Smart Home

Let’s Face It: Amazon Echo’s Alexa Is Stupid

Dan Price 29-12-2016

Amazon wants Alexa, its smart personal assistant, to become an integral part of your day-to-day living.


She can play music, set alarms, search Google, update you on the latest news, give you a weather forecast, control your smart home, and even order things from Amazon using nothing more than voice commands.

Sounds great. But is she really that “smart” 20 Echo Skills That Show Alexa's Not Always So Smart Despite all the things that you can do with Alexa out of the box, its extensibility via Skills is far more intriguing. Here are 20 Echo Skills that may surprise you! Read More ? There’s no doubt voice-controlled assistants are the future, but is Alexa the solution?

Perhaps not. In this article, I’m going to argue Alexa is actually rather stupid.

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You’re Talking to a Speaker

If you think talking to plants is daft, you’re in for a shock. There’s no getting around this, you’re having a conversation with an inanimate object. At least plants are alive.


Alexa is hardly the only culprit Amazon Echo vs. Google Home vs. Apple HomePod In this article, you'll learn the differences between the Amazon Echo and Google Home. We'll also take a look at what features an Apple speaker may include. Read More . Siri and Google Now use a similar approach and an increasing number of smart home gadgets rely on voice control.

Children being born into today’s hi-tech world might be more comfortable with the notion of talking to tech by the time they reach adulthood. However, for adults who’ve grown up in the pre-internet era, it feels ridiculous.

Yelling at your coffee table to find out information is both disconcerting and entirely unnatural. Want to know what the weather is like? Look out the window. Want to listen to music? Turn on the radio.

Yes, technology moves on. But until Amazon finds a way to make Alexa a lot more personal, it’s unlikely to catch on with the public at large.


Sell, Sell, Sell

Amazon tells us Alexa is all about making our lives easier. The information on Amazon’s website makes lots of reference to speed, ease-of-use, and integration.

It feels like Amazon is hiding something from us. Amazon doesn’t produce weather reports, own a search engine, or develop productivity apps. Amazon is a shop, it wants to sell us things.

It might be cynical, but it’s hard to escape the nagging feeling that Alexa is an elaborate way to make us buy more stuff. After all, the company is already inventive in this area. Drone deliveries Will Amazon Drones Really Be Arriving at a Backyard Near You? Amazon thinks they've cracked the delivery code. By using unmanned, automated drones, they'll be able to get packages into the hands of buyers in 30 minutes or less. Read More , Prime subscriptions, groceries-on-demand Is Amazon Prime Pantry Worth It? 5 Things You Need to Know Prime Pantry lets you shop for pantry items and groceries right on Amazon. But is it a good deal? Will it save you money? Read More , and even RFID-based supermarkets are all now a “thing”. All are meant to increase the volume of things you consume, by making it more convenient for you to consume.

Currently, Alexa’s shopping functionality is limited to Prime members 10 Awesome Amazon Prime Benefits You've Probably Overlooked Free two-day shipping is just the beginning. Here are some notable Amazon Prime subscription benefits you may not know about. Read More who want to reorder products they’ve bought before. But if Alexa proves to be a hit, you can bet she’ll quickly become the front end for the Amazon store, ready to debit your credit card every time you open your mouth.


Don’t Call Your Daughter Alexa

Seriously, don’t. There’s nothing wrong with the name “Alexa” — it’s very pretty — but the way the technology’s voice recognition works Alexa, How Does Siri Work? Voice Control Explained The world is moving towards voice commands for everything, but how exactly does voice control work? Why is it so glitchy and restricted? Here's what you need to know as a layman user. Read More will make your life a nightmare.

The Amazon Echo speaker, home of Alexa, is “always listening”. As soon as it hears the word “Alexa” it springs to life, ready to help. It needs to work in this way, a smart assistant wouldn’t be very useful if you had to turn it on every time you needed help. At that point, it’d just be a watered-down version of a smartphone.

But it could create problems.

You can see it now: “Alexa, darling, would you mind picking up some washing detergent from the store later?” Amazon will have it on your doorstep before your daughter has even left the house.


