There are comprehensive effects to bringing good design into your life. Design propels beauty, in the most obvious way. But well-designed objects also save you time (think of a work bag with perfect pockets) and make you feel in command and in control of your life (think of the boss feeling you get from toting that same perfect work bag).
I've found it's that nearly-indescribable "I have my life together" feeling that has been the biggest benefit of investing in smart home gear, each device acting like extra grease on the sticky, squeaky wheel of everyday life. The support of virtual assistants (like Amazon Echo or Google Home, and the interconnected home tech that they control like conductors of an orchestra) removes some of the friction from getting out the door in the morning or getting into bed at night, leaving my mind — in the butterfly effect sort of way — a little more clear and open throughout the day.
So, yes, I've personally bought in to the whole smart home deal (I realized I now have five Echo devices at home), and I truly think you should give it a try. I recently got the chance to try the Amazon Echo Spot, (currently on sale for Prime Day!) and it's my favorite Echo device ever. It's a great place to start if you're just dipping your toes into smart home, and here are a few reasons why...
$130 $100 for Prime Members
(Warning: your first Echo is like a gateway drug to joining the fervent cult of smart home, and I hold no responsibility for you dropping your next paycheck at Amazon or Best Buy.)
It's elegant, and perfect for small spaces
I love a well-designed speaker that sits on my bookshelf like an objet d'art, but I understand that hi-tech devices aren't everyone's aesthetic. The Echo Spot looks like a mod little clock more than anything else, betraying the computer hidden within. "It is a similar size and shape to what one might expect from an alarm clock," said Linda Ranz, Amazon's Director of Echo Product Management, Alexa Experience and Devices. "Its smaller form factor results in it disappearing more easily in the home."
It's a great alarm clock replacement
You may have heard that using your smartphone as an alarm clock is a bad idea because it makes you likely to mindlessly browse social media before bed, for example, or email first thing in the morning. But you keep doing it because it's convenient. Your phone is always with you, and you can open an app to quell your paranoia when you need to confirm that your alarm is activated. But an Echo Spot placed on your nightstand can do all of that, without the app binge. You can ask Alexa to set a bunch of alarms (like for different days of the week, just like you would on your smartphone) waking up to any music you want ("Alexa, wake me up at 7AM with Harry Styles"), and ask her before bed to show you that she's ready with the wake up call.
When morning comes, if you're the type to check the news or your email or calendar first thing, your nightstand Alexa can do that too. Morning flash briefings are great for getting the news — you can install "skills" from your preferred news sources, like NPR or BBC or even ESPN and Refinery29. And you can ask the Echo Spot to show you today's meetings, without having to hop on your phone and see those "it can wait"-types of text messages or notifications waiting for you.
Which brings me to the next point...
Hello this is my tiny round assistant that lives next to my door and plays Jeopardy with me. I love her. (Also I remember wishing I had a tiny little screen by the door that told me the temperature outside and it’s finally here and I’ll never not freak out that we’re living in the future. The new Echo Spot is 👌🏻)
It will keep you off your phone
It's counter-intuitive, I know, but if you're trying to distance yourself from technology, introducing a virtual assistant like Echo or Google Home is a great place to start. In a world where everything from your calendar and notes to weather updates are delivered to you digitally, it's nice to have a place to check those lifelines, at any time of day, without being bombarded with noisey notifications. When I ask questions ("Alexa, is the door locked?" "What time is it?" "What's the weather like?"), I get only the answer I need, and no distractions like an email or notification of a tweet mention that is going to drag me into a 3-hour mindless twitter binge. Or put another way: Amazon Echo is the most simplified layer of your digital world.
The Echo Spot is especially great for anyone looking to untether themselves from their smartphone because of the screen, allowing you to actually see your calendar events or the high and low temperatures for the day. And with the right placement, you might never need to reach for your smartphone again. I placed one Echo Spot by the front door in my entryway, and it's been insanely handy. I ask Alexa to show me my shopping list before I head out for the day, so I can remember to pick up toilet paper before we're desperately low. And I set my entryway Echo to rotate between screens ("Home Cards" in the Echo Spot universe, each displaying something like calendar events, weather or reminders) so it shows me, without prompting, that I have a reminder waiting; I see at a glance as I walk out the door that I need to remember to call my sister later. My phone — and Instagram and email and Reddit — stays in my pocket the whole time.
This story was originally published on March 9, 2018. It has been updated to reflect the current sale offering.