Amazon's Echo Show 15: Worth the Big Screen? Talking Tech podcast

Jan 12, 2022

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Hey there listeners. It's Brett Molina. Welcome back to Talking Tech. When you think of smart speakers, they tend to blend in with your surroundings, right? You buy them because you might need them if you have a question, if you want to know about the weather, if you want to look up a recipe, if you have kids at home and they just want to know what the capital of Bolivia is. Whatever it may be, it's there. It's sitting on a shelf. It blends in with your surroundings. You don't really notice it unless you need it, right?

Amazon's latest Echo device however is expected to be more of the center of attention. It's the Echo Show 15. It is an Echo device. It's the speaker, but it also does so much more because it has a touchscreen. But not just any kind of touchscreen, it's 15.6 inches, so it's pretty big. You will not miss it. I've gotten to test this out for the last couple weeks now. You can read my thoughts about it on tech.USAtoday.com.

It's definitely got a lot of potential as far as a central place if you want to stay organized and entertained. So if you have a family, a big family, and you're just trying to keep track of everything going on in your family circle, this is what this device is attempting to do. It feels like kind of it's a smart speaker with almost a TV, but then all so a digital bulletin board kind of all in one. It's not really a straightforward you buy the speaker, you take it out of the box and you plug it into the wall. You have to really put some thought into where this is going to live.

Owners can either mount it on their wall or place it on a counter with a stand. You can display it either horizontally or vertically depending on your preference. For my purposes, I really didn't want to put any more holes in my walls. So I put it on a kitchen countertop with a stand. I figured it was a good central location. Felt like the perfect spot for placing this if it was going to be kind of a family hub type device.

New to the Echo Show line is visual ID. It's basically face ID. It's like face ID for the iPhone. What you'll do is when you set up the device, you put your account info in, everything like that. It'll ask you to set a visual ID. Again, it works like face ID. So you'll look at the camera that's built on the Show. You'll move your head around different angles so it can snap pictures of your head. Because the idea behind it is say you walk into the room where the Echo Show 15 lives, it'll automatically see you and it will display important information that is related to you.

It also supports multiple profiles. So for example, say I want to have my calendar up and sports score and some other stuff, it'll show widgets on the screen that are built for me. If my wife has a profile, it might have different information like news or calendar or whatever it might be. It all depends on what you want from your main screen. So that part's really neat. I mentioned the widgets earlier. You can use those to personalize everything. They have weather, calendars. You can do sticky notes if you just need to do quick reminders. Again, as you approach the Show 15, it will pull up all the info that you have laid out.

Now, if you're big into privacy, this is obviously can be a little worrisome. You walk into a room and this device automatically sees you. It seems a little strange. The device does have a shutter to cover the camera. There's also a button on top that allows you to mute the microphone. So if you don't want this device to see or hear you, according to Amazon, you do those things and you're all set. Of course, this also uses Alexa, which is great. So when you combine everything together, this feels like a really great central device if you're trying to stay organized.

If you're managing kids' activities, doctor's appointments, the grocery store, you got to go there, you could put all this stuff on your Echo Show 15, and then you can really stay organized. Personally, for me, I enjoyed using it a lot when I was doing dishes because it's essentially kind of a TV. I had Netflix so I would throw on Netflix on there while I was doing dishes. It was great. It made the process, made it a little less kind of boring and tedious. I had something to kind of take my mind off of doing dishes.

There's also other stuff you can do with it too. If you have smart home devices, like a smart plug, you can control your lights with it. If you have ring cameras, you can see all the different views from your ring cameras on this. There's a lot of different really cool stuff that you're able to do with an Echo Show.

The one thing I will say about it, though, I wish that it did more with its touchscreen. I feel like this device is screaming for the option to provide more app support. A lot of it is widgets. There are some supported apps in there like a Netflix and things like that. I would've just liked more apps available to choose from. The one that jumps out to me are apps for recipes because this device, because of the size of the screen, is perfect for looking up a recipe and then just reading it on the screen. There's really no sleep mode within this that is going to shut it down so you can have a recipe up and you're doing the recipe and it's a really nice big screen, easy to use.

If you've been doing it at your phone or a tablet, you're not dealing with a smaller screen. It feels great for that stuff. Even for stuff like games, just other apps that feel like a really good fit for this. I'm surprised that there wasn't a little more support for that. I feel like for a device like this, if it's really going to take off and be that central hub, I feel like you need to get more out of that touchscreen. There are more moments where it feels like you just have an Alexa speaker with a really big screen with it. If that's your thing, that's great.

But I feel like it could do so much more. For the price, it's 249.99, you kind of expect it to do a little bit more. but that's pretty much my only knock on the Echo Show 15. I think it's a fun device. If you're big on Alexa and you're just looking for that kind of central place to control everything, this is a good place to start. But again, I would've liked to have seen a lot more. If there are future versions of this, hopefully we'll get more of that.

But you can read more of my thoughts on this on tech.USAtoday.com. Listeners, let's hear from you. Do you have any comments, questions, show ideas, any tech problems you want us to try to address? You can find me on Twitter, @BrettMolina23. Please don't forget to subscribe and rate us or leave a review on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, anywhere you get your podcasts. You've been listening to Talking Tech. We'll be back tomorrow with another quick hit from the world of tech.

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