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Amazon Echo Review: Second Generation, Still in First Place
Oct. 25, 2017 | WSJ | By Joanna Stern

Head of the Class

The real reason to buy an Echo has nothing to do with good looks or mics. It’s all about invisible Alexa. Generally speaking, all of Alexa’s smarts work on all the devices. And in the AI-assistant race against Google and Apple, Amazon has kept its early lead in some key areas:

* A deep ecosystem. With over 25,000 voice apps, or “skills,” and multiple hardware partners integrating Alexa, Amazon’s AI platform has become the most advanced voice operating system. Google has made some headway with third-party apps, but Alexa still has the edge with more news, ride-hailing, to-do list and kitchen-friendly apps. Google’s Assistant, however, does excel at answering random questions better. Come on, Alexa, you should know wool doesn’t go in the dryer.
* A smarter smart home. Amazon still has Google beat in smart-home control. Case in point: Alexa devices work with more connected thermostat brands than Google Home does. If you are especially interested in smart home, check out the $150 Echo Plus. It has all of the new Echo’s refinements, plus built-in wireless technology for home control without the need for third-party hubs.
* A stream of new features. Earlier this month, Echos got the ability to recognize multiple voices; your voice becomes a password. When I want to reorder breath mints, Alexa knows me and doesn’t ask for a PIN. Back in May, Amazon turned Alexa into a telephone operator: You can call others with the Alexa app or with an Echo. In June, Alexa got the ability to name different kitchen timers (one for the Brussels sprouts, one for the chicken). Reminder: Google Home has a number of these features as well. And Siri still can’t set multiple timers.

Despite Amazon’s lead, the Alexa apps for iOS and Android are in dire need of a redesign. Finding controls you want is harder than finding your bag at baggage claim. The Settings menu itself feels like an entirely different app. I made a video to show how voice recognition works, partly because it confused me so much at first.
Amazon_Echo  Alexa  Apple_HomePod  Google_Home  virtual_assistants  personal_assistants  voice_assistants  smart_homes  Siri  connected_devices  artificial_intelligence  voice_interfaces 
october 2017 by jerryking
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