Amazon has many many hardware products that they make and want to sell you. From Kindles to Echo speakers, Amazon is involving themselves in just about every business segment you can imagine. So when they released the Dash Wand with Alexa built it, it seemed like just another way for you to order stuff from Amazon instead of someone else. But is it really that simple? And does the Dash Wand have a useful purpose in your daily life? Let’s explore what the Dash Wand is and what it does a bit more.
The Amazon Dash Wand is pretty straightforward – its a two piece wand with a loop at one end. Half is a smooth and shiny hard white plastic, the other half is a soft touch rubber that feels nice and grippy. The loop on end allows you to choose to hang it on your fridge or other solid surface (hook for this also included) or opt to use the built in magnetic side (oddly enough the side that bears the “Amazon” logo) and just slap it on any metal surface (again, most probably your fridge) – its unoffensive and stylish enough that it would probably fit in with any home decor or color palette. There is a single multi function button on one side that both triggers the bar code scanner as well as the Alexa voice command assistant. There is an LED light ring around the button that also serves to communicate multiple states, but other than an internal speaker, that’s it. The black and white combo and design is classic enough and also modern enough that whatever time and market research that Amazon’s team put in paid off in a big way.
The wand serves two major purposes: first, it allows you to order items using Amazon’s purchasing services faster than ever before by using the built in barcode scanner to simply scan an item and have it added to your Amazon cart. It really is that simple. If you scan grocery items, the wand will place them in your “Amazon Fresh” cart; regular items go in your standard Amazon cart. The Amazon Fresh service normally has a $15/monthly fee but when you purchase the Dash Wand you get a 90 day free trial of the service to see if it will work for you.
The second purpose is a bit more benign, but could have even more far reaching impact: Amazon wants you to have and use its Alexa assistant. For those that weren’t sold on an Echo device, this is a gateway product that will let you do some of the same things without the larger investment right from the jump. You can press and hold the multi function button then ask questions of Alexa like “how many quarts in a gallon?” Since the principle location the wand will likely reside in is the kitchen, that makes this kind of access particularly helpful. The only downside is the responses from Alexa do not come via the speaker in the wand (which will beep and bloop at you, but not talk back apparently) but from the Alexa app, if you have it installed on your phone. I had to find this out the hard way, and its not the ideal solution. And that’s probably the point for Amazon – to get the most out of this functionality, they point you in the direction of the standard Echo or the Echo Dot perhaps. Which not only allows you to spend more money, but gets you a bit further into the Amazon ecosystem.
Amazon ran a promo when I purchased the device; normally $20 retail, you’d get a $20 credit making the device effectively free. As of the time of this writing, the Dash Wand is out of stock so getting it (even at full retail) may be problematic. There are many poor reviews of the device on Amazon as well, citing unreasonable markups on common items. So it would probably be prudent to read a few of them before deciding if you want to actually move forward with a purchase.
For the bargain basement price of free, I’d probably say this is a “must buy.” The use case and likely future enhancements (in particular if you are already in the Amazon ecosystem or are at the least an Amazon Prime customer already) make it a decent investment of $20. Most of us are going to blow that amount of money on something silly at some point, so why not get some use out of your cash? But there is likely to be some initial setup and monitoring of your account to make sure the device is working for you correctly, and some additional maintenance in an on-going capacity to make sure you are getting the best value for those items you are purchasing with the wand. If you are up for the work, then the Dash Wand might be for you. If Amazon can get it back in stock when you want to buy it.