If you’re wondering what Alexa is, how it works and what the Amazon Echo is for , you’ve come to the right place.
In this article, we will offer a comprehensive overview of Alexa, Echo, and smart speakers, and why these devices are becoming so popular.
What is Alexa
Amazon Alexa is a cloud-based artificial intelligence that comes in the form of a voice assistant, software that can be integrated into speakers and other smart devices. By interpreting natural language, he is able to interact with man.
Someone will call her Alexia, since the name is closer to the Italian language. But no: there is no Alexia! Furthermore, there is still confusion among users as to what the difference is between Alexa and Amazon Echo.
In simple terms, Amazon Echo is the ‘body’, the speaker equipped with WiFi connection, which carries within it, Amazon Alexa, voice and mind of the speaker.
So what exactly is what they call Alexa Voice Service (AVS) ?
As we said, Alexa is nothing more than the software built into Echo (and other speakers) that allows it to be smart. So also ‘hands-free’, that is controllable through the voice rather than with the hands.
Alexa is the Google Assistant equivalent for Google Home and the line now called Nest. Like Siri, Cortana and Google Assistant, an AI capable of responding to our voice commands .
It can provide us with information, drawing from the web, take certain actions for us and control compatible devices, apps and services.
What is Amazon Echo
Amazon Echo is a smart speaker. A speaker that, thanks to the WiFi connection and the integration with Alexa, manages to go beyond the functionality of a WiFi speaker, becoming a real secretary and virtual butler, controllable by voice.
Amazon launched the Amazon Echo in November 2014. In Italy, it only arrived in October 2018.
Since its release, it has become a must-have of US homes while competing, a few years later, with rivals such as Google Home and Apple HomePod.
Over the years, the gadget has evolved and extended according to the most varied needs.
Currently, the Amazon Echo line is varied, with a price range from € 19.99 to € 229.99 and with the classic version for sale at € 99.99. All devices integrate Alexa and will allow access to the most popular functions.
In fact, based on what you are willing to spend, the features and uses that the user is looking for, the choice ranges from minimal solutions to devices with more advanced features.
All Amazon Echos
The line consists of the following devices (click on the name of each to read the dedicated review of the team).
- Amazon Echo 4th Generation: Mid-sized smart speaker with Zigbee hub for the smart home and driver that offers amazing audio quality (compared to price and size).
- Amazon Echo Dot 4th gen: compact and useful mini smart speaker for those who want to discover Alexa without spending too much and without pretensions from an audio point of view
Echo Dot (4th Generation) – Smart Speaker with Alexa -…
- Introducing Echo Dot – Our best-selling smart speaker with Alexa. With a sober and compact design, this device offers rich sound, with clear vocals and balanced bass.
- Control entertainment with your voice – Stream songs from Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify, Deezer and other music services. And with Multi-room music you can listen to music, …
- Amazon Echo Dot with clock : this is the mini speaker just seen but with one more functionality. Thanks to an LED display, it can show time and other visual feedback to the user
Echo Dot (4th generation) – Smart speaker with clock and …
- Introducing Echo Dot with Clock – Our best-selling Alexa smart speaker. With a sober and compact design, this device offers rich sound, with clear voices and bass …
- Perfect on the bedside table – Read what time it is and check the alarms and timers you have set on the LED display. Tap the top of the device to snooze an alarm.
- Amazon Echo Show 10: the most advanced smart display with 10.1 “screen (able to follow you in your movements), Zigbee Hub and powerful sound.
Echo Show 10 (3rd Generation) | HD smart screen with …
- Designed to move with you – With a 10.1 “HD screen that moves automatically, you’ll always have video calls, recipes and content in sight. The speakers give you directional audio …
- Always the center of attention – Video call friends and family or take a photo with the 13 MP camera which, thanks to movement and auto framing technology, always keeps you …
- Amazon Echo Show 5: smart display with more compact dimensions (5.5 ″). Ideal solution for those who want a screen but don’t want to spend too much. The second generation has just come out (we will publish the review shortly)
Echo Show 5 (2nd generation, model 2021) | Smart screen with …
- Keep an eye on your day with Alexa – Set alarms and timers, check your calendar, watch a news bulletin, make a video call with the 2MP camera and enjoy music and TV series in …
- Put Alexa on the bedside table – Start the day with a routine that turns on compatible lights, or listening to the latest news, weather forecasts and your favorite music.
