Amazon's Echo Loop looks almost like a normal titanium ring at first glance — albeit bigger and bulkier. But when you take a look at the ring's underside, you'll notice that there's a tiny button for triggering Alexa. After you're done asking Alexa a question or issuing a request, you must hold the ring near your ear to hear its response. This is all possible thanks to the ring's tiny speaker and two microphones.
During my time using the Echo Loop, I pressed the button and spoke into the ring to set a reminder and ask for the weather. It was a bit difficult to hear Alexa's response in such a crowded room, but Amazon's digital helper seemed to respond just as quickly as it would when being used through any other Echo device. Users will be able to control the volume of its voice in the Alexa smartphone app.
Making phone calls through Amazon's smart ring is certainly possible, although I wouldn't recommend doing so for any conversation that takes longer than a few seconds. Because you have to move your hand close to your mouth to speak and then hold it near your ear to listen, I imagine making phone calls through the Loop is uncomfortable.
If you want to do so, you can designate a contact that will be called whenever you double press the action button.
You can also press and hold the button to access whichever virtual helper you normally use on your phone — Siri or the Google Assistant.
Speaking into ring seems awkward and sounds like something out of a spy film. But I could imagine the Echo Loop being more useful for notifications, similar to Ringly, which, as its name implies, is a ring that lights up and vibrates when you receive smartphone notifications.
Similarly, the Echo Loop emits a haptic sensation when you receive a notification, and the sensation may differ depending on the notification.
You can also set location-based reminders for the Echo Loop, so that it can vibrate to remind you to pick up groceries on the way home from work when you get off the train, for example.
The Echo Loop is available in just one color: a black titanium finish. It comes in sizes such as small, medium, large, and extra large.
The version I tried was a larger model that was too big to fit comfortably on any of my fingers, but I imagine the small size would be closer to my usual ring size.
Amazon also says the ring is scratch-proof and water resistant, meaning you'll be able to wash your hands while wearing it without worrying. It should last all day on a single charge and comes with a charging case that replenishes its battery in 90 minutes.
Amazon isn't the first company to release a high-tech ring that can alert you when smartphone notifications come in. But such products haven't really resonated with the public beyond the early adopter crowd.
The Echo Loop feels like a test bed Amazon can use to learn about what customers really want out of an Alexa-enabled wearable. That's likely why Amazon is releasing it as part of its Day 1 program, unlike the Echo Buds. That makes sense considering the success of products like Apple's AirPods has already proven that there's customer demand for wireless earbuds.
I can imagine the Echo Loop serving as a predecessor for another more sophisticated product down the line, particularly because it's unclear whether consumers are truly interested in a ring that's tethered to your smartphone.
But then again, no one could have predicted that the original Echo from 2014 would have been a hit either.