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  • Camruinn Morgan-Rumsey

Echo Loop Review

Amazon's Echo line has a solution to almost every smart-speaker need. Just need something small? Go with the Echo Dot. Need to watch video or look at recipes hands-free? Echo Show works great for that. What if you need Alexa with you everywhere you go though? Well, Amazon has you covered there too.


The Echo Loop is an Alexa-enabled smart ring. You wear it on your finger and Alexa is at your beck and call with just the tap of a button. The Echo Loop can do pretty much everything any other Alexa product can, from answering simple questions to running complicated home automation tasks.


I used the Echo Loop for just over a week. After using it at home, in the car, and even taking it to work, I've decided that it's one of the most interesting and fun wearables I've used by far.



THE GOOD


Amazon had their work cut out for them when they decided to make a ring fit every finger in the world, but the solution they landed on works well. Before I ordered my Echo Loop, I was shipped (for free) a set of four plastic mocks in four different sizes. I was able to try out these fake Echo Loops and pick the one that fit best, and then order that size. I liked this idea, because while I had to wait a few extra days while everything shipped, I'm sure I would've had to wait even longer had I just had to pick (and return) a wrongly sized Echo Loop. What I got in the end was a well-built, perfectly sized ring.


The build quality of the Echo Loop impressed me. Amazon's Echo Loop listing says the ring is made of titanium. It is titanium on the outside, but the inside of the ring is a shiny plastic. This didn't bother me, in fact I liked how light the product was because of it. The Echo Loop also didn't poke out from my hand too much; the ring is pretty thin for what it's packing, and I didn't have any issues with knocking it into things throughout the day like I thought I might.


A small ring also means a small battery, but I didn't have any issues with battery life at all. I consistently ended my days with 30-40 percent battery left, and I was using it for quite a bit.


Having a voice assistant on hand (literally) was definitely convenient. I used the Echo Loop to answer questions, get directions, and even turn on my smart-lights on my way up to my apartment, so I never came home in the dark. The Echo Loop isn't just an Alexa device though, it can also make calls and trigger your phone's native assistant.


Calling on the Echo Loop worked surprisingly well. I found the microphone quality to be about even with my phone's speakerphone or my car's Bluetooth: not amazing, but very usable. I was also able to understand others on the ring just as well.


The Echo Loop's ability to trigger Siri by holding down the Alexa button was a game changer, though. I use Siri for alarms, reminders, and shopping lists, and having access to the Apple ecosystem through the Echo Loop was great. The game changer, though, was Shortcuts. I have a plethora of Siri Shortcuts that I use to do things like find nearby restaurants, play podcasts on Overcast, and even see NASA's image of the day. The Echo Loop's ability to trigger Siri is, ironically, one of the most powerful tools it has.


It wasn't all good, though.


THE BAD


While the quality of the ring itself was great, the same cannot be said for the charger that comes along with it. The Echo Loop's charger is like a small finger you put the ring around, and it connects to charge via three pins in the back. I often found that the ring had trouble staying situated correctly on the charger; a small bump could stop a charge easily. More than once I went to put the ring on, only to find that it hadn't ever been charging. The cable that came with the charger was also micro USB rather than USB-C, which is borderline embarrassing in 2020, especially at the $179.99 price point.


The Echo Loop is also quiet. Like, really quiet. So quiet that Amazon sent out an automatic email to me when my ring arrived with instructions on how to maximize the volume. I had trouble even at max volume understanding Alexa in any sort of public space like the grocery store. However, the most frustrating thing about the Echo Loop was its reliability.


Anytime the Echo Loop goes long without being activated it seems to disconnect from my phone. I can only assume this is an effort to conserve battery. Unfortunately, this meant that whenever I went to ask Alexa something after an hour or so of inactivity, the ring would simply reply "Connecting. Please try again." Sometimes it would reconnect in seconds, and sometimes in minutes. Either way, it soiled the experience. When this happened I usually ended up just googling whatever I needed to know.


The good news about most of these problems is that they're software issues, easily fixed in an update. I certainly hope it comes too, because reliability is one of the most important aspects of a voice assistant.


THE VERDICT


At the end of the day, the Echo Loop was fine. It made me feel like James Bond mixed with Green Lantern, and I managed to do some pretty cool stuff with it. I'm not sure I'd recommend you run out and pick one up though. The Echo Loop was great to play with, but not what I'd consider an essential tool, and at $179.99, it's an expensive toy. An extra $100 could get you the new Apple Watch SE, which is a way more powerful wearable.


All in all, the Echo Loop is lots of fun, but it's reliability issues stop it from being quite useful enough to justify its almost 200 dollar price tag.

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