Amazon wants you to have Alexa pretty much everywhere in your home, but the design — and even the price — of the $50 Echo Dot can be impediments to Alexa's ubiquity.
The $25 Amazon Echo Flex sacrifices the audio quality of the Echo Dot, but in return, you get an Alexa-enabled speaker that plugs somewhat discreetly into an electrical outlet — no dangling cords — and lets you use your voice to control your smart home gadgets, check the weather, call your friends and play music.
However, when paired with one of its two accessories, the $15 Night-Light or the $15 Motion Sensor, the Echo Flex gains additional powers. Whether the Echo Flex belongs with our picks for best smart plugs or best smart speakers depends on how you choose to use it. Either way, its flexibility certainly earns it a spot among the best Alexa devices.
Amazon Echo Flex price and availability
The Amazon Echo Flex costs $24.99 is available for purchase on Amazon's website. Both of the Third Reality-made peripherals, the Night-Light and Motion Sensor, are sold separately and cost $14.99 each.
Amazon Echo Flex design
Not to be confused with the Amazon Smart Plug, the Amazon Echo Flex is a plug-in smart speaker, though it looks more like a plug-in carbon monoxide detector than an audio device. The 2.8 x 2.6 x 2.0-inch, 5.3-ounce plastic white shell plugs into a traditional wall outlet. Its prongs are situated at the top of the wall-facing panel, so when the Echo Flex is plugged in, it won't block any outlets found above it.
The front of the Echo Flex has some of the common Echo speaker features: a status light, two microphones, a button to wake Alexa and a microphone switch. Below the vertically stacked buttons are two tiny, oblong slots that house the plug's internal speakers. There's also a 3.5-millimeter line out on one of the sides, but unlike, say, the Echo Dot, there are no volume controls.
A USB Type-A port located on the bottom of the speaker gives the Echo Flex its name. It can be used for an obvious purpose, like charging your phone. But it also supports optional accessories, which are currently limited to the night light and motion sensor.
Amazon Echo Flex audio
Although it packs a .06-inch speaker, Amazon doesn't intend for the Echo Flex to replace any of the best Alexa speakers.
Tunes from the Echo Flex sound sad and hollow. Listening to Ed Sheeran's "Shape of You" didn't satisfy the song's infectious beat. It sounded like Sheeran was crooning through an intercom.
But as an intercom, the Echo Flex sounds just fine. When using an Alexa feature like Drop In or when calling someone, I could hear the person on the other line clearly enough to communicate a brief message or last-minute reminder.
Amazon Echo Flex smart features and privacy
In addition to Drop In and hands-free calling, the Echo Flex supports most of Alexa's smart assistant powers. You can ask it to turn on your smart lights, activate your smart lock, give you a weather report and add items to your to-do list. There are at least 100,000 skills available for Amazon's assistant, so we came up with a list of the best Alexa skills to help you decide which are worth your time.
And if you'd rather not let Alexa listen, you can turn off the Echo Flex's microphones using the button on the outward-facing panel.
But you'll get the most out of the device if you leave its microphones on. That way, based on your feedback, Alexa can field queries and learn how to improve as a virtual assistant. For control over your privacy, you can review or delete your query history and recordings within the Alexa app.
The Echo Flex's smart accessories can operate with or without the microphones. Using Alexa routines, you can set the motion sensor to send notifications to your smartphone when it detects movement and schedule the night light to glow at a specific time.
Amazon Echo Flex Motion Sensor
The Motion Sensor for Echo Flex ($14.99) plugs into the bottom of the Echo Flex via a USB Type-A port. When it detects motion, a small blue status light shines next to the opaque orb situated in the center of the brick's front-facing panel.
By creating an Alexa smart home routine, you can determine what happens when the accessory detects movement. I made it send a notification to my iPhone with the phrase "motion detected," as the Ring Video Doorbell does. But you could assign it to trigger actions like turning on your smart lights.
Amazon Echo Flex Night-Light
Like the motion sensor, the Night-Light for Echo Flex ($14.99) uses USB Type-C to attach to the Echo Flex and can be assigned routines. It defaults to Auto Mode, which automatically activates the light when the built-in light sensor detects dark surroundings.
You can control the night light with your voice by asking the Echo Flex to change the color or brightness. You can also adjust these settings within the Alexa app. The night light has 16 color options, including some fun ones like cyan and magenta.
The Amazon Echo Flex plug-in smart speaker belongs in a unique category of smart gadgets, offering a low-cost way to add Alexa to any space. It's especially well suited for spots where one shouldn't keep cords, like hallways.
The Echo Flex's true value lies in its compatible accessories. You'll be enticed to spend an additional $15 for at least one peripheral. I just wish there were more than two to choose from.
Because of its solid audio quality, I'd stick with an Echo Dot if you're shopping for a budget, general-purpose smart speaker. But if you're looking for unobtrusive access to Alexa, plug the Echo Flex into your wall.