What's the Difference Between Alexa and Echo?

What’s the Difference Between Alexa and Echo?

Have you ever wondered what’s the difference between Alexa and Echo? Are they the same thing? Amazon doesn’t do a good job in explaining the difference, so let me. In this post, I explain common misconceptions between Amazon’s Voice Assistant and hardware, and talk about why the differences between Alexa and Echo is important to you. 

Alexa Is A Voice Assistant 

Alexa is a Voice Assistant created by Amazon. Essentially, this Voice Assistant’s goal is to recognize human speech in order to carry out specific Alexa commands. For this to happen, Alexa needs a few things to work, like a microphone to hear you and a speaker to respond back to you. Since these requirements are pretty easy, Amazon is able to put Alexa in all kinds of different devices that have at least a microphone and speaker. That’s the reason why Amazon’s Voice Assistant is accessible on a wide range of devices—the most popular of which are Echo devices. 

What’s more, Amazon is constantly improving Alexa by making her smarter and adding more capabilities, no matter if you’re accessing her on an Echo you bought three years ago or the latest Echo device from this year. 

Ultimately, Voice Assistants are a major staple in any Smart House where the goal is to make everyday life more convenient by adding new ways to control and interact with your devices. 

Echo Is A Device That Supports Alexa 

Echo is the device, or hardware, that Alexa lives in. Remember that Alexa only needs a microphone and speaker to work. Echo devices have these necessities—and sometimes more.

But as you may already know, there is more than one Echo available today, each with different features like better speakers, better microphones, or simply a better look. Amazon has an Echo line of devices, or an “Echo Family” per se, where each device has its own special features built in. These varying features serve to make it even more convenient to use specific Alexa commands. For instance, the most notable use for an Echo (or smart speakers in general) is using Alexa to stream music.

Here are some examples of different Echo devices, each with their own improvements to make Alexa shine.  

Echo Device NameWhat it Looks LikeParticularly Good At
Echo Stream music with great sound quality.
Echo DotSmaller size, better portability, and decent sound quality.
Echo Dot with clockClock has an auto-adjusting LED display.
Echo Show
Displaying things like recipes to follow along to or calendar invites for better management.
Echo Frames Lightweight and portable with always-on Alexa voice control. 

Other Alexa-Enabled Devices 

Beyond using an Echo, there are even more ways to access Alexa at home.

Alexa can be used on a slew of other devices that aren’t specific to smart speakers, such as: 

  • Fire Tablet 
  • Fire TV 
  • Ring Doorbell
  • Ring Security Camera 
  • Etc.

Alexa is also available via the Alexa App, which grows the list of available devices she’s made accessible on. For instance, this list includes devices that aren’t made by Amazon, such as: 

  • Smartphone
  • Smartwatch 
  • Etc.

The major note to keep in mind is that while you can access Alexa on these devices, you aren’t able to use every known Alexa command on each device. For instance, a Fire Tablet isn’t considered a smart speaker, and therefore, will not support the Alexa command “Play music everywhere.” Therein lies the major difference between Echo devices and the rest of the Alexa-enabled devices. With choosing an Echo, you’re able to get more out of Alexa. 

To learn the latest commands you can use on Alexa-enabled devices, check out the series Keeping Up with Alexa.   

FAQs 

Still grappling with the differences? The above sections are really just the tip of the iceberg of the larger complexities of Amazon’s products. If you’re still not satisfied with understanding the difference between Alexa and Echo, check out the most common questions and their answers below. 

Is Amazon Echo and Alexa the same thing?

No. Amazon Echo is a smart speaker device that is readily setup to use Alexa, which is Amazon’s Voice Assistant that can be used on more devices than an Echo. For more information, see above.

What is the difference between Amazon Echo and Echo Dot?

Both the Echo and Echo Dot are smart speakers, but each has varying features. For instance, the Echo Dot is cheaper in price, but the Amazon Echo has better sound quality. See above for more details on the differences.

Where do you put Echo? 

You can put an Echo device in any room of your house that will be useful for you to access Alexa. Learn more about the best places to put your smart speaker.

Do you need Alexa to use Echo? 

Not exactly. Echo is essentially a smart speaker that has Bluetooth capabilities. But what makes it special in large part is that Alexa, the Voice Assistant, is readily made available in the device and can help you play music with specific Alexa commands

Can Echo Dot be used alone? 

Yes. Echo Dot is first and foremost a smart speaker that has Bluetooth capabilities where you can play music on it from your Smartphone. Echo Dot does not need any other device in order for it to work; simply plug it in and ensure you have WifI connectivity for Bluetooth to work. The Echo Dot can also work without you using Alexa. While the Voice Assistant is readily made available through this device, you can ignore her completely if you choose. 

Is there a monthly fee for Alexa? 

No. A monthly membership, including an Amazon Prime subscription, is not required in order to use Alexa. However, in order to use Alexa for streaming music, you need to set up your default music provider. Depending on which provider you choose, you may need to pay a monthly fee. 

Can I use Alexa without Prime?

Yes. A monthly Amazon Prime subscription is not required in order to use Alexa to listen to music. However, you do need to set up your default music provider in the Alexa App in order to use her to stream music. Here’s how to find the settings in the Alexa App to make this change. 

Do you need a smartphone to use Alexa?

No. You don’t need a Smartphone in order to use Alexa; however, you do need either a Smartphone or tablet in order to first set her up.

Does Alexa need to be plugged in all the time?

Yes. The Voice Assistant Alexa is accessible on Amazon’s line of Echo devices, which need to be plugged in to work. Find out what happens when Echo loses power.

Don’t see your question answered above? Leave a comment below, and I’ll add it to the list. 

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