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Is the Amazon Tap Worth Buying?

This portable speaker lets you take Alexa on the go. We cover the Tap's specs and compare it to similar speakers, so you can decide whether it's a good fit.
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When Amazon released the original Echo speaker, it was a surprise hit. Powered by the Alexa personal assistant, this hands-free, voice-activated, internet-connected speaker is capable of answering questions, playing music, and working with smart home components. You can say, "Alexa, play some Nirvana" or "Alexa, what's the time?" and the speaker obeys.

Amazon decided to expand the range this year with the Amazon Tap and the Echo Dot. The Echo Dot is a much smaller and cheaper version of the Echo — it's essentially just the top portion of the Echo with a tiny speaker, and it's best when paired with a bigger speaker you already own.

But the Amazon Tap is a bit different. While the Echo devices have to be plugged in and are meant to live in your home, the Tap is a portable Bluetooth speaker with a built-in rechargeable battery, so you can take Alexa with you.

Read on to learn more about the Amazon Tap, how it compares to similar speakers, and whether you should consider buying it.

How Does the Tap Measure Up?

The Amazon Tap costs $129.99. It's a bit smaller than the Echo, measuring 6.2x2.6x2.6", but it's the same cylindrical shape. On the front you'll find the microphone button, and on the back there's a power button, a 3.5mm audio input, a microUSB port for charging, and a WiFi/Bluetooth button. If you look up top, you'll see volume and music controls. Setup is easy via the Alexa app on Android or iOS, and it can also be used through a web browser.

SEE ALSO: How to Try Amazon Echo's Alexa Before You Buy

The Tap weighs in at 16.6 oz. and the mesh exterior provides some grip, so it's easy to carry around. If you wish you could take your Echo into the garden or down to the park with you, then the Tap is for you.

However, it does have limitations. Unlike the Echo, the Tap isn't always listening — you have to tap the microphone button to ask a question or issue a command. And although you can take the Tap out with you, Alexa won't work unless there's a WiFi connection.

Amazon Tap as a Bluetooth Speaker

If you're only looking for a Bluetooth speaker to play music, then the Amazon Tap might not be the best choice for you. It offers 360-degree sound, with dual 1.5" drivers and dual passive radiators to boost the bass. The Tap sounds quite good, but, like most Bluetooth speakers, the bass is limited and can get distorted at higher volumes. It's not difficult to find a speaker that sounds better for a similar price.

The JBL Charge 3 offers much better sound quality for only $20 more, and it can handle a rain shower or a drink spill without dying. It also offers up to 20 hours of battery life, compared to the Tap's nine hours. Even the older (and cheaper) JBL Charge 2+ sounds slightly better than the Tap, is also splashproof, and boasts better battery life.

The Bose SoundLink Color is a similarly priced speaker. It probably gets the win on sound quality, but falls short on battery life at eight hours. If you're willing to pay a bit more, the UE Boom 2 offers 15-hour battery life and better sound for as little as $176. It's also waterproof, can be paired with a second speaker, and supports voice controls via Siri or Google Now.

A strange omission for the Tap is the fact that it doesn't work as a speakerphone, as it has the required microphone and speaker.

A strange omission for the Tap is the fact that it doesn't work as a speakerphone, as it has the required microphone and speaker. A lot of Bluetooth speakers, including the JBL Charge 3 and UE Boom 2, do offer speakerphone functionality.

You can stream music across WiFi with the Tap, rather than just Bluetooth, like the others. That means it can stream services like Spotify, Pandora, and TuneIn directly, but only when you have a WiFi network or hotspot to connect to. The Amazon Tap also comes with its own charging cradle, but the real distinction is definitely the Alexa voice service.

Amazon Tap as a Personal Assistant

Part of the reason people were surprised about the Echo's success is our smartphones already have voice assistants built in. What's so great about taking that functionality and putting it in a stationary speaker? Turns out the attraction is having an always-listening assistant that anyone in the room can talk to.

The Amazon Tap is powered by the Alexa service, so it can do all of the same things as the Echo, from ordering a pizza to turning off the lights (assuming you have the home automation setup for that). But the following two problems really reduce its potential usefulness.

You have to tap the button to speak.
With the Echo speakers, you can just say, "Alexa, what's the weather like?" and get an answer. Having to tap the button first takes some of the convenience away.

You need a WiFi connection.
If you don't have a WiFi connection, then Alexa doesn't work at all — not even music controls. You'll have to use the buttons on the top of the Tap to control your music.

SEE ALSO: 7 Things to Consider When Buying a WiFi Range Extender

Most phones offer hotspot functionality, so you should be able to connect the Tap to the internet through your phone. However, it's going to eat into your data allowance, and it can sometimes be a hassle to set up. If you don't need the portability, then both the Echo and the Echo Dot are better personal assistants.

