9 things you should know before buying the Amazon Dash Wand

A free Alexa device it may be, but there are some things you should know about the Amazon Dash Wand before you order one.

Taylor Martin CNET Contributor
Taylor Martin has covered technology online for over six years. He has reviewed smartphones for Pocketnow and Android Authority and loves building stuff on his YouTube channel, MOD. He has a dangerous obsession with coffee and is afraid of free time.
Taylor Martin
4 min read
Taylor Martin/CNET
Watch this: Alexa's got your groceries covered with Amazon's new barcode scanner

Amazon 's newest addition to both its Alexa and Dash families is the Amazon Dash Wand.

It's a handheld device that comes equipped with a speaker, microphone and a barcode scanner. Powered by Alexa, you can either tell the Dash Wand to order an item or scan a barcode to automatically add that item to your cart on Amazon.

Handy as it may sound, there are nine things you should know before "buying" an Amazon Dash Wand.

It's technically free... sort of

Like other Dash products from Amazon, the Dash Wand is technically free. You first have to cough up $20 when you order it, but you then get $20 off your next eligible purchase on Amazon (after the Dash Wand has been registered).

So if you plan on buying something else from Amazon anyway, or using the Dash Wand for its intended purpose, it's doesn't cost you anything in the end.

It runs on two AAA batteries

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The Dash Wand is not rechargeable. Instead, it's powered by two AAA batteries, which are included in the box.

It's not yet clear how long the two AAA batteries will last, but don't expect impressive longevity. It's a functioning Alexa device and you might find yourself using it for more banal things, like turning on the lights -- not just adding items to your Amazon cart.

If you don't care for disposable batteries, you might want to use your $20 voucher to grab some rechargeable AAA batteries.

You can control your house with it

While the Dash Wand has Alexa built-in, it's not a fully functioning Alexa speaker. What it can do, however, is answer questions, convert units and even interact with skills. Even more, the Dash Wand can control your Alexa-compatible smart home devices. You can turn on the lights, lock the doors, set the temperature and much more.

So you can press and hold the button and say, "Turn on the living room lights," or "Preheat the oven to 400 degrees."

It doesn't do timers and alarms

Some of what you can't do with the Dash Wand makes perfect sense. For instance, it can't stream music or podcasts -- not that you would want to on a handheld, battery-operated device with a tiny speaker -- or listen to your Flash Briefing. (You can still get traffic and weather separately.) You also cannot use it for calling or messaging.

However, other features that seem like they would be perfect for an Alexa device that will predominantly stay in the kitchen are missing, such as timers and alarms.

There is no wake word

Likewise, since this is powered by AAA batteries, there is no wake word. And unlike the Amazon Tap , there probably isn't any reason to hope for the Dash Wand to be updated with a similar hands-free mode.

It's magnetic

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Primarily designed as a grocery scanner, the Dash Wand is meant to hang around the kitchen. As such, Amazon included a magnetic area on the backside so it can be stuck to the refrigerator (or nearly any metal surface).

It also comes with a wall hook

If you'd prefer to hang it on the wall or inside a cabinet, Amazon includes a wall hook with adhesive that you can stick practically anywhere and hang the Dash Wand from it by the rubber loop.

You can scan just about anything

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While the Dash Wand is touted as the perfect grocery assistant, it doesn't have to be used for groceries. And you don't need to live in an area where AmazonFresh is available to take advantage of the "free" device.

In fact, if you use the Dash Wand to scan the barcode on the back of your deodorant, it will add it to your Amazon cart. It will add anything you scan to your cart, as long as it's available on Amazon. And if it isn't, it will add a placeholder to your cart and let you choose a similar item. If the Dash Wand can't identify an item by its barcode, it will tell you.

You can also purchase items or add items to your cart using your voice if you have little success scanning barcodes. Just say, "Alexa, add carpet cleaner to my cart."

Not only is shopping easier, so, too, is over-paying

Just make sure to check your cart before checking out, as some items appear to be overpriced at times. For instance, my normal stick of deodorant comes in a pack of two for about $4 at most stores. When I scanned the barcode, the same deodorant was added to my cart in a single pack for over $6. This isn't an issue specific to the Dash Wand, but it's easy to overlook it this way.

So while it removes even more friction when shopping, it also makes it considerably easier to spend way more than you normally would for innocuous items.