The chances are you’ve heard of, or own, an Amazon Echo. The Echo is the flagship product in Amazon’s smart home lineup that includes several different products that are controlled by Amazon Alexa, the company’s voice-activated assistant.
Whether you own an Echo and are considering an upgrade, or you’re thinking about purchasing your first Amazon device, it’s time to consider the Echo Show. The device is an upgraded Echo with a screen and camera so that you can engage with your voice while also seeing visuals and video.
We’ll provide an introduction to the Echo Show and help you decide if it’s the right product for your home.
What Does the Amazon Echo Show Look Like?
If you’re familiar with the Echo or Echo Dot, you’ll know that these Amazon devices are speakers with an always-on microphone. The biggest difference between the Echo and the Echo Show is a screen. Each option in the Echo Show lineup features a touchscreen and front-facing camera.
The Echo Show also features front-facing speakers and a number of microphones to hear your voice from across the room, even with background noise.
There are three different sizes of Echo Show to select from with a 5-inch, 8-inch, and 10.1-inch screen
Is the Echo Show’s Camera Always On?
Just like the Echo, the Echo Show’s microphone is always listening. But there’s no need to worry about the built-in camera. While the camera is on by default, it’s not watching for anything.
The microphone is monitoring for the wake word, Alexa, before jumping into action. Once that word is heard, the Echo Show begins to record data that will be saved to Amazon’s servers and stored in order to improve your user experience.
If you are worried about the Echo Show camera, it’s easy to disable it in the on-screen settings. You can even turn off the microphone if you want, but you won’t be able to interact with Alexa.
What Is the Echo Show’s Drop In Capability?
The Echo Show has one special feature that takes advantage of the camera: Drop In.
Drop In allows you to grant permission to other Echo Show users to “drop in” on your screen via video chat—you don’t even have to accept their video call. With Drop In, you can just pop up on the screen for a serendipitous hello.
The feature works especially well in certain circumstances. Some great examples are if you want to check in on your parents or grandparents without requiring them to answer the phone, or if you’re a parent who wants to check on your children working on homework in their rooms.
It is also helpful for long-distance best friends or romantic partners.
When someone Drops In on your Echo Show, you’ll hear a chime indicating that a call is coming through. Audio connection is instantaneous, but video connection has a bit of a delay to offer a bit more privacy. You can also say, “Alexa, hang up” to stop the call if you’re not ready.
In order to Drop In with video, you and your chosen contacts will all need to own Echo Shows or have the Alexa app for Android or iOS. You can enable audio-only Drop In with anyone who has an Echo or Echo Dot.
Can You Video Chat With Other Services?
In certain countries, you can add your favorite video conferencing platforms to your Echo Show and make calls from your device.
Skype: First, sync your Skype account in your Amazon Alexa app. Go to the Alexa app, then tap Settings > Communication > Skype to link your accounts. Once synced, you can say “Alexa, call Dad on Skype” or “Alexa, answer this Skype call” to start or accept video conversations.
Zoom: First, sync your calendar in your Alexa app by opening the app and then going to Settings > Calendar & Email > Connect Account. After your calendar syncs, you’ll be able to say, “Alexa, join my Zoom meeting” and enter your meeting scheduled at that time.
Bonus: Besides video chat, you can call mobile phones and landlines using your Echo Show (or any Echo device) using Alexa Calling, a free service in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the U.K. With Alexa Calling, phone calls are automatically placed through your internet provider, not your phone service.
Simply say, “Alexa, call 215-867-5309” or “Alexa, call Mom” if you have synced your contacts through your Alexa app. Please note that Alexa cannot call emergency services, premium numbers, or other international numbers.
Can You Watch TV Shows or Movies on the Echo Show?
One big perk of the Echo Show is that you can watch videos on its screen. However, you can only watch videos streamed from Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, or YouTube. Other streaming services are not currently supported.
What Else Does the Echo Show Do?
Set up a digital photo frame: If you add photos to the Amazon Photos service, you can have them play as a slideshow on your Echo Show.
Listen to music: The Echo Show connects to your Prime Music account, as well as other popular options including Apple Music, Pandora, iHeartRadio, Spotify, and Sirius XM through third-party apps.
Connect with other smart home gadgets: Connect your Echo Show to other smart home devices, especially security cameras and connected doorbells, to see who’s at or near your property.
Integrate third-party skills: Visit the Alexa Skills marketplace to find thousands of skills that add utility to your Echo Show. Some skills will have a video component specifically for the Echo Show, while some skills will be audio-only.
Is the Amazon Echo Show Right for You?
If you’re a visual learner and communicator, the Echo Show will make your everyday technology interactions richer and more useful than an audio-only device.
Particularly if you have young children, distant family, or elderly relatives, the Echo Show’s video capabilities will add significant value and are more likely to make memories happen virtually than any other type of device. With Amazon’s frequent discounting, it’s possible to get an Echo Show far below full retail, for near the same price as a regular Echo.
But if you’re especially worried about privacy, you probably won’t love the Echo Show’s camera and Drop In feature. With these capabilities turned off, the value of the device is greatly reduced. If privacy is your top concern, it might make more sense to purchase a different Amazon product.
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