10 Things Amazon Echo Can't Do Yet

Updated on September 27, 2017
Chriswillman90 profile image

Krzysztof is a lifelong future tech junkie investigating the latest stories from companies like Apple, Samsung, Google, and Amazon.

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Amazon Echo's Missing Pieces

Amazon Echo can do some amazing things, like play music, create your shopping or to/do lists, get you an Uber, or order a pizza. But there are a lot of things missing.

As popular as the product has been, it's not going to become as popular as a smartphone unless it can offer more spectacular and useful features.

These are the ten things Amazon Echo needs to become more than a semi-useful, novelty device.

Amazon echo unpacked
Amazon echo unpacked | Source

10. Language Processor

Language Support

Alexa is only available in English, which immediately limits its global reach. There has to be a way for the Echo to communicate with you in other languages.

And that's not all: the device should also be able to translate other languages flawlessly, the way that Google Translate does.

There are a couple third-party "skills" available for Echo that try to translate, but they are very poor and inefficient. You can't even configure more complex words or languages, and it's much easier to use your phone.

The goal would be for Alexa to support 50 common languages and become an expert translator like Google.

Update: Amazon Echo and Echo Dot arrived in the UK and Germany, which could be the start of more language/accent integration as Alexa moves beyond the US.

9. Smartphone Extension

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Calling and Texting

How cool would it be if you could ask Alexa to make calls or send complete text messages that use your own cell number?

I know there are a few "skills" options currently available that attempt to do this, but they use their own number, can't send more than a few phrases, and fail to work half the time. They're also skills that require invocation phrases, complicating things further.

  • I want my Amazon Echo to be an extension of my smartphone.

I want it to send and receive full-length messages and calls, and I want the device to be a receiver that uses my own number.

If all that can be done via voice, then the usefulness of the Echo would skyrocket.

Update: Voice calling and messaging is now available on Amazon Echo devices and the Alexa app. Video calling is also available for the Echo Show and Echo Spot. When calling or receiving a call the Echo's light ring will turn green and yellow for text messages/notifications.

All calls are free to the US, Mexico, and Canada and can be placed to any mobile or landline phone number.

However keep in mind that all your Echo devices will go off and you can't use it to call 911 unless you purchase the Echo Connect.

The Echo Connect is a landline accessory that allows you to use your home phone number to take or make calls to any number/phone including 911. You just need to plug it into your home's phone jack and have a compatible Echo device to use it.

You also have the option to sync all of your contacts within the Alexa app.

8. Portable Wireless Charging

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Charging Pad

For a product built to stay inside the home, wouldn't it make sense to enable wireless charging for the Echo?

To me it seems archaic for the device to always have to be plugged in via wire and adapter. You should be able to place her on a circular charging station and charge if needed.

The Echo should also have her own battery that can stay charged for a certain amount, so you can at least place her anywhere within your home.

This is the next step for the product, and it would be foolish if Amazon did not go the wireless charging route.

7. Battery Case

Amazon Echo + Tap

The Amazon Tap was a good idea, but it would've made sense to include a charging case for the Echo too.

I realize the Echo wasn't initially designed for portability, but this would be a nice feature to have in the future. If you can take the Amazon Echo anywhere and not have to tap a button to use her, then it would be a win.

The Amazon Tap is not always on, which is a huge drawback. The company created Alexa to always listen for its name, so why not support that idea?

In my opinion, they should either improve the Tap by making it always be on, or include a charging case for the Echo.

Update: Alexa on the Amazon Tap can now be activated using only your voice, which makes it a great, cheaper substitute for the Echo. Since the Tap is battery powered, portability is no longer an issue though battery life remains a concern.

You also need a Wi-Fi connection for Alexa to work.

6. Multi-Room Support

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Multi-Room Support Required

You can't sync multiple Echo devices together right now to play music, which is a problem for audiophiles.

Personally I'm okay without this feature, but users with large homes who love music would want this. Additionally the Google Home has multi-room support via its Chromecast devices, and the Amazon Echo needs to catch up.

Having this feature would help the company as it would make more sense to purchase multiple Echo devices. I would also like if the Echo was more like the Echo Dot with its ability to connect to any speaker.

Having more options, even if you don't use them right now, makes a product more interesting.

Update: Echo finally has multi-room support. You can now ask Alexa to play a song on any Echo, Echo Dot, or Echo Show in your home or group devices together (from settings) to have them play music simultaneously.

Multi-room syncing for Spotify will be coming soon.

5. Powerful AI

Smarter Voice Assistant

The Google Home may soon surpass the Echo, and the main reason is the Google Assistant.

Many people who have an Amazon Echo today don't use it to control smart devices because they either don't have any, don't want any, or can't afford them. Instead they use it as an occasional music player and informative assistant, like Siri or Google.

Unfortunately Alexa can't answer many questions, and while there are individual "skills" that might help, there's way too many of them to remember.

  • Alexa needs to get smarter, it's that simple.

