One person’s cool tech tool is another person’s clutter

Watching Olympic figure skating on the NBC Olympics website, I saw a huge number of ads for Amazon’s Echo Dot at a discounted price. But the ads didn’t convince me that I wanted to buy one — and if someone gave me one as a gift, I’d give it away. For me it would be clutter.

I know that devices like the Dot can be very useful to those with disabilities, but I’m fortunate enough to not have any such disabilities at the moment. I also know people with small children who say devices like the Dot provide their kids with endless entertainment, but I don’t have children.

And much of the other functionality that comes from the Dot (and its connectivity to other “smart home” devices) is simply not an issue to me as it is to many other people:

  • I have a small home, so I don’t need the Dot to control smart lightbulbs — I can get up and turn on any light in the house with just a few steps. Similarly, I can easily get up and adjust my thermostats, so I don’t need to use the Dot to adjust a smart thermostat like the Nest.
  • I order very few things from Amazon and I don’t even have Amazon Prime, so being able to say, “Alexa, re-order paper towels” isn’t a benefit to me as it would be to other people.
  • I don’t play music when I’m home, and I don’t subscribe to any streaming music services, so voice control of my music — a big deal to some other people — is irrelevant to me. Similarly, I don’t listen to audiobooks, so I wouldn’t use an Echo for them. And I read the news rather than listen to the news, so the Echo wouldn’t be useful to me for that purpose, either.
  • All Alexa accounts come with a shopping list, so you can tell the Echo to add something to your shopping list and then use the Alexa app on your smart phone to see the list when you’re in the store. I can see how this could really be helpful for some people, including couples — one person could add to the list that the other person would be using to shop later in the day. But for me, the Notes app on my iPhone is really all I need.
  • I’m perfectly happy using my smart phone as my alarm clock and my timer. I don’t need another device to provide those functions for me.

I’m not at all trying to disparage anyone who has an Echo (or a Google Home device or an Apple HomePod). If these make your life easier or bring you joy, that’s great! And I very much appreciate many new tech tools. I’m just suggesting that we all consider our own circumstances before we decide to buy the latest tech gadget, whatever that might be.

6 Comments for “One person’s cool tech tool is another person’s clutter”

  1. posted by Darrell on

    I’m not totally sold on smart home utility but I do believe a Wi-Fi controllable thermostat is a necessity for all homeowners. They potentially can save a lot of energy and there are less expensive models then the Nest.

    Otherwise you make a lot of good points that smart speakers can become clutter. In my opinion, not simply because they have limited usage, but our smartphones should be able to handle all of the tasks as a smart speaker – less the home stereo amplification. They do, just not as well as an always on, always listening 8-microphone speaker can.

  2. posted by Phyllis on

    Hi, I agree with you 100%. Yesterday on the news, I heard how gift card balances are drained even before the recipient can open it. Why? Because they are registered on line. Why is it so important for people to put everything on line? It just makes it easier to get taken away. I like my smart phone and have come to depend on it for phone calls, calendar, text messages and such. Love my laptop too. But I don’t listen to music when I’m home and usually watching PBS on my TV – don’t have cable. Gave it up in 2008 and don’t miss it. I do subscribe to Acorn TV for $5.00/month but I love the British shows. But you do make a good point that all those ‘smart’ devices are certainly very helpful to allow people with some disabilities to live more independently – and hurray for that.

  3. posted by Jim on

    I totally agree with you on most everything, but i now realize how much of an old fogey I sound like when I say these things out loud.

  4. posted by TV James on

    I have a pretty small house (900 sq ft) and I use my Amazon Echo for nearly all of those things… playing music, setting timers, controlling the thermostat, controlling a few wemo light switches and turning on/off the TV, pausing the DVD player, etc. Partially because it’s fun, partially because it’s handy. I am hoping that it might also motivate my non-verbal child to try speaking because the device speaks back. The only thing it doesn’t control is lightbulbs because they just seem way overpriced. If I had waited about six months when buying the robotic floor vacuum, it would have controlled that as well.

    But yeah, if you don’t do any of those things, then you’re not a good candidate for this device. (Which is being advertised on this page right below this comment box along with the Nest thermostat and two versions of your book.)

  5. posted by SkiptheBS on

    No, you aren’t a fogey. Countless electronic burglars have used insecure home wi-fi appliances to hack computers and gain access to financial information. These devices have NO anti-malware and no other security software. Google the issue. Also check an article by a man who decided to investigate how much personal information these appliances collect.

  6. posted by Sarah on

    Jeri, I agree with everything you’ve said – except I don’t even HAVE a smartphone, b/c I have no need for one. I have a cell phone that makes calls and sends texts (I hate texting, but sometimes it’s useful).

    I can see the point of these “conveniences” if you’re elderly, disabled, etc. – but for as long as I can get up to flip a light switch myself, adjust the thermostat, and so forth, that’s what I’m going to do!

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