BBC journalist Dave Lee recently wrote a piece in which he criticized Google Now for being too impersonal. “When I use Google Home, I’m forced to address a corporation”, he argued. It’s a fair point, but unless you’ve got sadistic naming tendencies it’s not going to wreak the same amount of havoc.

Get Her a Hearing Aid

Alexa needs her ears cleaned. If you’ve spent any time interacting with her, you’ll be all too aware of this mind-numbing phrase: “Sorry, I didn’t understand the question I heard.” There are only so many times you can hear the same sorry-not-sorry riposte before you give up and sling Alexa through the nearest window.

If you want quick information, it’s frustrating and time-consuming. It’s faster to check your phone instead. Even if she thinks she understood the question, she often didn’t.

“Alexa, what’s the right way to Walmart?”

“The right way to spell Walmart is W-A-L-M-A-R-T.”

Sound familiar? Stick with Google Maps.

Errors Have Consequences

Her shoddy hearing might give you a laugh, but it if starts to have serious consequences on your personal or professional life, it won’t be so funny.

For example, Amazon heavily promotes Alexa’s integration with apps 7 Creative Uses for Amazon Echo and Alexa You’ve seen the ads starring Alec Baldwin, but you're still not sure what Amazon Echo does or whether you need one in your home. We’re about to find out. Read More like Uber and Just Eat. But what happens when the delivery driver brings “Chicken and Cashew Nuts” to your door instead of “Chicken Chow Mein”? Who’s out of pocket? You can be sure the restaurant won’t care, and good luck with trying to get a refund from Amazon directly.

And what about adding events to your calendar? It’s hard to know how sympathetic your boss will be if you’re 12 hours late for a meeting because Alexa logged it at 8 PM rather than 8 AM.

They might be isolated incidents, but they do happen. And until Alexa improves significantly, they will continue to happen.

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Give Alexa a Pink Slip

Take responsibility for your own life. Are you really that lazy that you’re prepared to let an all-seeing, all-knowing corporation into your front room just to save you a few seconds?

It would be different if Alexa could reliably do all your tax returns or mow the lawn. They’re jobs that take considerable time and effort. But asking her to check the sports scores for me? No thanks.

Give Alexa a pink slip, she won’t hold it against you, I promise.

Do you use Alexa? Do you find her useful or useless? You can leave your experiences and opinions in the comments below.

Image Credit: Yeexin Richelle via

Related topics: Amazon Echo, Voice Commands.

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  1. Sandra
    August 23, 2019 at 8:16 pm

    Ive had 2 echo dots sent em both back Alexa is deaf & stupid, I only really want it for music, she says 1 thing then says opposite, she says she can’t do something she’s already done, says go to my app every time I ask anything, asked for Burnley weather she give me Berlin, I’ve set up the app skills but she says I’ve not, so I’m waiting for my google home if that’s as bad I’ll send that back & get my radio out or play deezer on my iPad what a waste of money they shouldn’t sell stuff that’s not right

  2. Peggy B
    February 2, 2019 at 10:25 pm

    Alexa is useless...does not respond half the time, had to come into a dark house, she would not turn on lights...a waste of money. Gift from my son, I’m sorry he wasted his money on this trash. After buying, had to spend even more money to make it work. (Hub, etc.).

  3. Peggy B
    February 2, 2019 at 10:20 pm

    Alexa is useless. Does not respond half the time, have come into a dark house and she won’t turn on lights....useless...waste of money. Was a gift from my son and I’m sorry he threw money away on this trash!

  4. Ma
    May 25, 2018 at 10:06 pm

    Alexa, tell me an erotic story for one hour

  5. Laura
    May 2, 2018 at 7:00 pm

    These devices such as "Echo Dot" are designed to allow the NSA to spy on you. Companies like Amazon don't want you to know that. Millions and millions of American Sheeple don't seem to realize that all of this technology is being used by the government to spy on all of us.

    Technology will one day be the downfall of the human race. I guarantee it.

    • I Spy
      May 12, 2018 at 12:23 pm

      You dolt.

