The Amazon Echo is a $180 speaker that serves as a portal into the wonderful world of Amazon’s virtual personal assistant, Alexa. The Amazon Tap is a $130 speaker that serves as a portal into the wonderful world of Amazon’s virtual personal assistant, Alexa. Apart from their designs, there have always been three main differences between these two great speakers. First, the Echo is $50 more expensive than the Tap. Second, the Echo needs to be plugged into the wall at all times in order to work. And finally, the Echo can be activated with a simple voice command, while the Tap has a button that needs to be pressed in order to interact with Alexa.

That’s two differences that favor the Tap (price and portability) and one that favors the Echo. But guess what: Amazon just released an over the air (OTA) software update that adds hands-free activation capability to the Tap. In other words, you’d basically have to be crazy now to purchase the Echo over the Tap.

Okay, that’s not entirely true. If you use your Amazon speaker solely as a portal for Alexa, the Tap is 1,000% the way to go. If you also play music on your Amazon speaker, however, the sound quality on the Echo is slightly better than the Amazon Tap. You can still get much better quality sound from wireless speakers designed specifically for music though, so we definitely recommend the Tap over the Echo for most people.

As a reminder, the Tap is more compact than the Echo since it’s portable, and the battery lasts for up to 9 hours of playback on a single charge. The speaker still comes with a charging cradle and a wall adapter though, so you can leave it plugged in at all times and use it just like an Echo… an Echo that’s $50 cheaper than the actual Echo.

For one last benefit the Amazon Tap has over the Echo, the Tap is in stock on Amazon right now, while the Echo won’t start shipping again until February 25th.

Zach Epstein has worked in and around ICT for more than 15 years, first in marketing and business development with two private telcos, then as a writer and editor covering business news, consumer electronics and telecommunications. Zach’s work has been quoted by countless top news publications in the US and around the world. He was also recently named one of the world's top-10 “power mobile influencers” by Forbes, as well as one of Inc. Magazine's top-30 Internet of Things experts.