Amazon took a whole damn Echo speaker and put it into a ring and called it the Echo Loop. It’s part of a program Amazon is calling “Day1,” which is code for “here are a bunch of products that are not really ready for mass sales, but we want to put them out there anyway.” The first two are the smart eyeglass frames and this little ring.
It works, but the audio is not very loud. That is probably a combination of design and necessity, as the idea here is you don’t want everybody to know what you’re doing. There is a small button on the inside, and you reach in and press it with your thumb. When you do, there’s a tiny vibration that confirms that Alexa is listening.
You don’t do this when it’s just sitting at your side or on a desk or something. The idea is that you raise it to your mouth and whisper your request like a tiny secret you’re telling a robot who lives inside a piece of weird tech jewelry on your finger. After using Bluetooth to get to the internet via your phone, Alexa responds in a very quiet, tinny voice. In a loud room, it was difficult to hear.
That’s sort of the length and the breadth of this limited quantity $179.99 device (there’s an “introductory” price of $129.99) But there are some interesting details I learned in my time with it:
- It comes in four sizes: small, medium, large, and extra large. Amazon used the extra large for demos here.
- Customers will get a ring sizing kit sent to them with plastic fake Echo Loops so they can pick their ideal size.
- The battery should last “about a day” with “intermittent use.”
- It can vibrate when you receive notifications, just like a smartwatch, but you can’t have custom vibrations for different notifications.
- You can long-press the button to get to your phone’s default voice assistant, like Siri or Google Assistant.
- You can use the button to accept or reject calls, but not to play or pause music. And there’s no accelerometer or whatever if you just want to tap the whole ring.
- You can also use the button to speed-dial a favorite contact.
I also learned that the extra large ring was extra big on me. Think of it as one of those corny class rings that you might have gotten hustled into buying as a high school senior. I don’t hate the way it looks. Then again, as you may see in the photos below, my wedding ring is a plain brushed metal gray thing which — coincidentally — I bought from Amazon for less than 20 bucks.
Anyway, it does have some heft to it. You can feel it. And if you really want to have always-available access to Alexa, it might be the most convenient way until Amazon manages to make a phone again or convince Apple or Google to join its voice assistant interoperability club. I bet if they did, Amazon would be happy to create commemorative membership rings.
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By Dieter Bohn