My thoughts on Amazon Echo and technology in our home

17 July 2018

Howdy, friends! I’ve wanted to write this post for awhile, and Prime Day seemed like a good time to do so… but then life and work and getting ready for a baby and all that happened, and here we are a day late! Still a few hours left to snag a deal if you’d like, though :)

We bought our Amazon Echo on Prime Day two years ago, and I’m the first to admit I was NOT in favor of the purchase — I didn’t think it was necessary, and I was wary of the effect it would have on our home. I’m also generally reluctant to add new technology, fancy gadgets, or services to our life because I feel like once you have them, it can feel impossible to go back to NOT having them, should you ever have to.

But, this was one instance where I acquiesced to John’s wishes, and a few days later, Alexa took up permanent residence in our kitchen. About a year later, we added a second Echo in our bedroom, a gift from John’s parents.

I’m happy to report that two years on, I’m an Echo fan! I feel like we’ve barely scratched the surface of her abilities, but they’ve been fun to explore. Here are a few of the ways she’s added value to our family’s life so far:

birthday celebrations

A mostly-unrelated photo from John’s birthday celebrations this weekend!

First and most importantly, we use her to play music. Before getting our Echo, we used a laptop, which (needless to say) did not have the best sound quality. It was also a bit of a clunky system, with the result that we didn’t listen to music as much as we’d like to. Now, it’s easy to turn on a Spotify playlist (hands-free!) while we’re prepping a meal, dining, doing dishes, cleaning, or playing in the living room, and I love how this adds to the feel of our life together!

My absolute favorite musical addition, however, has been the “Jazz for Sleep” playlist on Spotify. We’ll ask Alexa to turn it on when we head into our bedroom to start our nightly routine, and it has the same effect as the turn-down service in a fancy hotel. I know it sounds silly, but it’s been such an awesome life upgrade – the perfect way to wind down for bed. (Seriously, if you don’t take anything else away from this post, try this tip!)

On the flip side, John will often ask Alexa to play music to wake me up on a Saturday morning from the other room – I never know what I’m going to get :)

We use the Echo’s timer daily — for cooking, yes, but also for creating transitions for June between activities, as necessary.

We also use her as our white noise machine overnight. (This took a little bit of figuring out — if you’d like to try it, say, “Alexa, tell oscillating fan sounds to loop.”)

Our final most common use for our Echo is the shopping list function. It’s easy to add ingredients on the fly as we run out of them while cooking, for instance, and easy to access on the go via the app if we forget to check the list before shopping. On a related note, we have used her to buy items through Amazon, but only if we’ve ordered the item several times before and have confidence she’ll order the right thing. (Actually, the only example I can think of is Water Wipes, which we clearly have quite the track record of in our order history!)

Aaaand that’s about it! (Aside from playing Jeopardy!) No exploration yet of the smart home features for us, though I’m intrigued. And aside from our Alexa but on the same topic, the only other “new age” technology I can think of in our home is our Brava, which we’ve been really happy with. (Though I’m disappointed that Oliver hasn’t attempted to take a ride on it yet :))

To wrap things up, one of my initial concerns with having an Echo was that the way we speak to Alexa would teach June wrong ideas about how it’s acceptable to speak to a human. So, we try to make the extra effort to say “please” and “thank you” when making requests so as to model the right patterns for her. Seems like a small and kind of strange effort to make, but I think it’s things like that that can have unintended consequences if we’re not careful.

So there you have it! I’d love to hear: do you have an Echo in your home? What do you use it for? Were you an early adopter, or nervous like me? :)

P.S. Affiliate links are used in this post! And Echos are 30% off for Prime members through the end of the day!

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July 17, 2018 6:29 am

I’m so glad you did this post! We were gifted an Echo for Christmas and I was especially weary for many of the same reasons you shared. We packed it back up in pot its box in January with the intention of selling it but pulled it back out this weekend to give it another try in our kitchen. Last night we washed dishes together to worship music and I used the Audible feature during meal prep and it entirely changed the atmosphere of that space for me – for the better!

Living with such a high level of technology seems like such a 21st century balancing act, one that I often resist a bit, but tools like the Echo can be so beneficial. I’m also in the process of finishing Tech Wise Family but so I’m especially thankful for the intentional lens through which to view the gadgets and conveniences we introduce into our home! :)

July 17, 2018 8:26 am

We added a Google Home earlier this year and I’ve enjoyed it! I was a slow adopter and felt like it was unnecessary. However, I’m now sold! My favorite use is playing music or podcasts. I like being able to ask quick or simple questions while I’m in the kitchen. We also added the Google Nest thermostat which can be controlled from the app. This will help keep cooling costs down by allowing us to turn down air while away, but on our way home the air can be turned back up so that home is just right when we arrive. All in all, I think using technology appropriately and finding the right balance can enhance and simplify our lives. Using Alexa/Google to play mood setting music or allowing us to continue meal prepping without pause are great applications to improving life, whereas camping out on devices all evening doesn’t really improve or enhance life.

Kelly Strawberry
July 17, 2018 9:30 am

We have had Alexa for over a year and I’ve rarely, if ever, used it. My husband uses it more regularly, especially for the kitchen timers as you mentioned. I’m going to try out that Jazz sleep feature now though!

July 17, 2018 9:46 pm

We were actually gifted an Echo, and gave it away because we didn’t want it in our home! ha! BUT, I have recently been reconsidering for the music feature specifically. So, it might end up on our Christmas list this year! Your post is helpful!

July 20, 2018 8:30 am

This is so useful Em – we are currently in the UK and my husband bought one this morning.
Will test it out when we get home x