The Echo plays all the music while you whisper sweet nothings into its ear.
The Echo costs $99 for invited Prime members (or $199 for the non-Prime crowd), and it's a decently-specced WiFi-capable Bluetooth speaker on the surface. Once connected to your network, Echo can pull down sports, news, and weather updates, along with music and radio from the Amazon Music Library, Prime Music service, TuneIn, ESPN, NPR, and iHeartRadio. Bluetooth allows your paired phone, tablet or PC to push any other music to the speaker, local tunes, Pandora and Spotify included.
With most of the software/app boxes checked, the Echo (which I have not gone ears-on with yet) boasts an "advanced audio design," which is marketing speak for a downward-firing 2.5-inch woofer, two-inch tweeter, and reflex design. Put differently, the Echo has half the speakers of the UE Boom from Logitech, which also costs $200.
But the real (potential) allure of the Echo comes in the form of voice commands and its Siri-like response cues. You can set alarms and reminders by shouting (talking) at the Echo, while asking questions results in the speaker giving you the best answer it can muster right back. You can even add items to your Amazon shopping list. The interaction is triggered by a "wake word," which can be set to anything, I suppose. You can even set it to Satan, I bet. SATAN, PLEASE PLAY SLAYER ON PANDORA.
And by listening to everything you have to say, Echo will get smarter over time. Paired with the massive cloud infrastructure that Amazon has at its disposal, and OTA software updates, Echo will see new features on a regular basis, and the ability to infiltrate your everyday life more and more as the weeks go on. Eventually you will come home to Echo making you a steak dinner, with that package of razors you have on Amazon Subscription waiting for you on the kitchen table.
And then you realize you common law married Echo by mistake, and the merger between man and machine will be complete.