Like rumors said it would, Amazon has finally unveiled the long-awaited upgrade to its Echo device. It's now just a tad bit shorter, and it can be fitted with different types of material a la Google Home — but it is still called "Echo."
Amazon has unveiled a bunch of Alexa-enabled devices apart from a brand-new Echo, and the lineup seems to be part of Amazon's goal to put Alexa in as many devices and in as many homes as possible. The Echo line is, without a doubt, the market's most popular smart speaker, but perhaps only because Amazon was the first to truly popularize the ecosystem. These new devices, starting with the upgraded Echo, is a push for extended relevance in the burgeoning smart speaker race.
Second-Gen Amazon Echo
The new Echo also has a dedicated bass tweeter inside, which will deliver better sound quality. It's half the size of a standard Echo model but is a lot cheaper at $99, on sale now. Amazon is also offering a three-pack Echo promo, which means users can get three of these babies for just $250. This is perfect for those looking to equip their homes with a multi-room audio setup.
Amazon Echo Plus
But the Echo is merely one of the many devices Amazon has unveiled. There's also the Echo Plus, which looks every bit like a regular Amazon Echo model but contains upgraded internals. For one, it has a new speaker architecture, which Amazon calls "enhanced sound," and it also now supports Dolby sound processing.
What's most interesting about the Echo Plus is its smart home components. Amazon has equipped this smart speaker with Zigbee networking, which enables it to act as a hub for smart home devices such as light bulbs and air conditioning.
Amazon Echo Plus will cost $149, far less than the original model's $179 price tag.
Amazon Echo Spot
As The Verge notes, if the Amazon Echo Show and the Echo Dot had a baby, it would look like Echo Spot, also unveiled in addition to the second-gen Echo speakers. Barely larger than an average fruit, the Echo Spot is pretty adorable, that's for sure. It comes with a 2.5-inch circular screen that displays time and weather information, a speaker, and a front-facing camera — yes, this means it supports video calling too. Preorders are open now for $129. The device launches in the United States sometime in December.
Amazon Echo Connect
There's also the Echo Connect, a standalone speakerphone that lets users make phone calls via their Echo smart speakers. Calls will always be tied to the owner's phone number, so recipients will still know who might be calling them. It'll launch sometime later this year for $35.
Amazon Echo Buttons
Finally, Amazon also unveiled the Echo Buttons, apparently meant to be paired with Echo speakers for gaming sessions. They'll act as buzzers in a trivia game, for instance. They're a pretty odd addition to the whole lineup, but hey, they still do look promising. They'll be available in time for the holidays in a $20 two-pack.
Obviously, all these devices support Amazon's digital voice assistant Alexa, and it's clear the company's strategy is to make it as present as possible. Selling some of these devices in packs or combos seems like evidence that the company wants Alexa to be everywhere and for customers to outfit their homes with several Echo devices — an Echo in the bedroom, an Echo Plus in the living room, an Echo Show or Echo Spot in the kitchen, and so on. But to do this, it has to prove it's much better than rival smart speakers from Google and, soon, Apple.