So I had been dying to get an Echo for several months and I was finally able to get one in late June. I live in an apartment so I'm not able to get a lot of the best smart home accessories (like a Nest thermostat or a smart doorbell) so I only have one smart lightbulb in the living room for a lamp, and one in the hallway, and a switch that my wall air conditioner is plugged into in the living room. I was able to link all of them to my Echo fairly easily. I wanted to set things up so that could say a key phrase like "I'm Out" and Alexa would then turn off everything, or "I'm home" and Alexa would turn on everything. You're not quite able to do that, but there is a skill you can enable called IFFTT that does. So instead of just saying: "Alexa, I'm out", you have to say "Alexa, trigger I'm out" and then she says "sending that to IFFTT" and then there is usually a 5 - 10 second delay. You can say "Alexa, turn on/off everything" and that does work directly with the Echo.
Overall for an apartment that you can't really modify too much I'm going to say that the Echo is not that useful. I do use it to turn on and off what I can, but that's more because it's cool and less because it's convenient or it saves me any time. I mainly use the Echo for a timer (could use the microwave, so again, I just use the Echo because it's cooler), and for my shopping list. I occasionally will use it to play music, but again, it's not really any more convenient then connecting my phone to a bluetooth speaker. So at $179, I have to say, I don't think it's worth the money unless you have a lot of smart home technology that you can integrate. I will say that the speech recognition is amazing. So far in three months Alexa has not misheard or misunderstood anything that I've asked her. However, for me, the Echo is just a cool tech item to own, but I can't say that it's all that useful just yet.