Until recently, "Alexa, play 90's alternative radio on Pandora" was probably the most common phrase uttered in my home. And while that's now impossible for a couple of reasons (RIP Pandora), there's a good reason the Echo became the go-to music hub of my home.
With the Australian Launch of Echo in a few weeks time, here's what the plans are for Aussie listeners.
First: the device itself. Amazon says the Echo has been fine-tuned to deliver "crisp vocals with dynamic bass response". It has a 2.5-inch downfiring woofer, dedicated tweeter, Dolby processing, and 360 degree omni-directional audio. Your Echo can stream music directly Spotify, iHeartRadio, TuneIn and - of course - Amazon Music Unlimited, is Bluetooth enabled so you can stream music directly from your phone or tablet, and the dots can connect directly - with actual wires (a rarity, I know), to your own speakers.
you can also group a bunch of Echo devices to stream the same song to every room, if you wish. Through the Alexa App you can create groups with two or more Echo devices by naming the group - something like "downstairs" or "next door" (nah just kidding about that one don't worry). Once you've made your group, you can say "Alexa, play music downstairs."
"Alexa, turn it up", "Alexa, skip this song" and "Alexa, which song is this?" will be your best friend - as will Amazon Music Unlimited, which, thankfully, features a whole lot of functions I came to know and love with Pandora.
Amazon Music Unlimited is a catalogue of more than 45 million tracks, and if you want to ask "Alexa, play 90's alternative radio" she will. Alexa can play specific song, artist, playlist mood or genre - or if you say "Alexa, play music" she will find something personalised just for you.
You'll score a 90-day free trail with your new device, but after that it's gonna cost you. The Amazon Music app will work on iOS, Android, PC, Mac, and any web browser - oh, and you get unlimited skips, too.
"We've seen phenomenal feedback from customers who use Amazon Music Unlimited, and we’re thrilled to bring an entirely new world of music streaming possibilities to listeners in Australia and New Zealand," Sean McMullan, Head of International Expansion for Amazon Music says of the launch.
"We're opening doors for our customers to have access to an incredible catalogue of music, and to be able to listen to some of their favourite artists while using the power of voice in exciting new ways."
Amazon Music has created about 150 playlists and stations featuring popular and emerging artists from Australia (and New Zealand, because they are getting all of this too) for the launch. "Women Crush Wednesday" showcases female singers from Australia and New Zealand, "Australian Rock Royalty" features five decades of music from rock legends, while "Top 50 Australia" and "Top 40 New Zealand" have songs from local charts, updated weekly so you can easily discover what's new and hip and all that jazz.
Amazon Music Unlimited will be available through three monthly plan options; the Echo Plan, offering full access to Amazon Music Unlimited for $4.99 a month on a single Echo, Echo Dot or Echo Plus; the Individual Plan at $11.99 a month; or the Family Plan, coming soon, which will allow up to six members of a household to share a subscription for $17.99 a month.
Even though she hasn't officially launched on our shores, by now you'd be familiar with Amazon Echo - the nifty little smart home gadget that can play your favourite music, settle arguments over which actor was in that movie you're thinking of, set timers for your cooking, and basically ensure you never touch a light switch again - just by asking her.
While there are ways to get her in the country, what we've really been waiting for is Amazon to release the Echo range in Australia - officially. Well, folks - do I have some news for you. You can pre-order from today.