EDITORS CHOICE 29.09.17

Amazon debuts new 3 Echo speakers

second generation amazon echo with woodgrain design in kitchen

Amazon has introduced three additions to its line of Alexa speakers specifically designed to boost sound and voice recognition, as part of its first hardware update to the line since 2014.

Better sound. Better communication with Alexa. Better looks. These aspects of the Alexa range have been on the agenda for Amazon to improve for several months in its quest for world domination of the voice control sphere, and the retailer let us know what its achieved at a launch event of 3 new products in Seattle. Most notably, the speakers feature Dolby audio - a welcome addition for many who found sound quality to be a weakspot of Echo devices.

First up is the basic Echo model – borrowing slightly from Google’s Home device, Amazon’s updated Echo now comes in a smaller size gives users up to six different shells to play with in giving their device the look best suited to its environment. It will undercut the Google Home however, priced at £90/$100/100 euros (40% cheaper than its predecessor).

Its new sister, the large Echo plus, features a home hub to support control of connected lighting and other third-party products without the need for a separate data-linking device. Compatible with the Zigbee smart home protocol, it is priced at £140/$150/150 euros.

The line-up was completed by the “Echo Spot,” incorporating a 2.5-in screen for hooking up to camera feeds and making video calls. To be priced at $130, so far the Spot only has US release in the pipeline (December 2017).

Amazon also announced Echo Buttons (small, Bluetooth-based buzzers for use with games), the Echo Connect (a device for turning home phones into speakerphones) and a partnership to bring Alexa into some of BMW’s car portfolio.

Amazon has previously stated that it sells Alexa-powered devices for near to the cost to produce them, as its main goal is to drive sales via its retail platform.

Although the retailer has never actually disclosed sales figures for its first generation of Echo devices, CIRP (Consumer Intelligence Research Partners) reports that a huge 15 million devices have been sold to date.

The Amazon update comes ahead of the launch of both the Alexa-powered Sonos offering (expected to be announced next month) and the recently introduced Apple HomePod smart speaker.