I’ve been playing around the Amazon’s Echo Dot for just under a week now and was curious about its portability. Obviously, the hardware just needs a place to plug in and a Wi-Fi network to access but I was really wondering if I could run its data through my phone’s 4G hotspot. Public networks are fine and I don’t do any secure transactions through the Dot but I just had to know!
I have one of the Samsung Galaxy Prime phones which has served me pretty well for the past year. I don’t use the hotspot much but it comes in pretty handy when I want to login to a private site from a local restaurant and the MetroPCS 4G signal is really good in the area.
Plugging the Dot in at the office, it immediately searched for my home Wi-Fi and, of course, didn’t find it. The next step was to bring up the Alexa app and then hold down the command button on the unit for a few seconds until the Dot entered setup mode. This is where the conflict came in. I was using my smartphone, the one with the hotspot, to run the Alexa app and it needed to connect to the Dot via Wi-Fi in order to administer the settings. In the absence of any other wi-fi network, it does this through a point-to-point connection. My hotspot immediately shut off in favor of the wi-fi, leaving Alexa nothing to connect to for online data.
At first, I settled for using the public wi-fi at the office and Alexa worked great on that. Trying again later on, however, I noticed the option at the bottom of the wi-fi network list – ‘Use this device as a Wi-Fi hotspot’. Selecting this option, the Dot then asked for the name and password of the hotspot and directed me to activate the hotspot through the normal settings on my smartphone. Once I did, the Dot saw the network and connected to it with no problem.
I also found that using a third device, like my Kindle Fire, to direct the Dot to the smartphone’s hotspot worked well. This might be a little cumbersome for many people, though, so I’m glad that the Echo Dot has this dedicated setting.
The ability to connect to the hotspot on the administering device was a nice bit of forward thinking on the Amazon team’s part. This makes the Echo Dot very portable. You could pack it away in your laptop bag with a USB cable to connect it to your laptop for power (although this might sacrifice some battery time). Then connect it to your phone’s hotspot for data and maybe even pair it to your laptop’s Bluetooth to use the speakers. As Alexa’s intelligence hopefully evolves, this could make it a valuable addition to a portable office.