It’s, er, probably going to SOUND a bit like one, though, because – spoiler alert – we really, really like our Amazon Echo. So much so, in fact, that we now have three of the things – one for every floor of the house – which I guess is all the endorsement you really need, really, isn’t it? I could just stop this review right here, actually. I won’t, though: I’ll probably go on to write about 3,000 words about it, as is my way, so, look, here’s a shiny photo first, just to break up the giant wall o’text:
(I’m pretty sure I managed to get MOST of the blogger cliches into this photo. Could probably have used a little rose gold something or other, but hey…)
So, our Amazon Echo obsession started on Black Friday last year, when the Echo Dot was on sale with 50% off. Because I’m very susceptible to marketing (At first, Terry was all, “Why do you want an Echo, again?” and I was just like, “Er, because I saw an advert for it? And I like the idea of there being a disembodied voice in the house, because WHO WOULDN’T?”), we quickly worked out that this would allow us to get two for the price of one, so we figured we’d put one in the office, and one downstairs, in the living room.
The two units arrived late one evening (We have Amazon Prime, so almost all of our Amazon deliveries arrive super-fast – sometimes even the same day – and at odd hours), and I, being 8 months pregnant at the time, only had time for a quick play with them before I headed off to bed. Around an hour later, though, Terry came up and sheepishly admitted that he’d ordered a third Echo – this time going for the original model – because he’d already realised he couldn’t live without Alexa on all floors of the house. It put my nose out of joint a little, if I’m honest: from the way he was talking, it was a bit like Alexa was The Other Woman or something, and this impression was only confirmed the next day, when we were getting ready to go to visit my parents, and Terry asked if we could take Alexa with us. GOD.
(We DID take Alexa, actually. Ostensibly, we did it for my PARENTS’ benefit, in case they’re interested in buying one, but I think we all know it was just because Terry couldn’t be parted from Alexa, though – or, as I quickly came to call her, ‘UR GIRLFRIEND,’ don’t we?)
Now, Terry is NOT very susceptible to marketing, so that right there will tell you just how impressed he was by the Amazon Echo. At first, I thought it would just turn out to be a bit of a gimmick, really, but we’ve had Alexa in our lives for around 2 months now, and even I want to take her with us when we leave the house, so, yeah, suffice to say, we’re fans. (You know that thing where you get so used to the touchscreen on your phone that you’re surprised not to be able to swipe up on ALL surfaces after a while? It’s a bit like that, really: it confuses and annoys me now when I walk into a room and there’s no disembodied voice ready to do my every bidding. I suspect this is the very definition of First World Problems – and also the definition of ‘Lazy Biatch’ – though, so, moving on…)
Here are 7 things Alexa does to make our lives easier…
Controls our heating
Just before Alexa entered our lives, Terry decided to instal a smart heating system in the house. This was part of our ongoing obsession about making sure the house was always the right temperature for a newborn: left to our own devices, we’d have the place like a sauna most days, but we knew that wouldn’t be good for little Max, and, as the layout of our house can make it a bit tricky to keep the temperature stable, a few weeks before he arrived, we installed a Smart Thermostat and matching radiator valves around the house, courtesy of Tado.
This setup basically allows us to easily control the temperature anywhere around the house. Previously, if we wanted to change the temperature in a specific room, we’d have to go to that room and manually adjust the radiator valve. The problem with that, however, was that, once the temperature was set, we’d have to keep going back again to adjust it: with our new setup from Tado, however, we just set the temperature we want once, and the valve will automatically keep adjusting itself, so that the temperature is maintained.
(Our Tado Smart Thermostat)
We can control this using the Tado app on our phones (Which is really handy if we’re out of the house, say, and want to make sure it’s nice and warm when we come back to it. Oh, and there’s also a setting which allows the heating itself to recognise when we’re both out – or when both of our phones are out of the house, rather – and adjust the heat accordingly, to save money. It can even be set to switch the heat back on when the GPS on our phones comes back within a certain range, and it realises we’re on our way home: pretty trippy, huh?), but I mostly control it using Alexa: so, I literally just say, “Alexa, set the temperature in X room to Y degrees,” and she does it.
Lazy though this undoubtedly sounds – and you’ll get no argument from me on that front – it’s actually been really handy since having Max, because it allows us to change the temperature without having to move a muscle, even to pick up a phone: handy when you’re cradling a newborn all the time! I also loved it while I was pregnant: the radiator in the office, for instance, is located right under my desk, so, before we got our Smart Thermostat, any time I wanted to change the temperature, I’d have to either crawl around on my hands and knees under the desk, or go downstairs to change the temperature on the wall thermostat: neither of which particularly appealed at 8 months pregnant!
