When Amazon India called for Prebooking of Amazon Echo, I readily opted for it. I had heard how great was Echo from Leo Laporte on his podcast – Twit.tv and a friend of mine was gaga about how useful his kids find Echo for doing their homework. I got the device delivered soon after the launch on November 1st week.
I was planning to put Echo in our kitchen so that the wife could use it to listen to music, get information from the web, ask for recipes, set timers and so on. Installation was not difficult, but at the same time not smooth as I normally expect from Amazon – the smartphone app had difficulty connecting to Echo – it took 2 reboots of the device and the app to get it going.
Alexa did a good job with cooking timer and reminders.
All my music are available with Plex Media Server. Before I ordered Echo, I did check – there is an Alexa skill for Plex. Only after I got the device, I realised that skill is not yet published to Alexa store for India. This was a huge disappointment for the wife. This meant, she could listen to music only from Saavn – and Amazon Music is not yet released in India.
Coming to Saavn, most often I couldn’t get it to play the Album or the Composer I wanted. When Alexa didn’t understand the song I was asking, she will start playing Top 100 English Hits from Saavn.
Alexa was able to get triggered most of the time when we called her. But every other time, she will start (blue glowing circle) and then go silent – no response whatsoever – this happens whenever I asked Alexa things she had no clues, like follow-up queries. She will be playing a music, if I ask for the Music Director or the Movie it appeared – Alexa was not able to understand it.
There was no skill available to play songs from YouTube – I know this might due to Google not opening the required API, but then as a paying customer why should I care?
How many times I asked, Alexa couldn’t recite recipes, either South India or Continental – a use case the wife was looking forward to. Alexa skill store for India had few skills but I couldn’t find anything that worked for me. The US store did have some good recipe skills, but it was not available for India.
There was little to zero, regional content. I was looking for personalised content for me. There was no News about the city I live – Chennai or for the state of Tamil Nadu, No recipes for Tamil Nadu cuisine. There was only NDTV News for PAN-India.
I couldn’t find any skill to ask Alexa to do a web (Google) search and read me results.
I can understand, that most of the above gaps will get filled by Amazon India over a period of time as they partner with local companies for new skills. But as it stands today, I didn’t see any value of having an Echo in my Kitchen. I will wait for a year for the platform to mature and then relook at it. Meanwhile, I am eager to check out Google Home – I have a feeling they will do a better job with local content due to their long experience with Android for the local market.
Lastly, when I opted for the return, Amazon made it super easy and credited the money back in a day. Kudos to them for that.
Update 25-May-2018: Though I didn’t return Amazon Echo on privacy concerns, I still feel vindicated that the device (and technology) needs a bit more time to mature with the latest news about Alexa Echo blunder, where a couple’s private conversation was recorded and forwarded to another person due to wrong interpretation of the commands.
Also published on Medium.