- Amazon Echo Show 8 (2021): it is a cross between Echo Show 5 and Echo Show, with an 8 ″ screen, therefore more versatile and comfortable to take advantage of video content. You can consider Amazon’s answer to Google Nest Hub 2.
Echo Show 8 (2nd generation, model 2021) | HD smart screen …
- Alexa can show you even more – The 8 “HD screen, automatic color adjustment and stereo speakers bring your entertainment content to life. Make a video call with the …
- Always in the center – The new camera automatically keeps you in the center of the image during a video call. All you have to do is ask Alexa to call someone.
- Amazon Echo Show 15 (2022): this is the largest Alexa smart display available, with a 15.6 ″ Full HD screen . Much like a small TV, it can be mounted on the wall and is designed for entertainment in environments such as the kitchen; allows you to customize the home with widgets to better help in the organization of each family member.
Echo Show 15 | 15.6 ”Full HD intelligent screen, designed for …
- Alexa can show you much more – Optimize your family’s organization and enjoy unique entertainment, with the 15.6 ” smart screen in Full HD (1080p) quality and …
- Organization at a Glance – Use Alexa widgets to improve your family’s organization with calendars, personal notes, shopping lists, to-do lists and reminders.
- Amazon Echo Flex: a flexible and compact solution that sees the speaker integrated directly with a plug. A sort of speaker socket, which can also be integrated with other accessories such as a night light and a motion sensor.
Echo Flex – Control devices per Intelligent House con…
- Make every room smarter – This Echo device with built-in plug allows you to use Alexa in more rooms in your home.
- Alexa is happy to help – Manage your daily life, get information instantly, check the weather forecast and traffic situation before leaving home.
- Amazon Echo Studio: the speaker designed for music with Dolby Atmos support, able to please audiophiles and integrating a Zigbee hub
Echo Studio | Our best-sounding speaker ever, …
- Enjoy truly immersive sound – Five speakers deliver powerful bass with more defined sound, less distortion, dynamic mids and crisp highs. Dolby Atmos technology adds …
- Control Music with Your Voice – Stream songs from Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify, Deezer and other music services. With Amazon Music HD, you can access over 90 million songs …
- Echo Wall Clock: It is not a speaker and does not integrate Alexa. It is a watch compatible with Alexa and supported by Echo speakers which, equipped with 60 LED lights (one for each minute), synchronizes with the timers set with Alexa (via the Echo or other devices). A useful accessory for those who love to cook.
- Amazon Echo Auto: it is a device designed for the car and therefore to take advantage of Alexa even when driving. Very similar to Echo Input (now out of production), it does not have a speaker, but connects to the car’s audio system via Bluetooth or AUX cable and uses the mobile data of the smartphone.
Echo Auto – Porta Alexa in car with you
- Take Alexa in the car with you – Echo Auto connects to the Alexa App on your phone and plays content from your car speakers from the AUX input or by connecting to your Bluetooth …
- Perfect on the road – Thanks to 8 microphones and long-range voice recognition, Echo Auto is able to hear you despite music, traffic noises or air conditioning.
- Amazon Echo Plus: complete smart speaker thanks to its powerful audio equipment and the integration of the Zigbee hub, great for the smart home. Now out of production as it has been replaced by Echo 4
- Amazon Echo Spot: smart alarm clock with a round shape and an attractive design; present a 2.5 ″ display excellent for following video recipes and taking advantage of Alexa’s video features. Unfortunately no longer officially available even if it is often still possible to buy it, especially during promotional events.