I've had the Echo for over a year now, and I'm surprised that she isn't getting more intelligent.

Her lack of intelligence will not cut it in the long term.

4. Visual Projector

4. Project Images

When I saw the concept of Sony's Xperia Agent, I was immediately intrigued at what it could do.

The Agent has a built-in projector that can project images onto a surface, including the time, temperature, or a full calendar. That is such a cool idea! Future iterations of the Echo need to have this ability.

Visual imagery is very important, and sometimes it helps get the point across when spoken words won't do the trick. There are so many types of ideas, from games to recipes, that could be projected visually for instant understanding.

We could also combine calling and texting with projection so you can FaceTime or Skype with somebody using any surface to see them. Perhaps you can even see their photos, Instagram pics, and other visual messages.

Voice activation with calling, texting, and a projector?

Now that's the future.

Update: The Echo Show will include a large tablet-like touchscreen that will expand the visual medium allowing you to view detailed weather reports, recipes, song lyrics, and play YouTube/Amazon videos.

The alarm clock-like Echo Spot will use a smaller 2.5" screen for visual interactions and video calls.

3. Customized Design

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Customize the Appearance of Amazon Echo

As we've learned with smartwatches and our phones, the design is very important.

Although the Echo isn't meant to be taken outside your home, you have to place it somewhere. I don't mind the original design of the product, but it may look out of place in some homes.

I wish there was a way you could change the external design instead of just adding a leather skin. When you have guests come over, your Echo shouldn't stand out like a sore thumb.

It should be discreet and in the background. It should blend into your home instead of looking like something from science fiction.

Think of the movie "Her" and how technology was never in the foreground there. That should be the goal of futuristic products like the Amazon Echo.

Update: The 2nd generation Echo now comes in six new colors and fabric designs including charcoal, heather gray, sandstone, and oak, silver and walnut finishes.

2. Facial Recognition

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Personalized Assistant

I understand how this feature might appear creepy, but anything new is going to seem unusual.

I also understand the privacy concerns, but keep in mind that we use things like smartphones and laptops that have always had privacy risks. This won't be that different.

Your personal assistant should be able to recognize you by your voice and the way you look, so that it can provide the most up-to-date information about anything you want.

  • It can also be used as a special security feature.

Let's say an intruder enters your home, and your Echo has the ability to recognize that this person is a stranger. The device could then notify you, or even call for help.

A security feature would need a lot of updates, so it can tell the good from the bad, but its an intriguing possibility.

Update: Apple rumors suggest they may be launching a smart speaker with a camera for facial recognition, which if successful, would be an integral feature in future Echo products.

Amazon's new Echo Look has the ability to take pictures and videos of you and send them to your phone. Its AI is also capable of telling you which outfit looks best on you.

1. Alexa Chatbot

No More Apps

Chatbots are apparently a big deal because they promise to eliminate apps and make things a lot faster.

I'm not a huge fan of them but I can see how they can be used for the Amazon Echo.

Echo's Alexa app has thousands of skills, and it's growing every day, but having so many skills reveals a major flaw:

  • You can't remember which skill to use and what phrase will open said skill.

We need Alexa to be able to access any skill at will without having to use specific commands. I want to tell her to order a pizza without first having to say "Open Dominos" and then follow through.

Soon there will be millions of skills available, and no one will be able to know what they are unless they look in the Alexa app. This complication defeats the purpose of having a voice-activated speaker.

If there's one place where a chatbot will be useful, it's the Amazon Echo.

Your Turn

What Feature Does Amazon Echo Require?

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    • Chriswillman90 profile image
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      Krzysztof Willman 2 months ago from Parlin, New Jersey

      Yes I agree, the skills should serve as apps rather than an extension of Alexa's AI. Her overall intelligence should not have to come down to which skill you can remember. I read that Amazon plans on offering skill selections if the AI can't answer your request, but I feel they need to go beyond that to get more people invested.

    • Chriswillman90 profile image
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      Krzysztof Willman 2 months ago from Parlin, New Jersey

      I do love the competition these products are getting because it prevents companies from becoming too lax. Amazon has a big lead but I agree that their lead would've been exponential had they not waited so long for these upgrades.

    • NikkiRoxi profile image

      NikkiRoxi 2 months ago

      I cannot wait till Amazon improves its AI to answer questions more fluidly, when it can respond the way humans do when asked a question even if the question wasn't phrased correctly. I agree I want to get rid of all the Skills, because you have to remember the command to launch that Skill. Amazon can request that the Skill developer allow them to incorporate that skill into the Software behind Alexa. The fewer words used to get her to do what you want the better.

    • NikkiRoxi profile image

      NikkiRoxi 2 months ago

      I am glad you updated this article to include the recent updates to the Alexa software. We got some of our wishes. My only gripe with Amazon is that it took Google to compete with them for them to do it. They have had this device out so much longer than anyone else. They should have had some of these features already. But at the same token I am glad they are including them, better late than never.