  6. embo
    April 21, 2018 at 8:01 pm

    nothing more than a spendy timer. totally useless.

  7. James Cochrane
    February 22, 2018 at 4:44 pm

    Why doesn't Alexa know basic weather information. Ask her for the wind speed or direction and she replies "don't know that one". Ask for the humidity and you get the temperature. Ask for barometric pressure and she doesn't know.
    I'm amazed at the level of detail on trivial matters, but I cannot ask her for the Julian day. She doesn't "know that one"!
    It's music feature is useful, and it's OK for children or trivia. But how about expanding its usefulness.

  8. Joe
    November 16, 2017 at 1:48 am

    My roommate uses this twit alexa. Before i even new what alexa was, I kmew it catered to lazy slobs. Alexa makes me sick and tired of the way the world is so tech savvy. I personally cant wait for the techworld to crash. Wont have to deal with these fools anymore.

    • Jak
      November 21, 2017 at 5:35 pm

      Geez. I hate the tech too but no need to hate on the people who do like it. So sound like a pretentious asshole.

      • thomas
        December 26, 2017 at 2:28 pm

        Sometimes a cigar is a cigar and lazy people are lazy people and should be called out.

    • Miguel
      January 10, 2018 at 1:11 am

      FailTroll laments technology...on a tech site.

  9. Kojack
    August 7, 2017 at 11:49 pm

    Useless electronics for lazy people. I have no need for this crap.

  10. Richard Hesel
    January 31, 2017 at 10:06 pm

    I've set up an Echo Dot in my Tesla Model S, largely for playing music. It's connected to my car's AT&T Mobley wifi hotspot and the car's sound system via bluetooth.

    Alexa does an extremely poor job of playing classical music. For example, when I request playing Beethoven's 3rd Symphony (a disgrace if Amazon can't find that incredibly important piece in the history of music) it plays a round of movements from all of Beethoven's symphonies, but almost nothing from the 3rd. Same thing with Mozart's Requiem, Mendelssohn, you name the composer. So when it comes to classical music, I've concluded that Alexa (and Amazon) appear to be know-nothing fools. I have no such problems with jazz, folk, or rock selections.

    So what is Amazon's problem with classical music? Are they like most of the public -- the victim of a very poor music education which makes them ignorant of an incredible musical heritage?

  11. Brian
    January 20, 2017 at 1:57 am

    Returning my echo. As an able bodied young man, I find it does not add to my life the value of its purchase price. Everything it does I can already do with current technology. It's just as easy to check news, stocks, sports, directions, calculations, etc on my phone or tablet. I'll chalk it up into the useless column.

  12. Simon Jones
    January 15, 2017 at 4:11 am

    I'm a patient man but simple things like "Alexa play what I'm listening to on my phone" confuse it! Or " Alexa play Ava Maria byAva Maria"..

  13. Ted
    January 5, 2017 at 11:23 pm

    Wow. I had to skim through this article. Many in this comments section have already expressed what I feel about the article, but I'll just say that it sounds very whiny. Whiny, whiny, whiny. Many of his complaints could be addressed by the way the phrase is worded. For example, why not ask Alexa, "What are the directions to Walmart?" I think his phrase is "stupid," to quote the article title. He, this Millennial, whines about talking to an inanimate object. So what? What's your point? Part of technology is learning how to use it. Sounds like he didn't learn how to use it.

    I remember when was declared "stupid" and the "experts" like the article author. proclaimed that "would never work." I'm sure Bezos is laughing at

    I've never visited MUO before, but if this is representative of what to find here, I will not be visiting again.

    • Lady A/
      May 24, 2017 at 10:20 am

      Bravo Ted.
      You wore exactly what I was thinking about this author and article!!

    • Lady A/
      May 24, 2017 at 10:23 am

      Bravo Ted!
      You wrote exactly what I was thinking about both, this author, and his article

    • EricDraven
      October 25, 2018 at 3:20 pm

      Exactly my thoughts too, Ted. My first, and last time I'll be visiting this site!