- Amazon Echo Buds: are true wireless earphones that integrate Alexa Bose active noise cancellation.
How Alexa works at home (and not) and what it is for
Now that we know what Amazon Alexa is and what is the difference between Alexa and Amazon Echo, let’s try to understand in detail the features and why it is so successful.
What does Alexa do and what is it for?
Like Google Assistant, you will be able to provide information, play video and audio for us, interact with and control other devices and services, including those for the smart home. All through the voice.
You may be wondering how Alexa works in the home and not “how to use it”.
First of all, you will need to download the Alexa app and, by logging in with your account, start the configuration of Alexa and the smart speaker. Once the configuration is complete, simply say the activation word “Alexa”, thus continuing with the request.
The activation word can also be changed: you can choose between “Amazon”, “Computer” or “Echo”. Here is the guide on how to rename Alexa.
Some features are native (“Alexa, what’s the weather like?”, “Alexa when it’s Easter”, “Alexa, play rap music”), others, those of third party services, will only work after activating the appropriate skill in the Alexa app .
Therefore, a sort of handyman secretary who helps us in everyday aspects and allows us to control the home environment with minimal effort.
Like Google Assistant, Amazon’s voice assistant is able to automatically install updates through the cloud and thus improve day by day. Obviously, Alexa without WiFi cannot work.
What Alexa can do, how to use it and how the skills work
Alexa offers a plethora of skills available through the dedicated app in the skills section or in the section dedicated to skills on amazon.it.
In fact, it is possible to customize our Amazon Echo device, choosing and activating the features that best suit our needs.
In addition, Amazon has recently launched Alexa Blueprints in the US, allowing users to create and share new custom skills, even if they have no technical or developer knowledge.
At the moment, there are thousands of Alexa skills in Italian and there are several categories to choose from:
- New arrivals
- Business and finance
- Children and boys
- Smart home
- Food and beverages
- Consultation and information
- Movies and TV
- Games and quizzes (in this regard, we have dedicated a guide to the best Alexa games)
- Useful information about cities
- Music and audio
- Health and wellness
- Styles and trends
- Humor and curiosity
- Travel and transport
Section dedicated to all skills in the Alexa app
Alexa’s features, therefore, range from the most useful to the most fun or bizarre. These are the most common:
- web searches and real-time updates on traffic, weather, sports, news, etc.
- entertainment: streaming music (radio, Spotify, Amazon Music, Deezer, Apple Music, etc.) and video (on smart displays using services such as Prime Video (included in the Amazon Prime service) or Netflix, or via Fire TV Stick or Fire TV Cube)
- managing your calendar (appointments, alarms and reminders)
- shopping list and to-do management
- messages and calls via Alexa, between different Echoes (the Echo Shows support video calls) or via Skype
- home automation and smart home control: WiFi bulbs, smart sockets, smart thermostats, IP cameras, wireless video surveillance systems, smart locks and other connected devices.
To find out in detail the voice commands available in Italian, we invite you to read our in-depth analysis on what to ask Alexa.
Some examples below:
“Alexa, what will the weather be like in Mantua tomorrow”
“Alexa, set a promeriora domani alle 9”
“Alexa add eggs to the shopping list”
“Alexa, play Vasco Rossi’s Vivere”
“Alexa, what is 456 divided by 6”
“Alexa, turn off all the lights”
“Alexa, set the thermostat to 20 °
“Alexa, turn on the coffee machine”
“Alexa, make coffee” (if you have, for example, the Lavazza A Modo Mio Voicy smart coffee machine)
If you intend to use Alexa to manage your smart home, you can also take a look at the list of Alexa compatible devices, including Alexa bulbs, to understand which products you can connect to the assistant and, therefore, control with your voice.
Alexa vs Google Assistant: Amazon Echo o Google Home/Nest?
The question arises spontaneously. Amazon Echo or Google Home/Google Nest?
Why should I choose Alexa and how do I choose between the two if, in broad terms, they have similar functionality?
