Up to this point, I have been adamant about using Siri as the only virtual assistant in my home. Feelings on this began to change as Siri failed my wife and I time and time again. Whether it be our iPhones not hearing us say “Hey Siri” several times in a row, or seeing them change the correct transcription of what we actually said into what it thought we said, these failures have really gotten on our nerves. For this reason and many others, I have bought several Echo Dots and am now using Alexa to control my smart home accessories.
Adding Alexa to my home is not a notion that I have taken lightly. Many people that I know have multiple assistants in their home, but like I said earlier, I have been very hesitant since I do not want to think about what one assistant can do and what another cannot.
One of the nice things about switching away from Siri instead of the other way around, is that most HomeKit-compatible devices also work with Amazon Alexa. This means that in many cases I do not need to buy new devices, but can simply add the applicable Alexa skill, sign in, and move on. That being said, the accessories that I will be highlighting here do not work with Siri and will only work with Alexa or a 3rd Generation Echo Dot.
Teckin Smart Plugs
One of the most exciting things about switching to Alexa is just how inexpensive smart devices can be. Until making the change to Alexa, I would buy a $30 iDevices Switch each time I wanted to make an outlet smart with HomeKit support. By switching to Alexa, I was able to buy a 4-pack of Teckin’s Smart Plugs for $40. Setup took just a couple of minutes and they have worked without a hitch each time.
Broadlink RM mini 3
There are so many products out there that work with Alexa, but are simply unsupported by HomeKit. One of these is the Broadlink RM Mini 3. At first glance you might think this is a Mac Pro, but as it turns out, it is a universal remote. While setup was not quite as easy as the smart plugs above, I can now use phrases like “Alexa, turn the volume up 10 on the TV”, “Alexa, mute TV”, and “Alexa, turn off the TV” and not need to spend time fumbling for the remote.
Fire TV Stick 4K
Being a long time Apple TV user, I was reluctant to give Amazon’s Fire TV Stick 4K a shot. This has mainly been due to AirPlay 2 support, but now that I have several Echo Dots that support multi-room audio, I do not have much of a need there. My favorite feature is hands-free Plex support which allows me to say something like, “Alexa, ask Plex to play Rick and Morty” via the remote or a linked Echo Dot, to have my TV queue up the current On Deck episode.
Blink XT Security Cameras
The Alexa lineup has grown. Instead of having speaker-only devices, Amazon has launched devices like Echo Show that also pack a built-in display. While I have yet to own one of these, the Fire TV Stick 4K that I mentioned above lets me pull up live footage from my Blink XT Security Cameras. Upon saying something like, “Alexa, show me the entrance drive camera”, the Fire TV Stick 4K shows the feed within just 5 seconds or less.
Dot Genie Echo Dot Wall Mount
Since, I currently have twelve 3rd Generation Echo Dots in my home (with two more on the way), I was on the lookout for an inexpensive way to mount them and keep my home looking its best. I opted to grab some Dot Genie Wall Mounts for my Dots, and I couldn’t be happier. These allow my Echo Dots to take up a minimal amount of space and keep the power cords completely hidden thanks to built in cable management underneath.
Do you have a favorite smart home device that works with Alexa? If so, feel free to share it with the community using the comments section below. Stay tuned for more updates as I dive into more Alexa-related topics in the future.