(Pocket-lint) - We didn't have high expectations for Amazon's Echo Wall Clock when it launched. It's a fairly straightforward Alexa-connected accessory, and we were doubtful of its usefulness as well as underwhelmed with press shots of it. But, for £30/$30, it's a true impulse buy - one we couldn't ignore.
So, for the better half of a year, we've had the Echo Wall Clock hanging, at first, in our kitchen, then on our living room wall, where it is now. We'll be honest: we had a slow go of it at first, forgetting to use it and not really understanding the point. Then, slowly, over time, it worked its way into our daily lives. Now, we use the thing constantly - so much so that we don't even consciously notice ourselves interacting with it.
Set a timer. Check the time. Maybe set a second timer. Check the time again. It's a clock-and-timer combo, plain and simple. It's quite utilitarian, doing exactly what it's supposed to do literally every time without fail. But because it can be controlled by voice with Alexa, it's also effortless.
What is Echo Wall Clock?
The Echo Wall Clock is an Alexa Gadget, or a type of connected accessory that works with Alexa, which Amazon makes and sells. It's a 10-inch, circular, plastic clock that hangs on a wall and runs on four AA batteries. The main purpose of the device is to visually show you not only the time - the traditional way with two hands - but also any timers you set, with 60 LED hash marks lining the inside edge of the clock face.
Now, before we purchased this clock, we noticed several Amazon reviewers bemoaning the design: they clearly disliked how 'cheap' it looks, and that it's only available in black and white. We sort of agreed, initially. It's very lightweight and minimal in terms of design. We actually bought one for our parents first, and we'll admit, it totally clashes with their country, rustic-themed kitchen. It stands out - and not in a good way.
But our house is a different story. We have stark white walls everywhere, light-wood accents throughout, and a mix of industrial and Scandinavian furniture. In other words, in our place, the Echo Wall Clock blends right in. In fact, dare we say, it actually looks kind of cool.
How to set up Echo Wall Clock
This is the easiest smart home gadget to set up and use. Amazon had connection issues with the Echo Wall Clock at launch and even had to stop selling the device until it came out with a software fix. But we bought our clock after all that was resolved, so we've never had a problem.
Anyway, to set it up, you'll have to insert four AA batteries into the back, which Amazon includes in the box. Those batteries last about six months, impressively. We're currently on a second set that we separately purchased. You won't have to buy anything else to use the clock; even a mounting screw and plastic anchor come with it so that you can quickly mount it to a wall in your home and get started using it right away.
You could stick it on a shelf, too. We placed it near our stove for about a week, but then we accidentally splashed bacon grease all over it, which we still haven't been able to totally scrub away. So, kindly ignore those grease dots all over the clock face in our photos, please.
Once you figure out where you want it, simply say, "Alexa, set up my Echo Wall Clock." Our Echo Show then directed us to long-press a green-turquoise button on the back of the clock to finish the setup process. A circular light in the middle of the clock face will briefly glow orange when the clock is connected. Echo Wall Clock then auto-sets to the right time and can start setting timers, alarms, and reminders.
Keep in mind the Echo Wall Clock only works with Amazon's own Echo devices. That includes the Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Show (or the 5), Echo Plus, Echo Spot, or Echo Input. So, if you own a third-party Alexa-enabled device, such as the Facebook Portal, it won't be able to control the clock. The clock itself isn't directly connected either: you need an associated Echo device.
How does Echo Wall Clock work?
The Echo Wall Clock doesn't have any speakers. It also doesn't have any cameras or microphones. Because it's so pared-down and uncomplicated, it's probably the 'dumbest' smart home gadget we own. To hear you and understand you, it requires an Echo device, to essentially use as its mouth and ears. It doesn't even connect to Amazon's cloud network, as it only connects to your local Echo device.
We have a smorgasbord of Alexa-powered (and Google Assistant-powered!) speakers and smart displays in our home, but we primarily use the first-generation Echo Show in our kitchen or the Fire TV Cube in our living room to set timers on the Echo Wall Clock.
To set a timer, say something like: "Alexa, set a one-minute timer." You can tell when a timer is set, and for how long, by looking at how many of the LED hash marks are glowing blue. Each mark signifies either one hour, one minute, or one second, depending on the length of your timer.
As time ticks away, the hashes go dark, one by one. When a timer ends, the entire LED ring pulses, and a tone emanates from your Echo device. If you set two timers, you'll see the shorter timer tick down while the longer one is shown as a single hash ticking down.
When we started using the clock, we had it in our kitchen in order to set timers for food that's in the oven or on the stove. But we'll wander into the living room while waiting for something to cook. When we do that, we can't see the clock nor the timers. We also like to set timers from the couch, like to be reminded to bring our husky inside. It's super handy on hot summer days when he can't be outside long.
So, we ultimately moved the Echo Wall Clock to a wall where we could see it from both the kitchen and the couch. And with that simple change, we were able to ramp up our use of the clock. We're always setting timers and reminders and alarms and checking the time. It's effortless.
In simple terms the Echo Wall Clock is a rudimentary clock/timer. It has two hands, tells you the time, and it sets timers. That's your lot.
You'll need a separate official Echo device to get the full interaction. So if you were expecting a full-on Echo device with cameras, speakers, microphones, and Alexa built in, then this might be a disappointment.
But you need to remember how inexpensive this clock is to buy. Sure, we'd love it if the Echo Wall Clock worked as a standalone Echo-style device, but then we know that would drive up the price. And the idea of paying tonnes more for a clock with built-in Alexa seems ridiculous.
Take it for what it is - an affordable wall clock with some additional smarts - and the Echo Wall Clock is a no-brainer purchase, which, over time, we've come to find really useful.