      I have Alexa set up to control my lights. I am fully able to turn a light on or off myself, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't use it! It has far better implications in that respect to someone who is unable to do things we take for granted, like the ability to turn on a switch. I really don't see how this can be classed as someone being lazy.. It's a ridiculous, and quite frankly, a pointless article. The future is happening, so deal with it Dan Price! I personally think the AI 'boom' we're in now is accelerating so fast that you should either, get on board with it, or seriously, stop complaining about it. No-one is forcing you to use Alexa, or any other piece of AI.

      • Clate
        December 6, 2018 at 7:33 pm

        No, you are lazy. By the same logic, would you drive your car to the mail-box simply because you could? There's no end to this sort of idiocy.

  14. Chuck
    January 4, 2017 at 6:29 am

    I agree - Echo Dot is going to join Edsels, and 8-track tapes in the technology bone yard. It tells time nicely - oh, and the weather fairly good. Flash briefing - lots of mis-info, and slanted media coverage. I've looked through all the available skills and am dizzy wondering why anyone thinks this is worth $50. Most encouraging is that AI isn't anything to worry about for a loooong time to come.

    • Miguel
      January 10, 2018 at 1:15 am

      I'm really glad I only stumbled upon this article a year after it was written. Nothing like looking at Amazon's Dot, etc. holiday sales for 2017 vs the comments of the "tech gurus" here for a good laugh :D

  15. Thomas Kainz
    January 1, 2017 at 5:38 am

    I really don't find negative based articles to be of any service whatsoever as long as they're factually based. This article was not. I'm not sure what the motive is... could it be to get the click through hits to drive up the ad revenue or just that you have something personal against Alexa or Amazon. Maybe you just like being negative? I guess it really doesn't matter. The end result is the same. Personally, I'm growing very weary of unjustified, overblown negativity.

    Consumer based AI is still in it's infancy and I personally can't wait until we have the likes of "Samantha" (from 'Her') on the other end of the digital hockey puck we now call Alexa but that period is still a long way off. Until that point, we have to train ourselves as much as we have to train Alexa. We have to know what "her" limitations are and how questions must be properly phrased to stand a close chance of getting the results we expect. So far, I haven't had any major issues with Alexa. I have not had to shout, with a few exceptions she's come up with the right answers to my questions, she's saved me time and effort and I'm having fun experimenting and finding out what all of her capabilities are.

    • Chad
      January 26, 2017 at 4:57 am


      Pointless tech. A necessary step to the future, but that doesn't mean it isn't currently pointless.

    • Lady A/
      May 24, 2017 at 10:31 am

      I agree. This person sounds like your typical whiney Millennial.

      • David
        September 28, 2017 at 6:24 am

        And you sound like a bitter Gen X'er, or maybe an out of touch baby boomer?

        • thomas
          December 26, 2017 at 2:31 pm

          And your sound like a useless millennial who wears a beard yet can't change a tire.

        • Clate
          December 6, 2018 at 7:35 pm

          Yeah, must be nice to be part of a generation that has had it's butt kissed since day one, and did nothing to merit it.

    • Lady A/
      May 24, 2017 at 10:45 am

      Wow, this author is a whiny little thing !!!
      This article reads as one long whiny rant versus something that is intelligently written.
      If you don't like the response you get simply change how you ask the question. It's as easy as asking for "directions" to Walmart versus "how do I get" to Walmart.
      Although AI's are intelligent there is both a combination of a learning curve for the person using it, as well as the person needs to understand AI's only understand what the programmer programmed it to understand. Programmers will never be able to think of every single little thing that a person is going to say or ask! Alexia constantly learns and constantly grows and constantly updates. This is determined by what people are asking it. For example three months ago if I asked it what area code Denver is in it could not tell me however now it can.
      Alexia (Amazon) does not have a huge data base or Repository of information like Google does, but they are rapidly working on it and Alexia is constantly growing and learning.
      Do I get frustrated with it sometimes, sure we all do. But that doesn't mean I'm going to sit here and whine about it. I'm simply going to figure out part of what I said she did not understand in her programming and try again rewording it the second time. It appears this authors vocabulary and brain power is not large enough to be able to reword a simple sentence.

