Amazon announces new members of the Echo family, new Fire TV with 4K HDR
Amazon announced a plethora of new devices today, ranging from new members of its Echo family to fun light-up “buzzer” buttons to a new Amazon Fire TV with 4K HDR. This announcement almost felt like Nest’s mega-announcement of new products last week, but Amazon won on number of devices announced.
Here’s the quick rundown:
A new Echo that looks like a “squashed” version of the original Amazon Echo, with physical buttons on top instead of the volume ring, improved sound quality, 2nd-generation far-field listening mics and six different “shells” to choose from with different cloth and faux-wood finishes. $99, ships Oct 31. (On first look, it does not appear that these “shells” are interchangeable…this article will be updated if Amazon clarifies this.)
The new Echo Plus smart speaker with built-in Zigbee smart home hub and dedicated automation capabilities, true automatic device discovery, similar in design to the original Echo, improved sound quality, better far-field listening, keeps the volume ring, and has a new silver color option. $149, ships Oct 31. (Does the new Echo Plus “Silver” have the “uh-huh” feature from the SNL parody a few months ago?)
(For a limited time, the Echo Plus will come with one Philips Hue White A19 smart bulb…it just dims and brightens, no color/color temperature options.)
The new Echo Spot with round 2.5” touchscreen that looks like a cross between an alarm clock and a tilted-up Echo Dot, camera for video calls, reasonable sound quality, improved mics, and it includes a 3.5mm port for connecting to external audio/speakers…unlike the Echo Show, which is Bluetooth-only for external audio. $129, ships Dec 19.
The new Echo Connect companion device, which connects to a physical phone / VoIP line to enable outbound and inbound phone calls on your Echo speakers. $34.99, ships December 13. (Amazon also enabled free outbound-only calls to real phone numbers today on Echo devices. Those calls do not require the Echo Connect device.)
The new Echo Buttons, light-up LED game show-style “buzzer” buttons for playing games with your favorite Amazon Echo device. These can also be used in other ways by apps with clever developers, and could have some pretty cool possible uses. (Smart home control buttons, anyone?) They will come as a two-pack for $19.99, but no shipping date was announced.
A new 4K Fire TV, an upgrade to the existing Fire TV streaming device that adds 60 fps 4K (up from 30 fps) and High Dynamic Range video, in a smaller form factor that can easily hide behind your TV. (Think Google Chrome, but slightly larger.) $69.99, ships Oct 25.
Other than the physical upgrades to the Echo Devices, improved video on the new Fire TV, and the new phone calling features…Amazon didn’t announce any new Alexa features or abilities.
Speaking candidly, the Echo has been a runaway success for Amazon, with a large and dedicated fan base. Adding these new models lets more people jump into the Echo ecosystem who may have been waiting for less-expensive options other than the popular Echo Dot. Now there are models to fit every budget and use case, with the Echo Show continuing to be the priciest option. (In my opinion, too high for what it actually does.) It could also be said that perhaps there are now too many Echo devices to choose from, especially now that Alexa is starting to show up on 3rd-party smart speakers.
The most interesting Echo to watch, from my perspective, is the Echo Plus with its dedicated Zigbee smart home hub. I'll be testing this one, to be sure. Otherwise, only time and sales numbers will tell how things will echo into the future. 😉