The Amazon Tap is a portable smart speaker with Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa. Basically a battery-powered, Bluetooth version of the larger Echo or the smaller Echo Dot, the Tap can be spoken to in order to set alarms and timers, listen to the news, traffic, and weather, order items from Amazon, and link up with smart home devices like Philips Hue lights.
The Amazon Tap’s resemblance to the slightly taller, portlier Echo is uncanny. It only comes in one color (black) and its only distinctive marking is the silver Amazon logo that sits flush above the base of the unit.
But while the Echo was a husky cylinder at 9.25 inches tall and 3.27 inches wide, the Tap measures in at a mere 6.24 x 2.6 inches or 158.5 x 66mm (H x W) and weighs in at just over 1 pound.
The biggest difference from the Echo is that the Tap is almost entirely coated in a mesh fabric. Inside the unit are two, 1.5-inch drivers, dual passive radiators and a battery that’s capable of going nine hours on a charge.
There’s also the Tap button on the front (emblazoned with a microphone) that the full-size Echo lacks, a quintet of inset media controls along the top of the canister and power and Bluetooth sync buttons on the lower back side. Also new are the 3.5mm auxiliary audio jack and micro-USB port that’s used to charge the Tap.
The Tap is arguably well-designed. Controls on the top are welcome improvements on the Echo’s minimalist facade, and a dedicated button for Bluetooth means your friends and family can use the Tap without going through the rigmarole of downloading the Amazon Echo companion app.
Where the Tap excels above and beyond its predecessor, however, is in its audio performance. While I felt music coming from the Echo was always muddled and had dulled mids and highs, the Tap performed extraordinarily well given its size.
The music played on it sounds astoundingly clear, with better tonality and more accurate details than several other Bluetooth speakers available.
The Tap can draw on two sources for audio, either directly from your mobile device via Bluetooth or, if it’s connected to a Wi-Fi network, from streaming services like Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, TuneIn and, of course, Amazon Prime Music.
Connecting the device to the services you want to use is done through the still-rather-clunky Amazon Alexa companion app. But, the good news is that once you’re connected, you really don’t need to spend too much more time with it.
It’s all in the family…
Here’s a good place to point out that the Amazon Tap is one of three devices put out by the Washington-based online e-tailer that uses an artificial intelligence called Alexa, this sort of nebulous personal assistant similar in many regards to Siri on Apple devices and the phrase “OK Google” on Android.
Two years on and Amazon’s grand experiment in artificial intelligence is still going and showing no signs of slowing down. Alexa receives more updates than my Amazon Fire TV or the Kindle, and the team of developers have proven time after time that they really care about feedback.
The recent additions of information about local businesses alongside popular third-party apps, like Uber and Dominos, are a big step forward, and shows that other companies are taking notice of Alexa and want to integrate their services with it. It’s validation that this project has become bigger and more important to Amazon than anyone could have predicted.
On top of all that, smart home device manufacturers like Philips and Nest seem to be getting on board with Amazon’s Alexa more than any other platform.
Thanks to a major overhaul of the Amazon Tap firmware that gives it an always-listening mode, we’re happy to recommend the Tap as a decent Bluetooth speaker.
In essence, what makes the Tap so special is it’s a smart home controlling, wickedly smart artificial intelligence when it’s home and connected to your Wi-Fi and a proudly decent Bluetooth speaker when you’re on the go. Portability and versatility? Now we’re talking.