I took stock of our Amazon Music services today. We have two Echo devices – one in our kitchen-diner and the other in our conservatory – which both have access to the full Amazon Music Unlimited library (apparently containing 40 million songs). For this we’re paying £9.99 a month. If we took out an Amazon Prime subscription at £79 a year, this fee would be reduced to £7.99 a month.
I had originally planned to subscribe to the Amazon Music Storage service so that we could download those albums that are not in Music Unlimited and listen to them directly through the Echos; but this service was discontinued last month. So, to listen to those albums through the Echos, we need to play them on our iPhones and connect the iPhones to the Echos using Bluetooth – quite easy to do but a little less convenient.
Given all this, I think we have reached an end point for the time being with the development of our music playing capabilities. We have access to all our music – but still don’t seem to listen to it that much. I make occasional use of the ‘Sounds for Alexa’ book – and, indeed, have enjoyed listening to some of the new albums I picked out when I was reading the Guardian music reviews and which were included in the book. I have the Music Unlimited app on my laptop which provides lots of info about the latest music, but I haven’t really made any use of that yet; and I only occasionally hear some music on the radio in the car and then ask Alexa to play it on the Echo.
Perhaps the greatest use we’ve made of the Echo is when we had family round over the Christmas period, and people enjoyed the novelty of asking it to play their favourite songs. Apparently this is a fairly typical scenario, though it is not everybody’s cup of tea; at least one of our family positively dislikes Alexa because it just takes over the proceedings with an Alexa-fest of constant calling out, song playing, crazy question asking, and the placement of risque items on our Alexa shopping list.
Apart from music, the ability to play radio stations is definitely useful. However we have had less success with asking Alexa general questions such as sports scores: quite often Alexa doesn’t understand what we’re saying, or we fail to phrase the question in a way that Alexa can home in on the answer. Another interesting phenomenon is that occasionally Alexa thinks we have mentioned her name when actually we’ve been saying something completely different; she suddenly pipes up out of the blue, and we have to issue a curt ‘Alexa Stop!’ to quiet her down.
No doubt Alexa’s voice recognition will improve over time; and maybe we’ll start to use the additional services that Alexa is providing now (such as links to the phone) and that she will, no doubt, be providing in the future. But, as far as our music playing capabilities go, we feel we’ve done as much as we need to for the time being, so this journey is at an end.