  16. Bob Mehl
    December 31, 2016 at 1:46 pm

    This is the last time I visit this blog.

    • andy
      January 1, 2017 at 1:03 am

      Agreed. This site used to be positive and really helpful.

      This is negative pissy click bait. Bye guys! Shortcut deleted!

  17. Alex
    December 31, 2016 at 7:16 am

    The case should also be made that you're stupid. This article was blah-blah-blah, it won't tell me where Wal-Mart is (if you didn't already know where your local Wal-Mart was, you probably shouldn't operate machinery or wipe by yourself), more blah, I feel silly talking to a machine made for such things in my own home. It sounds like you're an angry old man with Alzheimer's and serious issues with technology moving forward, so you shouldn't be writing for a tech blog.

  18. Allan Hedges
    December 30, 2016 at 2:56 pm

    Bought Amazon Echo when it first came out. Its a tin can full of rubbish. Most of the time it couldnt answer any question you ask it. Its data base is very poor its amazing it knows its own name. Sold it with in 2 weeks of purchase. Google is a much much much better assistant on my phone understands everything i ask it and answers everytime perfectly.

  19. One of the masses
    December 30, 2016 at 2:31 pm

    It's far easier to criticize than to create. This article is an obvious, oblivious and onerous attempt to use a corner of the web merely to harvest views and feedback by criticisizing a technology… a technology that the author himself could not conceive nor even fathom the possibilities of due to his shallow, short-sighted and self-oriented views. Perhaps this site should be called "how not to" Make Use Of.

    • ooooo oiuio
      April 17, 2017 at 3:01 pm

      I agree with you.
      If something has the potential to be amazing in any given amount of time, then it automatically means it's current dysfunctional version cannot be criticized because there is a possibility that it might not be so bad after hundreds of new product versions have been released.

      Btw, the hardware you currently have won't support the non-shitty version of Alexa.

  20. Kris
    December 30, 2016 at 11:50 am

    Alexa has been life changing for my blind husband. I find her as convenient as I do frustrating, but I have hopes it will get better. It is not the same as talking to a person, those of us that grew up pre-Internet need to learn how to talk to her to get the response we want. Also, when you ask her to order something, she repeats back the request and the cost and then asks for a confirmation. So your accusation that Amazon will be charging us for things we did not want is simply not true.

  21. Matthew Aguilera
    December 30, 2016 at 3:38 am

    This article is absolutely dumb. So your point is Alexa isn't "alive" so she shouldn't be used? It's a tool for everyday life not your friend. And you can change the wake word to something else.

  22. Sharron Koomen
    December 30, 2016 at 2:18 am

    I thoroughly enjoy alexa. I'm 62 years old, still working. Alexa is a toy for me, yes. I can ask her certain questions without finding my glasses to Google the information. Listening to music, changing genre's is super easy

  23. Molly
    December 30, 2016 at 1:04 am

    Weak article. Feels like a term paper written the night before it was due.

  24. gimmickassistant
    December 29, 2016 at 10:02 pm

    These things are a useless gimmick. Just use your smartphone.

    • likefunbutnot
      January 2, 2017 at 7:02 pm

      I've found Alexa devices most useful in places where I'm unlikely to have or want to handle a phone. I love having it in my kitchen and bathroom. Getting a news update while I'm showering or using it to time my baking is incredibly handy.

      I sincerely wish it had aa function that would allow it to read back written notes or email (see the post advice about users with adaptive disabilities), but dismissing the voice activation is at least mildly short sighted.

    • Not A Luddite
      January 26, 2017 at 6:49 pm

      I remember when "smartphones" were useless gimmicks.

  25. John smart
    December 29, 2016 at 9:03 pm

    I got one for Christmas and having a lot of fun with it.
    That is the point, it is something to play around with , not something to take serious, at least not yet.
    This is the start and the technology will only improve over time, then we may use it for more important things.
    In the mean time have fun

  26. sarga
    December 29, 2016 at 7:00 pm

    Alexa equals great voice integration with home automation and IFTTT. I haven't bought a single thing or asked it a single question. I have no use for that. But where else can you get a voice integration for home automation for $50?

