Amazon Dash Button — Home Automation Run Amok or Modern Convenience?
I'm a big fan of a lot of the home automation gadgets that have been coming out recently. Amazon Echo, Nest thermostats, bluetooth deadbolts, wifi enabled lights...etc. But there are many examples of home automation with no discernible benefit. Do we really need a Wifi connected refrigerator or a $700 wifi connected juicer?
I visit Amazon often and kept seeing advertisements for one of their newer home automation gadgets — the Amazon Dash button, so I bought one and gave it a try.
What is it?
The Amazon Dash button is a tiny wifi and bluetooth enabled button which is connected to your amazon account. The idea is that you place the button in the area of your house where you have particular goods that you order frequently. Instead of having to write down the item you need when you run out and then remember to go get it from a store, you simply push the button, and a few days later it arrives right at your doorstep.
Downys and Charmins and Doritos oh My!
One of the weirder things about the Dash is that it is tied to a particular brand of products. You don't just get one Dash button and set it up to order any product you want. Each Dash button is branded with a product family and tied directly to that product family. This means that if you wanted to regularly order Doritos and Quilted Northern (not that they are in any way connected), you'd get those specific buttons and they could only be used to order those specific products. That said, you can order different products within that product family and you simply note your preference during the setup of the button.
Which one to get?
As I hunched over my laptop considering which product is the most vital to order with precision and regularity, I came to one singular conclusion: it had to be Charmin toilet paper. I mean, let's face it, if there is one product in your entire house that you never, ever want to run out of it is toilet paper. I can deal with chomping down the last Dorito in a bag and still wistfully wanting more, but pulling the last square off the roll of TP without any more arrows in the quiver is a frightening proposition indeed.
The setup process was fairly painless. You push and hold the button for 10 seconds until it begins broadcasting a bluetooth signal. Then you open up the Amazon app, configure the wifi for the button and it walks you through the steps of selecting which product you want to buy when you push it. This was all relatively easy with the exception of selecting the actual product to be purchased. The menu item for setting up a dash button is buried in an unusual location in the Amazon app and I found it tedious to select the product that I wanted. That said, the entire process took me about 5 minutes, so maybe I shouldn't complain too much.
After I setup the button, I affixed it to the inside of a cabinet. It comes with a reusable adhesive back that you can stick to a wall or a cabinet (alternatively you can use the included removable loop to hang it from a hook). Once you push the button, the led light glows green for a few seconds to let you know that the order has been queued. You then get a notification in the Amazon app to confirm the order and voila, your product is on the way.
You may expect one of the big benefits of ordering home products from Amazon would be a cost savings over the price that you'd find in a retail store. From what I can tell Amazon home products are slightly (and I mean really slightly) cheaper than what you'd find for the same products at a typical retail store if the product is on sale. For instance, the Charmin toilet paper ended up being $.57/roll from Amazon when it is $.58/roll when a local Target or grocery store is running a sale.
At first blush, this product seems a little silly. I mean, you really could have 5-10 buttons in a single pantry for all of the items you regularly buy. That is probably a bit of overkill and I don't think any sane person will ever actually do that. However, I could see myself using a handful of these buttons around the house. The main reason I see the Dash button as being useful is that it puts the ordering of a product right in front of you at the exact moment you realize you are running out of it. The only real downside to the Dash is that you can only order a subset of products with it and they typically come in bulk. So for example, with the Cambell's soup button you aren't just ordering 3-4 cans of soup, you are ordering 12.
I should mention that the button itself is pretty much free. You have to pay $5 for the button initially, but Amazon credits you $5 back on your first use of it. So, if you buy it, you are basically promising to use it at least once.
- Free (after your first order)
- Relatively easy to setup
- Alleviates running out of important (some might say vital) home products
- Only a subset of products
- Buying in bulk might not be best for everyone
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