My family is pretty invested in Amazon’s ecosystem – Kindle readers, Kindle Fire tablets, Fire TV on our main TV, and Echo devices throughout. Perhaps my LEAST favorite of all the Alexa devices has been the Amazon Tap – but now that has been corrected.
Why was Amazon Tap my least favorite? Three basic things:
- The need to Tap diminishes Alexa’s utility
- On the go … it is just a Bluetooth Speaker
- Ultimately it is just a mediocre speaker for the price
Think about it – when you are outside on your deck with friends or family, having the Tap seems like a great idea: you still can access your wireless network, so you can stream music easily. Then you want to change songs or playlists – and you have to go over to the Tap to do anything.
Once you are physically interacting with the device, it is little different from having your phone hooked to a Bluetooth speaker. And while I have been pleased with the sound quality, a similarly priced Bose Soundlink Color has better sound volume and quality in every way possible.
As a result, for the last 9 months, I have used the Amazon Tap occasionally but generally not recommended it to anyone.
That changed this week – Amazon released a firmware update for the Tap that now allows you to use the ‘wake word’ Alexa just like on the Dot or Echo. In the Settings section of the Alexa app, choose your Tap, then ‘Hands-Free Mode’. In it disabled by default, but you can easily switch it to ‘Always On’.
Testing it out, the voice responsiveness was excellent – I was concerned that for a product designed to be held close while issuing commands (no more than an arm’s length since you had to ‘tap’ it), the sensitivity would suffer. But instead I found a product that immediately became a natural extension of the Alexa family and I was issuing commands without even thinking.
There has been much written these last few months about how well Amazon has integrated the Alexa ecosystem into people’s lives, and I very much agree – there is much it cannot do, but with each week that list seems to shrink by a little. I can now get more contextual information about music I am listening to (sadly, I still can’t get a list of the musicians on a track), and the interactivity grows all the time.
This change might seem small, but in our house, it means that Alexa – and Amazon – has taken over another region of our house, another chunk of time in our day, and more of our mind-space.
Suddenly I found myself yesterday recommending the Tap – it is portable, has good sound quality, solid battery life, fast recharging, integrates with the Alexa app, and responds to you voice very well. For a $129.99 device through Amazon.com, it offers a solid value.