Amazon have managed to stay a step ahead of the competition with their in home voice assistants. They were the first to launch a successful product, and have continued to lead the way. And today’s revelations are no different.
With recent leaks of new Google products, including an Echo dot competitor, it’s no surprise to see Amazon firing back with a slew of new products. Today’s announcement introduces 6 new products to the Alexa range of voice activated products. While none are available at the moment, most are available for pre-order with deliveries starting as early as next week. So what do we have to expect?
The follow-up to the original successful Amazon Echo, the 2nd generation Echo comes in considerably smaller and cheaper than 1st generation product. Available for pre-order now, and being released on 31 October, it comes in three different cloth finishes, or you can have it with a brushed aluminium or wood finish for an additional $20.
It has everything you came to expect from the Echo range of products, including playing songs from your favourite streaming service, making calls to friends and family as well as control of connected devices. At 5.9″, it’s 3.5″ shorter than its1st generation counterpart, while being only marginally larger and keeping it’s 2.5″ woofer. The tweeter gets downgraded to 0.6″ from the previous 2.0″, but still promises exemplary sound.
The new product also sports a 3.5mm audio output and support for 5Ghz networks. The 1st generation was always bulky, and this shrinking is definitely the way to go. Offering everything you wanted in the previous Echo, in a smaller package, it’s sure to be as successful.
A new product to the line-up, few will easily be able to tell the difference between the Plus and the 1st gen Echo. Identical in measurements, the Echo Plus maintains the 2.5″ subwoofer and 7 microphones, substituting it’s 2.0″ tweeter for a more moderate 0.8″ one, and using the rest of the space to cram in some electronics that support the connecting of smart devices.
A shortcoming of most home automation products is the need for devices, which are separate to their hub, which in turn are separate to the devices you use to control them. This brings that one step closer, by integrating the hub into an Echo product.
Exact details on what protocols it supports are not clear, but they have setup a page listing all products available that they support. Whereas the hub requirement was previously a barrier to entry for those wanting to test the waters of the automated house, with this device, users will be even quicker to purchase some new lightbulbs. Noticeable items on their list include the full range of Philips Hue products.
At $50 more than the new Echo, it may be a hard sell for some. However it’s still cheaper than what the first generation was sold for, and certainly something to consider.
The Echo Show was launched a few months back, introducing a screen to the Alexa enabled series of products. The Echo Spot now introduces similar functionality at a lower cost. Almost half the price of the Show, the Echo Spot achieves this price by cutting down on screen size and speakers.
The Echo Spot’s screen measures a circular 2.5″ to the Show’s 7.0″ diagonal and features just one 1.4″ speaker. Otherwise it achieves everything the Show does, supporting video calling, and the displaying of photos and video from various sources.
Amazon are heading the same way the car market has, plugging the market with a product for every price point.
Note: The Spot will only be available December 19th.
The Fire TV is not a new product, and is a direct competition to Google’s Chromecast. What this new product brings, is a support for 4k Ultra HD picture at up to 60fps. Although a replacement for the Fire TV Stick, both products will continue to be sold, separated by $30.
Both products give access to Alexa Voice commands by speaking into a microphone on the remote, while pressing a button.
Just when you thought Amazon had run out of new products, they pull this out of the bag. The Echo Connect plugs directly into your conventional home phone / landline, giving your Amazon devices access to your phone line. This way you can make and receive calls through any of your connected Alexa devices, while using your standard phone line. This includes the ability to make 911 emergency calls.
Small, useful and cheap, the product will probably sell. But with many people ditching landlines in place of the ubiquitous cellphone, it’s penetration won’t be that of their other products.
The Echo Connect is available December 13th.
But that’s not all. Well it kind of is. Amazon used this opportunity to also promote a range of Echo Gadgets. With minimal details, we assume some will incorporate the already popular Amazon Buttons, and promotional material has them being used to play trivia like games among friends. Only time will tell, as currently they are waiting on FCC approval of the products before offering them for sale.
In conclusion: lots of news from Amazon. Not unexpected, but announced at a good time, just ahead of Google’s scheduled event on 4 October.