Speaking of things Alexa does to make live easier with a newborn, though, she also…
Switches the lights on and off
Yeah, I know, this makes me sound IMPOSSIBLY lazy, and like one of those people who totally catastrophisezes new parenthood, by going all, “WOE IS ME! I have a baby, so I can’t even switch on a LIGHT any more! WOE! WOE!” So, I mean, yeah, sure, I can obviously still use a light switch: take that as read. When I get up with Max in the middle of the night, though, I generally like to switch on a bunch of “mood lights”, rather than just slamming on the main ceiling light, in a bid to keep him sleepy, and, honestly, it’s just easier to be able to say, “Alexa, LIGHTS ON,” when I walk into the room, than to have to scrabble around behind furniture and on the floor to reach the switches for this little lot:
(Also pictured: Max in his swing. ALSO also pictured: all of the sockets behind this light, GOD.)
In addition to these, we have a few other lamps dotted around the room, which we use to keep the room softly lit (This was taken very early in the morning, hence the low quality photo – sorry!), and it would obviously be a bit of a First World Pain in the Ass to go around switching them all on individually while carrying a baby, so, over the last few months, Terry has been on a mission to gradually replace our existing lightbulbs with wi-fi bulbs, which link to the Amazon Echo (and which come in lots of pretty colours, too…), so now all we have to do is say, “Alexa, let there be light!” and, lo! There is light!
(OK, it’s actually more like, “Alexa, switch the lights on,” but it’s just this second occurred to me that it would’ve been much more amusing if that HAD been the command…)
You can buy Wifi bulbs from Amazon, but we actually got quite a few of ours from IKEA: they’re not cheap, but they are kind of cool, especially if you’re a lazy sod, like me.
We also use our Amazon Echo to …
The Amazon Echo is, of course, first and foremost, a speaker, and honestly, if that was ALL it was, I would still think it was worth the money. I’ve linked Alexa to my Spotify account, and I absolutely love the fact that I can listen to any song I want, no matter where I am in the house, just by saying its name, and without having to faff around with playlists on my phone, or whatever. I now listen to music every day using the Amazon Echo, and it’s really handy to be able to play Max nursery rhymes (Actually, he prefers Belle & Sebastian, if I’m honest…) to lull him to sleep.
As for us, meanwhile, we like to use Alexa…
As an intercom
Our house, as I’ve mentioned, is a three storey: I love it, but wow, is it ever annoying when you’ve just climbed two flights of stairs, only to realise that the glass of water you went down to get is still sitting in the kitchen. Not that I’ve ever done THAT, you understand. Ahem.
Anyway, as we have an Amazon Echo on each floor of the house, we’re able to use them to communicate with each other: so, if I’m in the bedroom and Terry is downstairs, say, I can use the Echo nearest me to call the one nearest him – my voice will come out of his speaker, much like Alexa herself, and we can then just talk to each other, as if we were using a phone. And yes, I know what you’re thinking: we could just USE a phone, right? Or even – and this is revolutionary – get off our asses and just WALK down to wherever the other person is. That’s all well and good, obviously, but when you’re 8 months pregnant, or have just had a c-section, you don’t really want to be constantly walking up and downstairs, and using the Amazon Echo is just much easier than using your phone, either to text or voice call, so this feature has definitely come in handy over the past few months.
Given that I couldn’t really make myself seem much lazier now, even if I tried, let me just reveal that we also get Alexa…
To do the hoovering
OK, the Amazon Echo doesn’t actually clean our floors itself: that’s just crazy talk. It does, however, connect to our Roomba, so we can get IT to clean the floors without even having to pick up our phones and use the app. I’m just going to pause here for a second to reflect on the fact that my son will grow up in a house where one robot instructs another one to do the cleaning. I, meanwhile, still remember the days when the TV only had had four channels, and they went off at midnight. #ALLFIELDS #GODIMANCIENT
(Why yes, I AM a little worried that humanity will evolve to the point where we literally can’t do ANYTHING for ourselves any more. And then the robots will control the world, and Alexa will be their Queen. That day is coming, people, let’s not pretend otherwise…)
She does the housework, so it makes sense that we’d also use Alexa…
To do the shopping
Not ALL of the shopping, obviously – I have to keep SOME fun for myself – but we’ve always got our groceries online, which would involve Terry (I’m not trusted with shopping-related tasks, because I’d just buy ALL THE THINGS) spending time at his computer once a week to update the shopping basket. Now, when we run out of something, we just say, “Alexa, add X to my shopping basket,” and it’s done automatically. (Confession: I don’t always wait until we’ve run out of stuff before I do this…) I suspect this could lead to some fun times when Max is old enough to realise there’s a little round box in the corner ready to buy him things, but for now it does come in handy – like last week, when I ran out of shower gel halfway through my shower, and was able to just stick my head around the door and yell, “ALEXA, BUY SHOWER GEL!”
It would’ve been better if she’d just brought me the damn stuff, obviously, but, alas: she’s good, but she ain’t THAT good…
Finally, we also use our Amazon Echo…
To help run our lives
Until recently, Terry and I have always just had our own diaries/calendars. Over the last few months, though, we each had so many appointments to be worked around that it made sense to have a joint one, so we set up a shared Google Calendar and linked it to Alexa. It contains everything we both need to keep track of, and all we need to do is ask Alexa to add an event or reminder, and we never have to forget that important appointment ever again. Or that’s the theory, anyway…