One of the things that makes Amazon’s Echo products kind of magical is the fact that you don’t ever need to touch them. Just say “Alexa” or “Computer” into thin air and ask a question, and Echo will answer you, play music, or perform hundreds of other actions upon request.
That’s a feature that’s been missing from the $130 Amazon Tap speaker. It also supports the Alexa voice service, but the Tap is a portable, battery-powered speaker that didn’t have an always-listening mode… until now.
Previously you had to press a button before talking. But a new software update gives you the option of going totally hands-free.
Of course, if you don’t like the idea of a speaker that’s always listening to you, it’s nice to have the option of using a model that only works when you press a button, and the Amazon Tap still has that. Hands-free mode can be turned on or off.
Amazon’s Echo and Echo Dot were always designed to stay plugged into a wall outlet, but the Amazon Tap has a battery, which is one of the reasons it wasn’t always-listening.
So it should come as no surprise that enabling the new feature will take a toll on battery life. But it’s not a very big toll: Amazon says you should get about 8 hours of battery life when using an Amazon Tap speaker with hands-free mode enabled, compared with 9 hours with the feature disabled.