    • Chriswillman90 profile image
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      Krzysztof Willman 3 months ago from Parlin, New Jersey

      I'm an optimist but yes there are still a ton of issues when it comes to translation however it's ahead of most translation services that aren't premium.

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      Dave Hedgehog 3 months ago

      I couldn't help but burst out laughing when I read "translate other languages flawlessly the way that Google Translate does".

      GT is fine for single words (unless they're Welsh), but give it anything as complex as an entire sentence and it's next to useless.

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      Flakes 3 months ago

      Woukdn't mind being able to play foreign music. I can't say "Alexa, 'play Je t'aim, moi non plus by gainsbourg' or even 'Alexa play Seu Jorg' and for some reason saying 'Alexa play Despacito' brings up the Justin Beiber english versuon rather than the Daddy Yankee Spanish one.

      It would also be nice to be able to create and add things to play lists on the fly

    • profile image

      Tom Markel 4 months ago

      English and German

    • Chriswillman90 profile image
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      Krzysztof Willman 10 months ago from Parlin, New Jersey

      That's interesting because she did give me the answer however I don't recall her doing so when I first purchased my device. Perhaps the AI is starting to get a lot more intelligent.

    • Chriswillman90 profile image
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      Krzysztof Willman 10 months ago from Parlin, New Jersey

      They'll release hardware upgrades but Amazon isn't like Apple and most of their upgrades will stay on the software side. So those with current Echo products should be just fine as they are very capable of getting those updates.

    • NikkiRoxi profile image

      NikkiRoxi 10 months ago

      Cranie2000 I read your comment last week and I meant to come back sooner to reply. I tested my Alexa and asked her simply what is 2+2+6 and she gave me the answer. Why do you feel she cannot do such a thing? Maybe it was the way you asked her.

    • NikkiRoxi profile image

      NikkiRoxi 10 months ago

      I don't want to feel pressure to upgrade the Echo Dot I already have. I sure hope they just create more features and update the software. I don't want Amazon to become like Apple by coming out with a new device thus making people feel the need to upgrade in order to get the latest software or new feature they have rolled out.

    • Chriswillman90 profile image
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      Krzysztof Willman 10 months ago from Parlin, New Jersey

      It's nice to hear you're having such a great experience and I agree that it would be nice to know what's arriving next. It would be amazing if I could ask Alexa to text someone or call someone just like I would on my phone seamlessly. Hopefully we see more of that later this year or perhaps when the new Echo launches. The new Echo may have a touchscreen which could lead to a lot more accessible feature although I still would want a projection option. I would hold off and see when the new Echo launches as I have a feeling it'll be later this year.

    • NikkiRoxi profile image

      NikkiRoxi 10 months ago

      I am new to the Echo world. I just got mine for Christmas 2016, a gift to myself. I agree with everything you wrote there. My top three wishes for the Echo is Calling and Texting, Multiroom Support and having a Powerful AI. If I get those 3 things first then I want Language Translator and Wireless Charging. I have the Fremo EVO portable charger for my Echo Dot so I can make the Dot portable. I just wish Amazon would talk about what is coming next so I have an idea. Not that I would abandon them. I have 3 Echo Dots and I may possibly get the Tall Echo in the near future. But I want it to expand its features, so I can get more uses than I currently am getting. Right now I use it for Smart Home control and Music right now. I know the possibilities are endless and that is what excites me.

    • Chriswillman90 profile image
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      Krzysztof Willman 11 months ago from Parlin, New Jersey

      I have to agree and it really generalizes her capabilities as an assistant for basic tasks. Her math strengths are only limited to a quick answer although there are a few math related skills that attempt to expand on that.

    • Chriswillman90 profile image
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      Krzysztof Willman 11 months ago from Parlin, New Jersey

      That has to be the next step in the evolution of the device. I know there's the Ooma skill that a lot of people have tried with their Ooma product but it's very hit and miss. I'd love to know what developers had in mind to make this happen.

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      mitch 11 months ago

      Why it is so much difficult to use Echo as a phone? It has a Mic and a very good speaker and there should only be an app which connects to a sip-platform like 42com. So Alexa should be able to place calls via the iOS/Android app to make calls. Any suggestions of developers how has ideas how to implement?

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      Cranie2000 11 months ago

      I hate that Alexa can only do one math problem at a time. For example: 2+2 but not 2+2+6. (I obviously can solve this) but we calculate carbohydrates for our diabetic daughter so often we do calculations and then need to multiply the result by another number. Alexa CANT remember the previous result. Irritating!!

    • Chriswillman90 profile image
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      Krzysztof Willman 12 months ago from Parlin, New Jersey

      It has a few extra features versus the Echo but I can say the same vice-versa particularly when it comes to the smart home and third party skills that the Echo presently has. That may very well change 6 months to a year from now.

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      Italo 12 months ago

      You should check Google Home, most of those features are available on it