We hope you’re ready for a lot more highly rated wireless speakers, because Amazon has released a truly ambitious new crop of Echo devices.
While Google is keeping to a single Echo-like product with its Home competitor, Amazon’s strategy is to put the Alexa voice assistant in every sort of device possible and see what people like. Prior to the announcement, there were already several kinds of Echoes of varying sizes and costs for people to choose or expand their Alexa stations. Now the family has gotten a lot bigger (and weirder), so let’s look at what’s new.
2nd Gen Echo Speaker
First, there’s a new standard Echo model for a lower $99 price. The second generation of the Echo is a shorter, sturdier version of the first, with updated Dolby speakers and a variety of interesting finish options beyond matte black, including fabric designs, faux wood designs, and more.
It also includes updated features with better wireless connections and noise cancellation. This puts the Echo is a handy position to compete against Google Home and the upcoming $350 (yikes) Apple HomePod.
The 1st generation Echo, meanwhile, is getting replaced with an elite Echo Plus model for the old $150 price. It looks just like the first model, but it’s designed specifically for smart homes this time around and even comes with a Philips Hue light bulb.
The new tech will be able to recognize and connect to all sorts of smart home gadgets automatically this time around (compatibility is already at over 100 devices, but you should still check to make sure that it works or will work with your favorite smart devices). The speakers and software also received the same upgrades as the new standard Echo. Overall this is a strong package thanks to Alexa’s natural affinity for smart homes.
Then comes the Echo Connect for $35, which is an odd foray into phone calls. It connects to a landline phone connection and then chills there, waiting to turn nearby Echo devices into speaker phones.
It’s pretty weird: The few people left with landline phones who may be interested in Echoes probably already have speaker phones with advanced contact lists, so it doesn’t make much sense as a consumer product, although that’s definitely who Amazon is targeting here.
Next, Amazon announced the Echo Spot, which is bound to either replace or get repeatedly confused with the older Echo Dot.
Like the Dot, the Spot is a smaller, satellite model that can be set up pretty much anywhere. Unlike the Dot, it’s expensive ($130), doesn’t have a battery option, and includes a small, circular screen that you can use to watch news videos, simulate an alarm clock, look at satellite weather forecasts, browse shopping lists, and so on – somewhat similar to the larger Echo Show, but while the Show appears made for the kitchen or living room, the Spot looks like it will be more at home in the bedroom or entryway.
Otherwise, Spot can do everything else a traditional Echo can with Alexa commands, including control smart devices throughout the house and connect with other Echo devices for synced sound. The little screen allows for some interesting combinations, such as being able to watch a smart baby monitor cam, that push this product from a novelty item to a useful alternative Alexa device.
Finishing the list is the Echo Button, which is…well, a button. That’s it.
It connects to nearby Echo devices with Wi-Fi and lights up when you push it. Amazon apparently included this product out of a sense of whimsy, because the only noted purpose of the Button is to facilitate Alexa-led table games that require buzzers – not exactly a key market. There’s no more information about the Button yet, which hints that this may be a test move to see how much demand there is out there for more random Alexa accessories.