So you might be shopping around for yourself — or maybe for a family member — and are looking for a smart home solution. There’s a lot of different available systems out there, but they all run off of one of two operating systems — Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. Alexa is definitely the cheaper choice of the two — and has been around a whole lot longer — which might have you considering one of those. However, there’s some confusion between what Alexa actually is, and then what Amazon’s Smart Speaker — the Echo — actually is.
That said, you’ve come to the right place! If you’re looking to buy a new smart home speaker from Amazon, understanding the difference between Alexa and the Echo is super important. So let’s dive right in, shall we?
The big thing you need to understand about Amazon Alexa is that it is not consumer hardware — that means it isn’t a product that you can purchase. Instead, Amazon Alexa is an expandable operating system — the digital assistant that you refer to in Amazon’s consumer hardware, such as the Amazon Echo. For example, with the Amazon Echo hardware setup, you would say something like “Alexa, play Bandito by Twenty One Pilots.” It’s just like saying “Hey Siri” on your iPhone or “OK Google” on your Android device.
That said, Amazon Alexa is an extremely smart operating system because you can actually, with an Echo setup, add “skills” to her. When you purchase an Amazon Echo, Alexa, the operating system, comes out of the box with a very basic amount of skills. Those “skills” are the commands, such as “Alexa, what’s the weather look like?” or “Alexa, how long will it take me to get to work?” or “Alexa, turn on the TV.”
Like we mentioned, those are basic commands that you can give Alexa, but Alexa will allow you to add a bunch of new commands to her system, which are referred to as skills. For example, if you wanted to add the ability for Alexa to play rock, paper scissors, you could add that to your system by downloading it from Amazon’s Alexa Skills database.
As you’ve likely already caught onto, the Amazon Echo is the hardware, or the interface between you and Alexa. The Echo is in its basic form a speaker, but has a bunch of microphones built inside of it. Alexa is constantly searching for the keyword “Alexa”, so with all of those microphones, she could easily hear you from across the room, or even in another room!
The Echo has a pretty good speaker setup built inside of it, so when you do something like tell Alexa to play music or a favorite playlist, it’s able to output it on a premium level, a level that’s way better than your average Bluetooth speaker.
Now, while the Echo is, at its core, a Smart Home Speaker, the Echo isn’t a “hub”, which means that you’ll have to have a separate Smart Home Hub attached or connected to your Echo in order for it to modify the state of, say, your Phillips smart home lights. Not including a Smart Home Hub inside of the Echo makes the Echo much more affordable for the general public, but does mean that you’ll have to buy it separately if you ever want to start adding “smart” products to your home. However, Amazon does offer an Echo Plus, which is everything that the Echo can do, but with a built-in Smart Home Hub that makes it easy to connect and modify the state of your smart home products.
As you can see, there are some major differences between Amazon Alexa and the Amazon Echo; however, one could not exist without the other. So, both are very important, though Alexa is definitely the more impressive technology here, with you being able to expand it and what it can do because of the Amazon Alexa Skills database.
What do you like about Amazon Alexa and the Amazon Echo? Let us know in the comments section below.