Amazon just gave its portable speaker a much needed update.
The company is adding hands-free functionality to the Echo Tap, finally bringing it up to speed with the other devices in the Echo Line.
Previously, you could only interact with Alexa by holding down the microphone button. Once hands-free is enabled, you can use Alexa just as you would with a full-sized Echo.
Amazon says the Tap’s battery should last about eight hours while in hands-free mode, which should be sufficient for most on-the-go situations (note that you’ll still need a Wi-Fi connection in order to use Alexa.) Set to roll out over the next couple weeks, the new feature can be enabled in the Alexa app.
Why we are only getting this now, nearly a year after the Echo Tap first launched, is the big question. As Mashable’s Raymond Wong pointed out in his review of the Tap last year, lack of hands-free capabilities greatly hindered the speaker, making the device feel “second-rate” compared to the other Echo devices.
But now that the speaker is up to par with the Echo and Echo Dot — at least in terms of Alexa — it might just be worth revisiting. The audio quality is still an issue, but if you’re more interested in using it to control your smart home than blast tunes, it’s a nice, cheaper alternative to the full-sized Echo.