05.07.17

Amazon Echo ‘Show’ with screen released – early reviews mixed

newly released amazon echo show in use on white kitchen counter in home

The Amazon Echo ‘Show’ officially went on sale last week on the US, and with it a whole host of opportunities available via visual cards and video features.

Priced at US $230 (with two available for a package deal), Amazon’s Echo Show may be its most pricey option yet but the visual opportunities offered by the product have the potential to make voice control in the home a whole different ball game.

The Show is able to place video calls, see photos play videos via voice commands, as well as control music and other smart home devices (like Philips Hue, ecobee or an Amazon Echo or Dot) and surveillance (with integrations including Netgear, Ring, and Vivint). Hands-free video calls can be made to other owners of the Echo Show or Alexa App, as well as voice calls to owners of the Echo or Echo Dot. Amazon are also pitching the product a homeowners interested in having their own private karaoke party, with on-screen lyrics accessible by Amazon Music meaning users just have to ask Alexa to play a particular song, artist or genre, and can also stream music via Spotify, Pandora, TuneIn, iHeartRadio and other services.

In addition to news and videos, the largest category of visual skills announced at the launch of the Amazon Show was the food category. It’s no secret that most of the millions of Alexa devices sold are placed in the kitchen and the retailer hopes to take advantage of this with added tools to support calorie counting, online shopping and following recipes via instructional cooking videos optimised for the visual interface (although patience is necessary to use this feature, with fast-forwarding not supported yet). Users in the US are also able to ask the skill “What’s on now?” and the skill will tell you what’s on Food Network at that time.

Unfortunately the first reviews of the Amazon Echo Show are seemingly mixed, with some users complaining that the poor sound quality (with no 3.5mm headphone jack for connecting to better quality speakers) that plagued other devices is still an issue and the product still having several bugs when it comes to pairing with other devices and connectivity, in addition to being fairly bulky in design.

Could this be a case of Amazon rushing to capitalise on the success of Alexa devices and be the first to bring a voice-activated device incorporating a ‘screen’? Quite possibly.

The same issues could likely plague the upcoming Amazon ‘Look’ – billed as a ‘hands-free camera and style assistant’ – but perhaps the US $199.99 selfie-tool is marketed at a different audience. Priced at US $199.99, the product is currently only available via invitation only.