The Amazon Echo has won rave reviews from our friends in the US but until now, it hasn't been possible to get your hands on one in Canada. Now that we're starting to sell them (get yours here!) it seems like a good time to give you a complete run down of what to expect when you switch it on in the True North and issues to expect when setting up the Amazon Echo in Canada.
The Good News
Let's get straight to it, the Echo works almost completely the same in Canada as it does in the states. You can use almost all of the same apps (called 'skills' in the Alexa lingo) and there's no major functionality that you'll miss out on. You can stream music, get your weather reports, control your home and order your pizza mostly in the same way you would do in the states. Read on to learn about the few differences that you'll need to be aware of and you'll be controlling your home with your voice in no time!
Setting up the Amazon Echo in Canada
There are technically 3 ways to set up your Amazon echo, varying in difficulty. The simplest is to visit http://alexa.amazon.com, log in with your usual Amazon credentials and follow the set up instructions. You can use your Canadian Amazon account for this set up so it's pretty seamless.
There is also an iOS and Android app that aren't officially available in Canada but can nonetheless be installed with a little bit of effort.
Installing the Amazon Echo Alexa app on Android in Canada
Amazon don't offer the app for download on the Canadian Play Store but you can download it directly ('sideload it') as an APK file. These are hosted around the web and easily found by googling "Amazon Alexa APK" on your android device. Once you've given your device permission to download from "Unknown Sources" you can open up that APK file for it to automatically install. Beware, there is always a risk to downloading apps outside of the Play Store so only do this if you are pretty comfortable with the process and trust the site that you're downloading from.
Installing the Echo Alexa app on iOS in Canada
You have two options; either set up a US iTunes account using a fake US address and credit card or borrow an American friend's user credentials to download the app. Neither of these are simple so we recommend you stick to the browser based set up through your computer.
Setting location on a Canadian Echo
When setting up your echo you'll need a US address (this can be invented as long as it aligns to a real location!). This will be the home location of your device so when you ask "What's the weather" it will refer to whatever address you entered at set up. We recommend that you choose a location that's as close as possible to wherever you are in Canada. This is really only a minor inconvenience with a simple fix, simply ask "Alexa, what's the weather in Toronto/Vancouver etc." to get a local weather report. It's that simple!
Using Amazon Prime and Music services with Echo in Canada
The Echo has some functionality that relies on having a Prime account, the major one is listening to music. If you don't have an American Prime account, sign up for a free one for a month and see what you're missing/not missing. Unfortunately, Canadian Prime accounts do not work with the Echo however it won't effect you on any practical level. The Echo has support for plenty of other music providers including Pandora and Spotify, which do work in Canada. Check out the full list of music services here. Remember that at its heart, the Echo is a bluetooth speaker so you can always just pair your phone or computer by bluetooth to play whatever music you feel like.
Getting local results from Alexa
A couple of other minor niggles you might run up against are the result of the Echo being a US device. These are easily fixed in settings; you can change measurement units to whatever makes sense to you and get local news to hear what's going on near you.
Where to buy the Amazon Echo in Canada
There's a lot of folks wondering why the Echo isn't sold in Canada, a move that's even more bizarre when the Echo works so well here. We're now stocking the Echo with fast shipping to Canada and CAD prices to address that.
Have questions or tips of your own? Leave a comment below and let us know.