Why Buy the Amazon Tap?

If you're only going to use Alexa in one room, then the Amazon Echo is a much better bet than the Tap. It's more expensive at $180, but the 2.5" woofer and 2" tweeter provide better quality sound, and Alexa is always listening, ready to respond to your questions and requests. If you already have a great sound system, you can add the Echo Dot for $90.

For people seeking a great Bluetooth speaker for outdoor music, there are better options than the Tap at similar prices. Whether they're for days at the beach or a camping trip, lots of speakers offer better sound quality, battery life, and handy extras like waterproofing.

The combination of portability and Alexa is what makes the Amazon Tap worth considering. You can pick it up and carry it around from room to room or take it out with you. If you want to be able to listen to fairly loud music and order a pizza on the same device, wherever you are, then the Tap has you covered. Nothing else offers this quirky combination.

Readers, do you own an Amazon Tap? Have you found it to be a good value, or do you wish you'd gone with another Alexa-enabled device? Let us know in the comments below!


Contributing Writer

Simon is a technology journalist with a background in games development. He is fascinated by all things tech, particularly mobile and videogames, and he loves to share that passion with other tech fans.
DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Unless marked as a "Sponsored Deal," the opinions expressed here are those of the author and have not been reviewed or endorsed by the companies mentioned. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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8 comments
dealnews-bglaser (DealNews)
@SprbkMike

"A lot of Bluetooth speakers, including the JBL Charge 3 and UE Boom 2, do offer speakerphone functionality."

It looks like this feature is noted in the article.
Insaneoctane
We also own the echo and recently added a trap to our household. Love the portability! My kids walk around with their very own "Alexa" now. We bring her on trips. We've even nicknamed her "AJ" for Alexa Jr. . I really would love to see Amazon offer an upgrade to allow spoken awakening. I know the device is called "tap", but I much prefer the option to also say "Alexa" hands free. Great toy!
mwrobison
I own all three, and I too purchased my Tap on Prime Day. The portability is nice, even when it's just within my own house. It took some doing, but I was able to tether the Tap to my phone and an iPad with a mobile radio in it. You need a third device to do it though, because you can't link the mobile device on which you are doing the Tap setup. With the added mobility, the Tap is that much more useful. My kids love to use it in the car. If Amazon would add the option to turn on listening, then the Tap would be the way to go, i.e. it would be the best of the three. Without listening, it's still my third choice, and that's only if the price point less than $100. Maybe if I were still in college, or if I lived in a situation where I couldn't just leave my things out, then Tap would be the best choice. Since I spend most of my of time in my own place, and I don't have to worry about my things walking away, the original Echo is still my first choice.
michaelawalker
I at first i hated the Tap, i bought it because of Dealnews, then it grew on me, like i would never give it up, i bring it with me to bar's and places that have wifi and show it off, people are amazed! if i had no wifi, it would be not a good game, the sound was updated somehow it an update, no I am very happy with it.. really am...
SprbkMike
I think someone has there wires crossed, I just came from the JBL website for the Charge 3 and it states that this unit has calling and talking capability. But your write-up says it doesn't!
iamuncreative
I have an two Echos, a Dot & a Tap. I agree, at the Prime Day price it was worth it, otherwise, no way. I also agree that the usefulness would totally change and it might even be the most valuable if they added the always listening option while docked.
nematoda
I bought the Tap when it was offered for $69 (thanks, Dealnews). I also have the Echo. Unlike ssbrad, I'm very happy with my purchase. At first I thought I would miss the "Always listening" capability, but it's not that big a deal given the way I use the Tap--i.e., carrying it around with me from room to room. It's wonderful to be able to take it to whatever room I'm in (or to the garage or my backyard), and not have to worry about where to plug it in. I agree that it would be better to have the always listening feature, but since it's usually right next to me, tapping isn't really an inconvenience.

Yes, there are better quality speakers, but not having to connect my iPad (or other device) separately when I want to listen to music or the news is well worth the tradeoff. Still, for $120, I wouldn't buy it. $69 was a reasonable price, and about all I'd be willing to spend on this device.
ssbrad
I have had an Echo since it first launched and love it. Recently bought a Tap with a Prime Day discount and at first was hugely disappointed with the need to "tap" it to get to Alexa but am conversely enjoying the portability of it and ability to easily go from room to room with the Tap. I'm still holding onto hope that Amazon will enable Alexa voice awareness if the Tap is charging/plugged in. On balance though, I would have bought a Dot instead if it had been available.
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