The choice of the smart speaker, and consequently the voice assistant to lean on, depends on some fundamental factors:
- what kind of use do we intend to make of it? (streaming media vs. web searches etc.)
- what are the products, devices, services and apps that we use the most? Are they compatible with both smart speakers?
- what is the ecosystem we use (for example, Google Play Music vs Amazon Music, shopping on Amazon, etc.)
From the point of view of voice assistance, understanding and intelligence, Google has an edge.
This is thanks to the historical experience in the world of web searches (Amazon relies on Bing for its searches) and focuses on personalization and user recognition.
Alexa can make it a bit harder to understand each other and allows for a less natural conversation.
On the other hand, however, Alexa, thanks to its presence on the market for a longer time, boasts a greater range of partnerships and therefore of skills and competences, which makes it queen for the smart home.
If you want to learn more about the subject, read our article on the differences between Amazon Echo / Alexa and Google Home / Assistant.
Not just Echo: other devices with Alexa
Alexa is not present exclusively in the Amazon Echo line.
In fact, it can be integrated into other connected devices: speakers (Bose Home Speaker 500 or Sonos One), hybrid routers (Orbi Voice or Asus Lyra Voice), TVs, consoles, headphones and earphones.
Just think that in the USA it is also directly integrated in thermostats, microwave ovens and light bulbs!
Below are some devices available in Italy that feature Alexa:
Sonos One SL Speaker per Accoppiamento Stereo e Surround Home Theater,…
- Enjoy the rich and immersive sound of sonos one sl and control it with the sonos app and apple airplay 2
- The compact design makes it suitable for any space; place it on the kitchen counter or hide it on a bookcase in the office. it is moisture resistant, so it is also suitable for the zone …
- Great Battery Life: The battery is capable of playing music for up to 15 hours, thanks to the pocket-sized charging case, for a lasting music and calling experience
- Comfortable earphone gels: the different sizes included allow you to choose the right size for optimal sound quality and maximum comfort
Harman-Kardon Allure – Speakers with integrated Alexa + Sub, Smart…
- With a modern and refined design, the voice-activated Harman Kardon Allure Bluetooth speaker, with Amazon Alexa service and dynamic lighting, is the ideal accessory in your smart home
- This wireless speaker boasts 4 built-in microphones and, thanks to the omnidirectional transducers and the built-in subwoofer, the 360-degree sound will be enveloping and fill every corner of the room.
Bose Home Speaker 500, Stereo Sound with integrated Alexa, Luxe Silver
- Audio Performance: Fill any room with great stereo sound from a single speaker
- Built-in Alexa: Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant are built into this smart speaker for hands-free voice control; a system with anti-noise microphone captures your voice from every …
Jabra Elite 45E Wireless Earphones, Headphones with Bluetooth Function and …
- Crystal clear calls and sounds: Optimal technology consisting of 2 microphones provides optimal call performance and cancels surrounding noise for an always understandable voice
- Great Battery Life: The battery of these headphones can play music for up to 8 hours for a long-lasting listening experience
Jabra Elite 65T Wireless Earphones, Bluetooth Headphones with …
- 4-microphone technology cancels surrounding noise, Enjoy crystal clear sound during conversations thanks to the noise blocking function
- Great Battery Life: The battery of these headphones can play music for up to 15 hours, for a lasting music and calling experience
Bose Soundbar 700, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Alexa integrated entro la fine…
- The Bose soundbar: great Bose soundbar, with immersive sound, deep bass and easy access to your entertainment; use the Bose Music app for setup wizard
- Built-in Alexa: Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant are built into this smart soundbar for hands-free voice control; a system with anti-noise microphone captures your voice from every …
Asus Lyra Voice All-In-One Smart Voice Router, AC2200 Tri-Band Mesh,…
- Whole Home WiFi: Tri-band mesh network compatible with ASUS AiMesh series provides a strong connection in every corner of the house
- Amazon Alexa Built-in: Voice control with Alexa allows users to listen to news and music, control smart-home devices and access thousands of skills