The Amazon Tap has arrived, and now that I’ve had a day to use it, here are ten things you should know about the new portable Alexa-enabled speaker from Amazon.
Amazon Tap and Echo Dot work great together
The Amazon Tap works very well with the Echo Dot. The Tap is an Amazon Echo without the always listening capabilities, while the Echo Dot is an Amazon Echo without a good sounding speaker. Combining the Amazon Tap with the Echo Dot gives you everything the Amazon Echo has to offer, yet with the added convenience of portability if you need it. It is the best of both worlds. With the Tap and Dot paired over Bluetooth, you can speak to the Dot as if it were a standard Echo and get great sounding audio through the Tap that is almost as good as the Echo speaker. The advantage is, unlike the Amazon Echo, you can easily take the Tap around the house. While playing music from the Echo Dot through the Tap, you can still use Alexa on the Tap just fine. If you ever find yourself talking to the Echo Dot while the Tap is too far away to hear, you can simply say “Alexa, disconnect Bluetooth” to switch back to the Echo Dot’s internal speaker. Then, let’s say you’re listening to something through the Echo Dot’s internal speaker and you walk away, you can pick up the Tap and tell Alexa on it to connect to Bluetooth, at which point it will connect to and begin playing back the audio coming from the Echo Dot. There are dozens of more scenarios where a combined Amazon Tap and Echo Dot give you far more flexibility than you get with the Amazon Echo alone. The only downside I’ve found to the combo is the next item on this list.
Media buttons cannot control Amazon Echo or Echo Dot
The Amazon Tap can be paired with the
Amazon Echo and Echo Dot to be used as an external speaker for those devices, however, while being used this way, the physical Play/Pause/Forward/Reverse buttons on the Tap cannot control the audio being played by the Echo or Echo Dot. So if you ask your Echo or Echo Dot to play music through the Tap and walk away with the Tap, you can only control the music through the Echo device. Alexa on the Tap will tell you it cannot control media playback on the connected device when you press the Tap’s media buttons. This is not the case for all audio sources you connect to the Tap. While connected to a phone via Bluetooth, pressing the media buttons on the Tap will Play/Pause/Forward/Reverse the audio on the phone. This limitation seems to be caused by the Echo devices.
No Alexa while using an audio cable
The Amazon Tap has a 3.5mm audio in jack on the back that lets you use it as a wired speaker. You cannot use Alexa at all while a cable is plugged into the 3.5mm jack. If you press the mic button on the Tap while an audio cable is connected, Alexa just says “To talk to me, please unplug the audio cable.” So, while the Amazon Tap is connected through a wired cable to something like a phone, it is nothing more than a featureless speaker.
You check the battery life through the Alexa app or by asking Alexa
There is no visible battery life indicator on the Amazon Tap. To know how much battery life is left, you can look in the Alexa app under settings, or simply ask Alexa and she’ll verbally tell you. The app tells you the exact percentage, while Alexa usually tells you a rounded figure.
You don’t have to hold the mic button
The Amazon Tap does not have an always listening mic, like the Amazon Echo or Echo Dot, but you don’t have to hold its microphone button the entire time you speak to Alexa, like you have to with the Fire TV. You can just press and release the button and the Tap will continue listening until you stop speaking. You also don’t need to hold the mic directly in front of your mouth. The Tap can hear you just fine if you press the button while it’s sitting on a table a couple feet away.
Does not work with the Voice Remote
The Amazon Tap is not directly compatible with the Voice Remote for Amazon Echo. There is no option in the Alexa app to pair the voice remote with the Tap like there is for the Amazon Echo or Echo Dot. There is, however, a workaround if you also own an Amazon Echo or Echo Dot. If you pair the Amazon Tap with an Echo or Echo Dot and use the Tap as a Bluetooth speaker for either device, you can use the Voice remote to control the Echo or Echo Dot, whose audio is coming out of the Tap, which is essentially the equivilant of controlling the Tap with the remote.
Cannot be used to make or receive phone calls
Many Bluetooth speakers have a built in mic so that they can be used as a speakerphone when paired with a phone. The Amazon Tap is not one of those devices. If you have your phone paired with the Tap, and you make or receive a call, the audio will come out of your phone’s speakers.
Can charge through a computer’s USB port
Both the Amazon Tap and the included charging dock use a standard micro USB cable and port. You can plug this cable into your computer and charge the Tap using your computer. The power adapter that comes with the Tap is labeled as a 9 watt adapter. Some computers only put out 5 watts through their USB port, so it may not work with all computers, but many will allow more than 5 watts, which the Tap can use to charge. This practice is likely not recommended by Amazon, but it did work fine for me.
Exterior is fabric, not metal
The exterior of the Amazon Tap is made of a nylon mesh, like the fabric you find on a speaker grill. It is not a metal grate like it may appear in photos. It feels nice, but may be difficult to clean if dropped in sand or dirt.
Can do everything the Amazon Echo can do
Apart from listening and responding to a wake word like “Alexa,” the Amazon Tap can do everything the Amazon Echo can do. This is important because some Alexa-enabled devices, like the Fire TV, cannot do everything that the Echo can do. For example, Alexa on the Fire TV cannot use Spotify or control non-cloud based smart home devices like the Belkin Wemo line. The Amazon Tap does not have these limitations. It can control all the smart home devices that the Echo can control, as well as use all the same services.