The Amazon Echo line-up of smart speakers has been pretty well defined so far. You have different Echo smart speakers for different budgets, room sizes and how much you love your music, including the Echo Dot, Echo Plus and Echo Studio. Then you have smart displays in the Echo Show line, in different screen sizes and at different price points. Over on one side is the Echo Auto, which takes the “Hey Alexa” capabilities to your car. And then on the other side is the Echo Input, the first Alexa smart speaker by Amazon which offers a built-in battery to make it really portable. No confusion then? That is till you come across the Amazon Echo Flex. The smallest, at least as far as the footprint is concerned Echo speaker yet.
The Echo Flex is priced at Rs 2,999 and Amazon is selling this with bundles as well. Pair this with a 9-watt Wipro Garnet smart bulb that costs Rs 3,098. If you pair the Echo Flex with a Wipro 10-ampere smart plug or a 16-ampere smart plug, either will cost you Rs 3,398. If you want an OakRemote to control any AC or TV with voice commands, that smart home bundle will cost you Rs 3,698. Just out of curiosity, a quick glance at the bundles that Amazon offers with the Echo Flex in the US include a motion sensor (great if you have set up smart lights that turn off as you exit the room) and even a smart night light (great for the parents’ room specifically, and will be incredibly handy in the middle of the night). We don’t seem to have those accessories and add-ons in India just yet, but it’ll be great to convert the Echo Flex into a motion detector, for instance.
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The dimensions of the Echo Flex read 2.8-inches tall and 2.6-inches wide, which means this isn’t much larger than your standard fast charging smartphone charger. And that’s it. That is the Echo Flex in its entirety. This plugs directly into a wall socket and voila, this is ready to respond to your voice commands. The setup is simple, as is with just about any Echo smart speaker or smart display, and you can have this set up and ready in no time. At present, the Echo Flex only comes dressed in white colour, though there might be a market for more colour options. Black perhaps? Or maybe even a wood panel finish to go with the décor?
The first tryst you have with genuine utility is the USB-A plug on the Echo Flex, which allows you to plug in your phone’s charging cable and use this as a proper plug too. And this streams through a maximum of 7.5-watt charging for your phone or iPad or Bluetooth speaker or smartwatch. Thoughtfully, Amazon doesn’t want this smart device to hijack one wall socket in your room and hold it hostage without any additional utility. You will also notice that the Echo Flex also has a 3.5mm headphone jack. While it is unlikely that anyone would actually plug in earphones into this and listen to music while perhaps reading a book, you might find this rather useful if you plug in a larger speaker near it and hook these together for better sound.
Speaking of sound. Residing inside the Echo Flex is a small 0.6-inch speaker. Works well for any responses to your queries to Alexa and is loud enough to hear what she says. Great then, if you install this in a room to control the smart lights or want to check on the news and briefing for the day once you wake up. But if music playback is an important thing for you, as it is perhaps for me, you will find this a tad too underpowered to handle any sort of music experience. You must use the 3.5mm headphone jack to connect a larger speaker and get the Alexa goodness going along then for Amazon Music or Apple Music streaming.
Your other option is to spend a little more, Rs 3,499 to be precise, and get the Echo Dot. This puck sized smart speaker is significantly more versatile and does satisfactory music playback too—while also being a smart bedside clock if you go for the higher spec version with a clock.
That being said, the Echo Flex is perhaps the most unique Echo smart device we have seen thus far, and that list includes the rather exciting Echo Auto. It is affordable, the simple plug-in design and is a rather interesting fit in the smart home jigsaw. For most users, the utility will be limited if we are to discount the music playback capabilities. But then again, the focus on simplicity is something the entire smart home ecosystem should sit up and take notice of.