions, not locked and stuffed within your pocket — and can only get better with the help of third-party developers.

It’s a good thing, too, because the competition isn’t lying in wait. Microsoft will soon add Cortana on its always-listening Kinect sensor for Xbox One, and rumors around the upcoming, next-generation Apple TV suggest it’ll act as a home automation hub with Siri-powered voice commands. Neither compete with Amazon’s Echo directly — the new Apple TV and Xbox One aren’t projected to support third-party apps at first — but it isn’t unreasonable to predict Echo-like functionality will come down the line in time. Until then, though, the Echo’s hardly a bad choice.

Available at: Amazon

Cars

All U.S. 2020 Toyotas will have a trial subscription to SiriusXM satellite radio

This fall, with the introduction of the 2020 model year vehicles, all Toyotas sold in the continental U.S. will include SiriusXM satellite radio installed with a three-month trial subscription of SiriusXM All Access.
Smart Home

What exactly is Alexa? Where does she come from? And how does she work?

While "Alexa" has become synonymous with products like the Amazon Echo, you can't actually go out and buy an "Alexa." So what is Alexa? How does she work? Here's everything you need to know about Amazon's virtual assistant.
Smart Home

Google Home Mini vs. Amazon Echo Dot: Which smart home speaker is better?

We put the two most popular smart home speakers -- the Google Home Mini and the 3rd generation Amazon Echo Dot -- together and tested them on appearance, audio, and abilities. So which should you buy? Find out how they did in our showdown.
Home Theater

From the Roku Ultra to the Fire TV Cube, these are the best streaming devices

There are more options for media streamers than ever, so it’s more difficult to pick the best option. But that’s why we're here. Our curated list of the best streaming devices will get you online in no time.
Smart Home

Alexa, dim the lights: How voice assistants can help with Valentines Day

If you have an Amazon Echo or Google Home device, you can sweep your sweetheart off his or her feet this Valentine's Day with these romantic, mood-setting tips. Your sweetie will be impressed.
Gaming

Where to catch the encore of Marshmello's Fortnite concert if you missed it

EDM star DJ Marshmello performed a different sort of concert today: one held live in-game in Fortnite. The concert was held in Pleasant Park, where the usual football field was transformed into a stage and a massive dance party broke out.
Mobile

Schubert left Symphony No. 8 unfinished. A smartphone’s A.I. just completed it

We all know computers can be used to make music, but can artificial intelligence be used to not only generate music, but complete one of the most famous unfinished symphonies of all time? Huawei has used its A.I. to find out.
Music

The best free music download sites that are totally legal

Finding music that is both free and legal to download can be difficult. We've handpicked a selection of the best free music download sites for you to legally download your next favorite album.
Music

Apple Music vs. Spotify: Which service is the streaming king?

Apple Music is giving Spotify a run for its money, but which service is best for you? In our Apple Music vs. Spotify showdown, we compare and contrast all we know about the two streaming music services.
Music

Spotify could terminate accounts of listeners using ad blockers

Bad news for those who block annoying ads on Spotify -- the company has updated its Terms of Service to explicitly ban ad blockers. Consequences for users found circumventing the rules include suspending or terminating your account.
Home Theater

Apple's new AirPods could arrive within months, pack health sensor tech

Apple may release new AirPods in the first half of 2019. A wireless charging case, health sensors, water resistance, and better Siri integration are some of the improvements rumored to be part of the new package.
Music

Donald Glover is (somehow) first rapper to win a Grammy for Song Of The Year

Donald Glover (AKA Childish Gambino) has become the first hip-hop artist to win Song Of The Year, an award that had illuded countless other popular rap artists for decades.
Home Theater

How to master your equalizer settings for the perfect sound

You may know what an EQ is, but do you know how to adjust equalizer settings for the best possible sound? We go through the basics of the modern EQ and lay out some guidelines for how to achieve tip-top sound from your system.
Music

The 25 best love songs on Spotify for your wooing pleasure

Valentine's Day comes but once a year, but love is forever. If you're hoping to impress your significant other -- or if you're trying to procure one -- we put together a list of the best love songs for your wooing pleasure.