    A tech website saying the future is stupid, is well...

  27. Yasser
    December 29, 2016 at 4:47 pm

    Alexa is not perfect and may need lots of improvements over the next few years, it's early days for this tech. But hey man, just accept technology and the future and get on with it ?

  28. Scott
    December 29, 2016 at 4:25 pm

    Rather than just bash your 'bash' article (since you were upfront that that's what this is). I'll add some helpful information related to some of the issues you've brought up. I've only had my Echo Dot for a few days so perhaps I just haven't hit these issues as much, however, my experience with it has been rather good so far. I find my favorite feature is the "Flash Briefing".

    1. "You're talking to a speaker" - actually you're talking to an AI on the Internet that uses a speaker to talk back. It's a simple but important distinction. Talking to a plant is pointless because the plant will never respond. Alexa, on the other hand, will.

    2. "Sell, sell, sell" - I think you've already covered the issue here. You are right that Amazon is primarily a store but are being rather cynical in thinking that that is all they do and/or plan to do with Echo.

    3. "Don’t Call Your Daughter Alexa" - If this were to become an issue for anyone, you can change the 'Wake Word' in the settings for the device. Unfortunately, there are currently only 3 options (Alexa, Amazon, and Echo) but those should suffice for most people I would think.

    4. "Get Her a Hearing Aid" - In my short time I've found the best way to resolve this is to 1) go through the "Voice Training" in the Alexa app, and 2) go through the Alexa app's Home section and mark the cards. Each new one will have a "Did Alexa do what you wanted?" section where you can mark 'yes' or 'no' to help the AI learn your speaking patterns better.

    5. "Errors Have Consequences" - This one I mostly agree with. It is an issue that I'm sure Amazon is aware of and is working to make the AI better at. For one, you mentioned the issue with the calendar entries, when I went to add a calendar entry for 2:00 with Alexa she asked me whether I meant 'morning' or 'afternoon'.

    All of this being said, I do agree that there are some issues that need to be fixed and I have confidence that they will be. My point in this comment is to provide some help to anyone that has been enjoying their Echo and would like to make their experience a little better rather than just "give Alexa a pink slip."

    • Lady A/
      May 24, 2017 at 10:50 am

      Excellent response. All of your points are spot-on

  29. likefunbutnot
    December 29, 2016 at 2:25 pm

    I have an Echo and several Dots. I don't care about any functionality save the ability to play audio, something she does quite well, handling requests for news, specific podcasts and Pandora stations quite well.

    The place where she falls down for me is playing classical music that's in my Amazon Music account. I have to name the entire title as it's listed on Amazon, which might be incorrect from the verbiage on the album itself. Amazon does not allow users to edit or correct metadata, so it insists that a title has to include the specific names of four classical works to be played via Alexa, that's what I have to do. If it insists that "The Collected Songs of Samuel Barber" is an Emerson String Quartet album and NOT a Samuel Barber, Thomas Hampson or Cheryl Struder one, I can't fix that.
    I can fix that by making playlists, but that's lame too, especially when I have literally thousands of albums on my Amazon account.

    Other than than, most of the issues with Alexa are just a matter of knowing how to speak to her.

  30. Johng
    December 29, 2016 at 2:09 pm

    Clickbait garbage. Let me correct your title. Let's Face It: MUO is Stupid

  31. Bob
    December 29, 2016 at 2:07 pm

    I find your review useless. I find Alexa very useful. It was one of the most sold items on Amazon this Holiday season.

    • Conrad Thumb
      December 10, 2017 at 5:22 pm

      Be interesting to hear updates from all users on this...

      • Kiki seong
        November 3, 2019 at 1:45 am

        I have three Echo dots and a Show. I find them all useful, mainly for music and setting an alarm. If this technology is not for you, fine. I don't get why others knock those who like it. It's not being lazy.