Recapping Everything Amazon Just Announced
In sort of a surprise move, Amazon unveiled a whole slew of new products on Thursday, including two modified versions of the Echo speaker, a whole new product in the Echo line, and an updated Fire TV with 4K and HDR streaming functionality.
Not to be forgotten is the new in-car Alexa experience that Amazon developed with BMW, which brings a number of Alexa skills to the road.
But let’s (somewhat) quickly run through the main points on each of the new product announcements.
This new product in the Echo family borrows from the recently-launched Echo Show. It’s a screen-based device that has a front-facing camera. The $129.99 Echo Spot is compact in size, which Amazon said makes it an ideal companion for a bed-side table or office.
"Echo Spot combines the popular small design of Echo Dot, the display of Echo Show, and the features you love about Alexa into an all-new, stylish and compact device," Tom Taylor, Senior Vice President, Amazon Alexa, said in a statement. "See the weather, watch video news briefings, glance at your alarm clock, check on your kids, and more--we think customers will find lots of places for Echo Spot in their homes."
Personally, it feels like the Echo line is starting to get a little oversaturated in terms of the number of different devices. But this is a move by Amazon to find different use cases for the Echo and Alexa. Someone might not want a regular old Echo, but the added screen and compact size might convince a certain consumer the take the plunge.
The Echo Spot will launch in December in the U.S.
The next generation of Amazon’s classic Echo places a great deal of focus on sound and design, and comes at a reduced price of $99.99. The most notable difference, aside from the price, is the actual look of the product. It’s shorter in height, and there are multiple finish options—charcoal, sandstone, heather gray, oak veneer, walnut veneer, and silver among others.
Taking a page out of Apple’s playbook, Amazon placed greater emphasis on the sound quality in their new Echo speaker. Amazon integrated Dolby processing technology, which it said delivers “crisp vocals and dynamic bass.” Combined with the dedicated tweeter and down-firing 2.5 inch woofer, this next-gen Echo should sound much better than older models.
Part of the Echo announcement also involved Echo Buttons. Launched as a way to enhance the gaming experience through an Echo (think game show buzzer), the Echo Connect buttons will likely see improvements in functionality over time that have little to do with family game night. At $20 a pop, these buttons could become the future of how consumers interact with Alexa and control their smart home.
The Echo will be available to ship starting next month, while delivery dates for the Buttons was not immediately available.
Perhaps taking another page out of Apple’s playbook… Amazon’s new Echo Plus is a taller version of the new Echo. Really, it’s the same size as the classic Echo, but Amazon packed in a whole lot of new smart home technology and still managed to keep the price at $149.99.
The Echo Plus comes with a built-in smart home hub that supports ZigBee products out of the box, essentially removing the need for a dedicated ZigBee hub in the home. And, to get started, the product will ship with a Philips Hue smart light bulb (while supplies last). The benefit here is that Amazon is making it easier for consumers to connect their smart home devices to the Echo and control them through Alexa. Currently, Alexa is able to control a wide range of smart home products, but requires an external hub and some form of bridge connector in order to communicate with those devices. That’ll still be the case with smart home protocols that aren’t ZigBee, but this is an important first step in the process.
On a related note, Amazon announced new “Alexa Routines,” which are basically just smart home scenes that you can set up and ask Alexa to execute. For example, “Alexa, good morning,” to turn products on, or “Alexa, good night,” to shut them down.
The Echo Plus will begin shipping next month.
Amazon Fire TV 4K
If a consumer is looking for a smart TV platform that allows them to stream 4K UHD and HDR content, but that doesn’t come at a premium price like the new Apple TV 4K, Amazon just rolled out a solid option at $70. The upgraded Fire TV allows streaming at 60 fps, HDR, and with Dolby Atmos audio.
“The all-new Fire TV delivers a great entertainment experience with the best picture quality on a Fire TV, 4K Ultra HD, HDR, and an unbeatable selection of content – all at an affordable price,” Marc Whitten, Vice President, Amazon Fire TV, said in a statement. “With Alexa, the new Fire TV makes it easier to navigate content and discover great movies and TV shows, all by using your voice.”
The Fire TV is available for preorder now and will start shipping on October 25.