“The Echo Flex has a mini built-in speaker that is not optimized for music playback.” This message on the product listing page for Echo Flex on Amazon India has set me off in a big way. Most often, it is not difficult to figure out who a product is for, but with the Eco Flex, the answer seems difficult.
Amazon, a pioneer in e-commerce and on-demand cloud computing services, also wants to become a leader in hardware. If 2010–2019 was defined by smartphones, then the next decade would be defined by smart devices. Amazon, which lost mobile in this decade, does not want to lose everything smart in the future. Among all tech companies, Amazon is the one who sees this change with clarity.
In line with that mission, Amazon is doing the obvious work – release new hardware. Amazon’s smart home devices are called Echo and they come with a digital assistant called Alexa. While the Echo Dot and Echo Show have become popular, the company has introduced two new devices in India – the Echo Flex and the Echo Input.
The Echo input is designed as a portable Alexa smart speaker. Echo Flex, on the other hand, is designed to bring Alexa to every room in your home. You must be wondering how is it different from Echo Dot? Read further as we know.
What is Eco Flex?
On Amazon, the company acts as if every day is a day. Therefore, for Echo devices, the company looks to see if it is just starting. While smart home appliances started their journey with smart speakers, the Echo Flex is basically a plug-in Alexa for the home. Think of it like an adapter you use to charge your smartphone.
Now, if you make that adapter a little bigger, chunkier, add Alexa and buttons to control it, the result will be an Echo Flex. You must be wondering why Amazon is going on this route. The answer, in fact, seems both simple and straightforward.
Early Alexa devices such as the Echo Dot and Echo Plus have shown consumers the potential of smart home devices. They have proved so useful that smart speakers were the most popular product category this holiday season. So, what if you already have smart speakers and now you want to bring Alexa to only one special room in your house.
The Eco Flex can be a limited but good option. If one of your requirements with a smart device is a decent speaker, then you should not read this review further. I would recommend reading our review of Google Nest Mini and Echo Dot instead.
In terms of design, it is a large adapter that plugs into a power socket. There is a smaller speaker, but as Amazon points out, you really shouldn’t play music on it. There are two buttons, the first being able to summon Alexa. The second is to turn off the microphone.
Below is a USB-A port that can be used to charge other devices, including smartphones or plug accessories. It is a simple design in white and immediately tells you that Alexa wants to be everywhere. The ideal scenario for this is in homes with multiple rooms and one where Alexa is already available as other Echo devices.
What can Eco Flex do
Let us first think of a scenario where Echo Flex can be used with success. Imagine a three-bedroom apartment where each room has an eco smart speaker. Now, you also want to bring Alexa to the kitchen.
The obvious option would be to buy an Eco show but if you don’t want to spend too much then the Eco Flex can be ideal. I also find it more appropriate that you do the first thing as soon as you enter the house.
I just realized that you don’t have an electrical connection to use as soon as I enter my house through the door. In this case, it can be used to turn on the lights using smart lights manufactured by Xiaomi, Syska or Philips and Alexa. Or turn on other smart devices such as air conditioning or a fan.
In the kitchen, you can use it to listen to a recipe or declare that dinner is ready. Therefore, I found it very complicated and very useful. With Echo Spot in the bedroom and Alexa via the Fire TV Stick, I was able to call Alexa to tell her that dinner is ready. It also announced both eco spots as well as on TV.
If you have a large family who dine together then this facility would be a god. If Ekta Kapoor could have made Saunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, then this feature would have been shown almost every day.
You can also use Alexa’s drop-in feature to talk to friends or family with an Alexa-enabled smart speaker. However, for most features that incorporate sound, I found the Echo Flex to lack motivation to do well. Take an example of settings.
As soon as you setup the Echo Flex using the Alexa app on your phone for the first time, the volume is set to 70 percent by default.
If you want to increase the volume to 100 percent, you cannot just slide the volume rocker to 100. To do this, you must first play some kind of sound (only music works) and then change the volume.