Amazon’s new Dash Wand is a $20 device that runs on two AA batteries, lets you scan barcodes of products around your house to order refills from Amazon, and also lets you shop with your voice thanks to integration with Amazon’s Alexa Voice service.
When Amazon announced the new Dash Wand last week, I noted that it’s basically the cheapest Alexa-powered device on the market, especially for Amazon Prime members, because the company will give members a $20 credit the first time you place an order with the Dash Wand.
But now that the devices have started shipping, we’re learning a bit more about what the new Dash Wand can and cannot do.
First of all, there’s no always-listening mode. In order to talk to the Dash Wand, you need to press a button.
Second, there are some Alexa services that simply don’t work with this device. You can’t use it to stream music, listen to news updates, audiobooks, or podcasts, or to set alarms or timers. Calling and messaging also don’t work.
But you can use Alexa to do a lot of things. Ask it to buy something from Amazon and it will. And you can also hear the daily deals or add items to your cart for later checkout.
In addition to shopping, you can control smart home hardware connected to your account, including light bulbs or thermostats. You can ask questions and get answers about traffic, weather, trivia, or just about anything else. And while you cannot set timers or alerts on the device, you can tap the button and talk to ask what’s on your calendar or add new items to your schedule.
Third-party Alexa skills are also supported, but AFTVNews notes that some may not be fully supported yet: for example the Jeapardy! game is unplayable because you can’t actually hear any clues.
Another odd quirk? If you ask Alexa “what can you do?” you’ll get a list of features including some that do not work on the Dash Wand. It’s likely that Amazon is simply answering that question using the same data that would be available for Echo, Tap, and Fire devices… but I suspect the company will update Alexa in the future so that it gives a more appropriate answer to Dash Wand users.
All told, it seems like the Dash Wand can help you do more than shop: you can use it as a smart home remote control, a handheld device for getting recipes, traffic updates, or trivia, or for interacting with third-party Alexa skills. But it’s not exactly an Echo replacement.
It’s clearly designed first and foremost for shopping. It’s not quite as simple to use as the company’s Dash Buttons, which are internet-connected buttons that let you order a single item with a click. But the Dash Wand is more versatile since it can let you buy anything, features Alexa support, and has removable AA batteries rather than a built-in battery that dies after about 2 years.