Here’s the big question that Amazon Tap raises for me: Is this thing worth buying?
Because Amazon Echo ($180), the sleeper hit Alexa-based device, isn’t truly mobile (it lacks a battery), you might be excited to hear you can take Alexa on the road with Tap.
But here are six reasons to not tap the 'buy' button and three reasons why you might want a Tap after all.
Top 6 reasons not to buy Tap
1. Alexa may not join your picnic
Tap, like other Echo products, depends upon a Wi-Fi network for Alexa to work. That’s fine if you’re using Tap at home or the office on a local Wi-Fi network. Or if you’re staying at a friend’s home, or even a hotel with Wi-Fi, though I haven’t tested this.
(By the way, Alexa won’t work with 5 GHz Wi-Fi networks. It supports 802.11b, 802.11g, or 802.11n and WEP, WPA, and WPA2 security.)
However, what if you want to take Tap to a picnic in the park? It will still work as a Bluetooth stereo speaker, playing tunes streamed from your smartphone. But unless there’s a strong Wi-Fi signal available, Alexa won’t be joining your picnic.
I tried connecting the device to my iPhone’s personal hotspot network multiple times without success. Update: A reader wrote me to say he easily connected Tap to his iPhone. So give it a try; you could have better luck than I had.
2. Your voice won’t awaken Alexa
Unfortunately, you don’t get the hands-free Alexa experience with Tap. The device is so-named because to summon Alexa, you tap a button on the tube-shaped speaker. You can’t say, “Alexa, what’s the weather forecast today?,” as you would with Echo or its new sibling, Echo Dot ($90). Instead, you tap Tap’s microphone button, then ask, “What’s the weather forecast today?”
If you keep Tap near you, that’s not a big deal. Still, I’ve gotten used to using my voice to ask my Echo questions about weather, traffic, and news. It’s incredibly handy in the kitchen, when I’m cooking or cleaning up. If I had Tap in the kitchen, it would be coated with flour and olive oil in no time.
3. It’s not a speakerphone
I’m also wondering why Amazon didn’t give Tap speakerphone capabilities. The device obviously has a microphone and a speaker, but its Bluetooth connectivity doesn’t include phone calls. That’s a missed opportunity, given that some competitive portable Bluetooth speakers, such as Jawbone’s Mini Jambox (also $130), can act as speakerphones.
4. It’s not waterproof
5. It can’t be paired with another Bluetooth speaker
Also unlike UE Boom 2 and some other Bluetooth speakers, you can’t pair Tap with another Bluetooth speaker for richer audio.
6. Battery life is OK but not as good as some competitors
UE Boom 2’s battery lasts about 15 hours vs. about 9 hours for Tap (according to their respective product specs).
Top 3 reasons to buy Tap
1. It sounds good
Tap’s audio quality sounds good to me. When cranked up, audio clarity didn’t get muddy, as can be the case with some portable Bluetooth speakers.
2. It’s not like any other portable Bluetooth speaker on the market
Tap’s built-in intelligence, despite its limitations, make Tap a one-of-a-kind product.
3. It’s the least expensive way to get Alexa with a rich stereo speaker
I’d recommend Tap if you’re in the market for a portable Bluetooth speaker, would like to experience Alexa at home or in your office and don’t want to spend the extra $50 for Echo, and you don’t care about any of its aforementioned shortcomings.