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Amazon’s Echo speakers are tiny and powerful, but are they portable? In this article, I’ll answer all your questions about powering an Alexa from “Does Alexa have to be plugged in to work?” to “Can I buy an Echo Battery Pack”.
Does Alexa Need to Be Plugged In to Work?
All Alexa devices need to be plugged into a power source to work. This power source can be a wall outlet or an external battery pack. Without continuous power, Alexa devices will turn off, but they will not lose any data or settings.
This can hamper the portability of your Echo speakers, but portable batteries for Echo devices are getting better and better. For the smallest speakers (the Echo Dot), you can run them on an external better for five hours. You can even find portable battery packs for some of the larger devices like the Echo, Echo Show 5, and Echo Show 8.
Does Alexa Have a Battery?
None of Amazon’s Alexa devices have a built-in battery. When the power goes out, they will immediately become unresponsive until power is restored. You can, however, buy external battery packs for most Echo devices.
Given the size of some Echo devices, you might be surprised that they don’t have room for internal batteries. Amazon has prioritized better processing power and higher quality speakers instead. Given the sound quality from competitors like the Sonos One, I’d say that was a good call on their part. As I’ll discuss more later, Amazon’s one attempt at a battery-powered Echo—the Tap— was a complete flop.
If I Unplug Alexa Will It Reset?
You can safely unplug Alexa devices without resetting them. When your Amazon Echo loses power, it simply shuts off—just like your cell phone or any computer. You won’t lose any of your data or settings.
While the device is off it won’t be able to respond to receive new commands or send you notifications, alerts, or timers. Your alarms and timers will still be active in your Alexa app, so you can continue to track them even without the device.
Once the power is back on, Alexa will be back to normal after a brief boot sequence. It will immediately send you any missed alarms, timers, or notifications, so be prepared to hear some beeping. There are generally no manual steps required to get Alexa running after a power outage. If you have any problems, check out my common fixes for when Alexa is not responding to commands.
Can You Buy a Battery Pack for Alexa?
There are Echo battery packs available for nearly every Alexa device, and these batteries are cheap compared to the cost of Alexa devices. Since every model and every generation of the Echo has a different size and shape, most of these accessories only fit a single version of a single Echo device. For simplicity, I’ve compiled an easy reference table of my top recommendations here:
|Compatible Echo models||Title|
Echo (4th gen)
|Made For Amazon, Battery Base in Black, for Echo (4th generation). Not compatible with previous generations of Echo or Echo Dot (1st Gen, 2nd Gen, or 3rd Gen).||Check price|
Echo Dot (4th gen)
|Made for Amazon Battery Base, in Black for Echo Dot (4th generation) Not compatible with previous generations of Echo or Echo Dot (1st Gen, 2nd Gen, or 3rd Gen).||Check price|
Echo Dot (3rd gen)
|Battery Base for Dot 3rd Gen Battery Stand Portable Charger for Dot 3rd Back up Battery 8 Hours Play time, Not Include Echo Dot 3 (Black 5200mah)||Check price|
Echo (2nd gen)
|"Made for Amazon" Ninety7 SKY TOTE Portable Battery Base for Amazon Echo (2nd Generation) Black/Carbon||Check price|
Echo Dot (2nd gen)
|Fremo Evo Plus Battery Base for Amazon Echo Dot 2nd Generation (Black)||Check price|
Echo Show 8 (1st gen)
|Liboer Battery Base for Echo Show 8 1st Gen to Make Echo Show 8 Mobile Battery Cases Charger Compatible with Show 8 Stand Mount with Handle Case Show 8 Not Included (S8 15600mAh Black)||Check price|
Echo Show 5 (1st, 2nd gen)
|GGMM ES5 Battery Base for Echo Show 5 (1st & 2nd Gen), Echo Show Battery Base Wireless, Magnetic Attachment Battery Stand, Make Smart Speaker Portable, Black (Show 5 Not Included)||Check price|
Does Alexa Need Wi-Fi?
Even with a battery pack, you’ll still need to connect Alexa to Wi-Fi for most of its functions to work. Most current Alexa devices don’t even process voice commands locally.
The only Alexa devices capable of offline voice processing are the 4th-gen Echo, the 3rd-gen Echo Show 10, and the upcoming Echo Show 15. Local voice processing is a relatively new feature, but it will continue to increase the usability of offline Echo products. However, you still won’t be able to download new skills or take advantage of any skills that require an active internet connection.
There are a few Alexa functions that work without Wi-Fi. For instance, you can use Alexa as a Bluetooth speaker without an active internet connection, although you will need Wi-Fi for the initial pairing. Any active alarms or timers will also continue to function without Wi-Fi, but you can’t set new ones.
Can You Take Echo Dot Anywhere?
Given its size, the Echo Dot seems like the perfect portable smart speaker. Unfortunately, it suffers from the same limitations as the rest of the Amazon Echo line.
Like all current Echo devices, the Echo Dot has to be plugged in to work. If you want to travel with the Dot, you’ll need an outlet to plug it into or a battery pack. For most of its functions, you’ll also need a Wi-Fi connection, although you can use your mobile phone as a hotspot.
Even with the battery pack, the Echo Dot is a very portable device. The Mission Portable Base, my preferred option, increases the size of the 4th-generation Echo Dot to about 5.3 inch diameter and 5.8 inch height. That’s about the same size as the standard 4th-generation Echo, but the Mission-powered Dot has five hours of battery life between recharges.
What About the Echo Tap?
Amazon released a portable Alexa device called the Amazon Tap back in 2016. However, it was quickly discontinued due to widespread customer disappointment with the product and its limited features. One of the biggest pitfalls was that the Tap didn’t have hands-free voice control, one of the biggest selling points of Echo devices.
If you really want an Echo Tap, you can sometimes find a refurbished one for sale, but they are increasingly difficult to come across. I don’t recommend one even if you can find it. The Tap was basically a glorified Bluetooth speaker, and there are far better portable speakers out there. An Echo Dot with a battery pack is everything that the Tap should have been.
Smart home devices will require power and Wi-Fi for many years to come. Battery packs and offline voice processing can help when you need a few hours offline, but they don’t offer complete portability.
If you’re looking for a more complete offline smart home solution, you’re not the only one. I’m currently investigating the possibility of installing Home Assistant on a Raspberry Pi with a battery pack. That would seemingly solve for slightly longer-term power outages, and it would only require Wi-Fi if the Smart Home device connects through Wi-Fi (which a lot of them do). I would also need alternatives to some of my smart plug use cases, as they clearly require power to work.
If you have any additional thoughts on designing more portable smart home solutions or smart homes that can withstand power outages better, please let me know in the comments.