Skip the Amazon Echo: The Amazon Tap Is Cheaper and Better

The Amazon Tap is $50 cheaper than the full-size Echo, and thanks to a recent update, you can use it in hands-free mode just like its more expensive counterpart. It’s even portable, so you can take it with you. So at this point, there’s very little reason to buy the full-size Echo, when the Tap is cheaper and more useful.

Why the Amazon Tap Is Better Than the Echo

Currently, Amazon’s Echo lineup includes three products:

  • Amazon Echo ($180): This was the first Echo product that can hear voice commands from anywhere in the room. It also includes some great speakers for playing music or reading audiobooks, if you don’t already have your own sound system set up.
  • Amazon Tap ($130): This device is a rechargeable Bluetooth speaker that you can take with you. It has a round docking station you can set it on at home to charge. Until recently, you had to push a button to use Alexa voice commands, but Amazon pushed an update that enabled hands-free commands, just like the other two Echos.
  • Amazon Echo Dot ($50): The Dot offers the same voice-activated commands that the Echo has, but without the fancy built-in speakers. You can listen to music or audiobooks through the very basic speaker, but it won’t sound very good. The Dot is designed to be hooked up to a larger, separate sound system.

When it was first released, it was hard to see how the Tap was useful. It made a decent Bluetooth speaker, but the lack of hands-free commands meant it was much easier to just control it from your phone. Since there are other, cheaper Bluetooth speakers on the market, the Tap went largely ignored.

Once Amazon released the update to allow hands-free commands, however, the game changed. Now, you can speak to the Tap from anywhere in the room to control it. It sounds just as good as the Echo, and you can take it with you, since it doesn’t have to be plugged into the wall at all times. A couple weeks ago, I unplugged my own Echo and replaced it with the Tap in the exact same place. So far, I haven’t noticed a difference besides the soft-glowing blue ring.

Better yet, when I took an out-of-town trip, I tossed the Tap and its docking cradle in my suitcase. When I arrived at the hotel, I plugged it in and connected it to Wi-Fi. Now I had the same convenient music player in my room. If I wanted to set an alarm for the morning or listen to an audiobook as I fall asleep, it was just a voice command away.

Now that the Tap has hands-free voice commands, it’s hard to justify the full-size Echo. It costs $50 more and does less. While you can connect to it with Bluetooth to play music, it’s not portable. It’s bulkier, so moving it from one place to another is tougher. And it has to be plugged into the wall at all times. If you haven’t bought an Echo yet, there’s almost no reason to buy the Echo over the Tap unless you really love that blue ring on the top.

How to Enable Hands-Free Mode on the Amazon Tap

If you have a Tap, here’s how to turn on hands-free mode. First, open the Alexa app on your phone and tap the menu button in the top right corner. Then tap Settings.

 

Next, find your Amazon Tap in the device list and tap it.

Under “Hands-free,” enable the toggle to turn allow Alexa commands without tapping the microphone button.

The next screen will explain how your Tap will work differently and ask you to confirm your choice. Click “Continue.”

Once you enable hands-free mode on your Tap, it will drain the battery more quickly when it’s not on the charging cradle. To save battery, you can tap the Power button to put the Tap to sleep, or hold the Play/Pause button for three seconds to mute the microphone so it’s not listening for voice commands.

But other than that, congratulations: You just turned your Tap into an Amazon Echo, with more features and for $50 less.

Eric Ravenscraft covers smarthome tech for How-To Geek. He's a problem solver who never learned to say no to a project. When he's not fixing things, he's cosplaying at cons, playing video games, and watching too many comic book movies. You can follow him on Twitter or Instagram.