Amazon’s smart thermostat is a weird little thing. It works, and it can save you money on your electric bill, but its real USP is the way it makes Alexa part of your home heating equation. Unfortunately for Amazon, people don’t seem to be super excited about being forced to use Alexa just because the device they bought from them has some new features.
A few years ago, Amazon introduced Alexa to the world with the Echo, a wired speaker that put Alexa in your living room. You can ask it questions, get news updates, tell it to order more dish soap from Amazon, and control the temperature of your house.
The thermostat has been around for years, but Amazon’s foray into home automation is new. It works just like any other smart thermostat: you program in what temperatures you want when you’re at home or away (based on your phone’s location settings) and how much heat or AC you’d like while you’re sleeping.
It programs itself using its built-in sensors and machine learning algorithms to figure out how long it takes to make your house feel toasty. If you’re out, it’ll crank the heat up to 70 degrees before you wake up if need be. The same goes for cooling, too: during the day, it’ll start pumping cold air into your house about thirty minutes earlier than usual if it detects that you’re headed home.
All of this is neat stuff! But at $250, it’s twice as much as most smart thermostats on the market not named “Nest” or “Ecobee.” You can get one without Alexa built-in for $169, but then you miss out on the voice control features, an automatic learning algorithm that makes this thing work.
But even though I’ve been following Amazon’s shenanigans in the smart home sphere for years, I never really wanted an Alexa-enabled thermostat — or any home assistant — in the first place. Alexas and Google Homes aren’t magical independent beings: they need a power outlet and a WiFi connection to do their jobs. My apartment has only three plug sockets and no Ethernet ports, so I’d have to get up on a chair whenever I wanted to turn it off (or ask the cat sitter).
Even when it figures out what I’m asking for, the accuracy isn’t much better than every other smart assistant on the market today.
It turns out that nearly everyone in our New York office had similar experiences: we liked the thermostat, but we didn’t like it enough to buy one for ourselves. The Echo 2nd Generation is just better than other smart thermostats when it comes to making Alexa a part of your daily life, and that’s something I care about.