What is Amazon Echo?

The Amazon Echo is a voice-controlled standalone hands-free Bluetooth smart speaker. Alexa’s voice service has been developed to be just like a real conversation, with the Echo containing lots of microphones designed to hear you at a distance or direction in the room. The clever thing about the Amazon Echo is that it is also designed to pay no attention to the things that you say until it hears your ‘wake up’ signal, such as “Alexa”. Once your Echo is ‘awake’, then it will listen to what you say following this and give you a response using Alexa’s voice.

On this page

What can the Amazon Echo do?

The Amazon Echo can be used as a Bluetooth speaker to play music and radio stations, as well as read the latest news and sports scores or give you weather updates. It is also a smart speaker which means you can ask it to search the internet for answers to your questions, act as a calculator, alarm or timer, and read your books through your Kindle or Audible. You can also use your Echo device to communicate with other Alexa-enabled devices in your home and your own contacts who also have an Echo device.

As it is a smart device, the Echo can control other connected smart home products including heating controls, plug sockets, lights, door locks, vacuums...the list is endless!

How much does the Amazon Echo cost?

There are lots of different Echo products, with different prices depending on which one you go for and the features and functions included. The 3rd gen Amazon Echo Dot is the most popular as its small size also comes with a lower price at £39.99 while the new Echo Dot is slightly bigger and with improved audio priced at £54.99 without a clock display.

Other Amazon Echo devices include:

  • The Echo 4th Gen has a built-in smart home hub which means that you can automatically connect your smart home devices such as light bulbs, thermostats and locks.
  • The Echo Show includes a screen to have hands-free video calls, with 2nd Gen Echo Show 8 being the most popular.
  • The Echo Studio features Dolby surround sound and clever technology which adapts to the acoustic of your room for a richer sound. This is classed as the best Alexa speaker.

What is Alexa and how does it work?

Alexa itself is Amazon's virtual assistant, like Apple's Siri or Google Assistant, and it is the ‘wake word’ for the Amazon Echo range. You can have a conversation with Alexa as you would anyone once you use the wake word. If you don’t use this, then Alexa won’t mistake your conversation for commands, so most of the time, there’s no need to worry about accidentally dimming the lights or turning on some music!

I love checking the weather, setting timers and accessing audiobooks from Audible and RNIB Reading Services just by talking to Alexa on my Amazon Echo Dot smart speaker.
Darren Paskell, Guide Dogs Employee

How can Alexa help at home?

There are lots of ways Amazon Alexa can help at home by:

  • Managing your calendar, to-do lists and announcing plans for the day as well as setting alarms.
  • Creating a routine for your connected devices, like turning the lights or heating on or off at the time you’d like each day. For example, you could set up a routine that turns off your lights, locks your doors, and sets your alarm by saying "Alexa, goodnight”. You can also create routines for different times of the day, like first thing in the morning to announce the weather, news headlines and your calendar.
  • Making calls and messaging people.
  • Sending messages from one device to another within your home.
  • Creating a shopping list, adding products to a shopping basket, or finding and reading recipes to cook along with Alexa skills.
  • Asking almost any question you like, and it will search the internet for an answer.
  • Listening to radio, podcasts, and music. You can also turn on and select a TV programme through Amazon Fire TV if you have it.
  • Keeping in touch with friends and family who also have an Alexa Device through Alexa Drop. It works like an intercom system to talk to someone through another device, either in your own home or theirs.

How to set up the Amazon Echo and Alexa

Amazon Echo must always be plugged in and connected to the internet, and you want to make sure it is somewhere you can hear it, and it can hear you speak. Plug in your Echo device using the supplied power adaptor and the Echo’s light ring will spin blue around the base of the device, and then turn orange for setup mode. There is also a sound once it is in set-up mode too.

Once plugged in then your device can be set up in these easy steps:

  1. Download the Amazon Alexa app for your Android or iOS device.
  2. Open the app and sign in using your Amazon account.
  3. Tap the "Devices" icon on the bottom right corner of the screen.
  4. Select "Echo and Alexa" and then select "Add Device."
  5. Choose your Amazon Echo device and follow the on-screen instructions to set it up. The app will guide you through the setup process, including connecting your Echo to wifi and selecting your preferred language.
  6. Once your Echo is set up, you can start using Alexa by saying "Alexa" followed by a command or question.

Test to see if your smart speaker is set up

It’s easy to check if your echo speaker is set up, just say "Alexa, what's the weather like today?" If it responds with the current weather information, then your smart speaker is set up with Alexa. If not, you might need to go through the setup process that came with your smart speaker.

Best Alexa-compatible devices

There are lots of Alexa-enabled devices and gadgets that can work with your Amazon Echo and Alexa.

Frequently asked questions

Did you know that there are many other tools and devices available that can help you navigate your needs with vision impairment?

Technically reviewed by: Subject Matter Experts on 02/11/2023

Guide Dogs is committed to integrating technology into our service delivery and promoting excellence in accessibility and usability. Our staff undergo comprehensive training in technology and accessibility in collaboration with industry leaders like Apple. We foster knowledge of technology and create content through our Technology Champions, comprising Vision Rehabilitation Specialists and Habilitation Specialists. We review this content periodically to ensure that it is up to date and includes new features and changes with operating systems. We work with our partners to ensure accessibility is at the centre of the design. To find out more, there is more information in our accessibility policy.

Whilst Guide Dogs may be able to suggest various third-party websites and third-party applications which may be able to assist you, those are not endorsed by Guide Dogs. Guide Dogs have no control over those third parties and cannot be held responsible for the accuracy of information and support they can provide or the suitability and quality of any products or services they provide.