The Amazon Echo family just got bigger with the Echo Dot and Amazon Tap, but what sets them apart from their older smart speaker sibling?

Long story short, they're all pretty much the same. The three are cloud-based speakers that offer the full functionality of Alexa, Amazon's personal virtual assistant similar to Cortana, Google Now or Siri. Simply put, they just have a few differences here and there, but those factors could determine which one a customer will find the most useful out of the three.

Amazon Tap

Right off the bat, Amazon Tap is a smaller and more affordable version, and to make it truly wireless, it's powered by batteries instead of a wall plug like in the case of the Amazon Echo. It has an asking price of $130, and that's $50 less than its predecessor's $180 price tag.

To juice it up, users will have to place the Amazon Tap in a charging cradle that comes with it out of the box. Amazon boasts that it can go for up to nine hours of continuous audio streaming or two to three weeks on a single full charge.

The battery setup does come with compromises, though. Unlike the Amazon Echo, it can't stay on all the time, presumably to conserve battery life. In other words, the microphone button on its front has to be pressed before it can function as opposed to waking it up just by saying Alexa.

Regarding audio quality, it can blast more or less the same output the Amazon Echo can.

Echo Dot

The Echo Dot is probably the most interesting-looking device out of the bunch, sporting a puck-like design and the smallest form factor. However, it didn't really go that far from the Amazon Echo, as it's essentially the same as the original with a toned-down speaker build.

Aside from taking portability to the next level, the Echo Dot needs to stay plugged in to work. It's fitted with one speaker to mainly function as a sort of smart alarm clock or anything else along those lines. Also, it can be connected to speakers via a cable or Bluetooth, turning any audio system into a smarter version instantly.

It should also be noted that the absence of full-sized speakers isn't necessarily a bad thing, as they make the Echo Dot the perfect choice for people who aren't satisfied with the built-in speakers of the Amazon Echo and Amazon Tap, not to mention it's cheaper because of that, coming with a $90 price tag.

Alexa

Amazon's contender in the virtual assistant scene can deliver music streaming from Amazon Prime Music, Pandora and Spotify and Internet radio streaming from TuneIn and iHeartRadio, play audiobooks from Audible and the Kindle Store and read news headlines.

What makes Alexa even more appealing is how it can seamlessly connect to smart home devices, including the Philips Hue, Samsung SmartThings and many others. The developers behind it are also constantly expanding its ecosystem.

Alexa can also book users an Uber ride or order a meal, but more than that, it can also give them the opportunity to partake in one of DC Comics' hugest mysteries, such as the question of who took the lives of Bruce Wayne's parents.

Availability

As of right now, the Amazon Echo, Echo Dot and Amazon Tap are only available in the United States. That's a downer for interested customers in other parts of the world, but the good news is that Amazon has plans to roll out the smart speaker lineup to other markets in the foreseeable future.

Now, there's one big problem with the Echo Dot: it can only be preordered with the Amazon Echo or Fire TV via Alexa with the magic words "Alexa, order an Echo Dot."

Fortunately, CNET has uncovered a workaround to that gimmicky method, and consumers only need the Amazon Shopping app and an Android or iOS device.

For Android users, install the Amazon Shopping app, open it and sign in. Do a voice search and say, "Add Echo Dot to shopping cart." The Add to Cart option should turn up by then.

For iOS users, the method is virtually the same, except there's no voice search involved. Instead, search for "Echo Dot" manually. To add it to the shopping cart, swipe right, as tapping on it won't work.

On that note, Amazon will probably fix this "feature" soon enough, so it might be a good idea to take advantage of it while it's still working.

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