Technophile

Review | Amazon’s Echo Flex: Alexa is squeezed into a wall plug

Mala Bhargava | Updated on December 12, 2019 Published on December 12, 2019

What do you get when you take a wall plug and put it together with a tiny speaker? The Echo Flex, an interesting gadget that adds to Amazon’s rapidly growing lineup of Echo products. The Flex is not for everyone but it has particular use-cases, specially when you team it up with its accessories which unfortunately have not yet been made available in India.

The Echo Flex looks like an oversized smartphone charging adaptor. It’s very neat and clean-white. On one side, there’s the regular metal prongs that fit into an electrical wall socket; on the other there are two buttons (mute and command), two notches for a speaker, a slit for a light, and two dots for microphones. It’s a very simple and minimalistic looking gadget.

Read: Amazon launches Echo Flex in India

The nice thing about it is that there are no wires involved, so you can plug it anywhere where you really want it to look neat and tidy and take up no space. That could be in a hallway, a verandah, a kitchen, or even in an office. It can even go into a bathroom, though it’s not waterproof as such, but neither are regular plugs. The other Echo devices aren’t meant for wall-mounting, but the Flex is. Even if you put a small Echo like the Dot up on a high shelf, there’s little you can do with the dangling cable, but in this case, there is none.

Unless, you use its USB outlet located just underneath to connect something like a phone for charging. Not much point, of course since then you do contend with a dangling cable and you’ll get slower charging than you would with the phone’s own charging gear which these days is all about fast charging. There’s also a 3.5mm jack on the side which you can use to plug in headphones or connect to a full fledged existing speaker and use the combination to make it respond to voice commands to play music from one of the supported sources.

The USB slot on the Flex actually supports certain accessories, like a tiny nightlight and a motion sensor, but these haven’t been made available in India yet. It may be that Amazon wants to test the waters in India with the Flex, but if that’s the case, it needed to be brought in with the accessories that make it more functional.

Though you can plug in some device or the other with the USB, the thing is that you can’t voice command it to turn on or off that device — or, in effect, itself. If you’re charging a phone and think there have been enough hours of charging, you can’t just say Alexa, stop charging my phone.

The Flex is also not a speaker for actual music listening — it’s just not big enough for that. You can still go ahead and ask its Alexa to play a song, and it will, but it’ll sound what ti is, a thin sound coming out of a tiny speaker. Sometimes users may not mind that, but not for regular listening. For that, you can use it to play on other speakers. So, from the kitchen, you could say play relaxing music in the bedroom, and if that’s a speaker group or setup you already have, it will do so.

So, stripped of its accessories, what’s it good for? Well, it is in all other aspects it’s a full fledged Alexa device with all the features available to it. It’s a way of controlling smart home products. For those who already have an Echo setup of some sort, it’s an option to extend Alexa capability to other places neatly using the Flex as an extender into areas of the house where there’s no other Echo speaker. If you have a long hallway or a kitchen at a good distance from the living room or bedroom, or you have a few rooms upstairs and downstairs, you could use the Flex as a way to give commands to the setup or to products. You can actually even make Alexa to Alexa calls from it, which is amazing capability for a small thing like that. But the use case is very specific which is why it’s not for every housefuls or space.

The Flex more or less sets itself up if you already have an Echo speakers setup. It’s just a few taps and permissions in the Alexa app. As the only Echo device, it’s not recommended as it’s better to get one which also has a listenable speaker, but as an additional controller, it’s workable.

Price: Rs 2,999

Pros: Interesting as an extension of an Echo setup, neat and clutter free, gives one more option for accessing full Alexa features including Alexa-to-Alexa calls in a tiny format,

Cons: Accessories not available in India yet, can’t turn off the USB point that is a part of it

Published on December 12, 2019

A letter from the Editor


Dear Readers,

The coronavirus crisis has changed the world completely in the last few months. All of us have been locked into our homes, economic activity has come to a near standstill. Everyone has been impacted.

Including your favourite business and financial newspaper. Our printing and distribution chains have been severely disrupted across the country, leaving readers without access to newspapers. Newspaper delivery agents have also been unable to service their customers because of multiple restrictions.

In these difficult times, we, at BusinessLine have been working continuously every day so that you are informed about all the developments – whether on the pandemic, on policy responses, or the impact on the world of business and finance. Our team has been working round the clock to keep track of developments so that you – the reader – gets accurate information and actionable insights so that you can protect your jobs, businesses, finances and investments.

We are trying our best to ensure the newspaper reaches your hands every day. We have also ensured that even if your paper is not delivered, you can access BusinessLine in the e-paper format – just as it appears in print. Our website and apps too, are updated every minute, so that you can access the information you want anywhere, anytime.

But all this comes at a heavy cost. As you are aware, the lockdowns have wiped out almost all our entire revenue stream. Sustaining our quality journalism has become extremely challenging. That we have managed so far is thanks to your support. I thank all our subscribers – print and digital – for your support.

I appeal to all or readers to help us navigate these challenging times and help sustain one of the truly independent and credible voices in the world of Indian journalism. Doing so is easy. You can help us enormously simply by subscribing to our digital or e-paper editions. We offer several affordable subscription plans for our website, which includes Portfolio, our investment advisory section that offers rich investment advice from our highly qualified, in-house Research Bureau, the only such team in the Indian newspaper industry.

A little help from you can make a huge difference to the cause of quality journalism!

Support Quality Journalism
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor
You have read 1 out of 3 free articles for this week. For full access, please subscribe and get unlimited access to all sections.