Amazon Echo Plus release date, price and features: What is Amazon’s premium smart speaker?

As the rumours correctly predicted, Amazon used its recent event to un unveil a high-end, premium Amazon Echo called Amazon Echo Plus.

While the Amazon Echo itself, referred to as the Amazon Echo 2, has been redesigned with a handful of improvements, the Amazon Echo Plus is a significant step forward.

Read about all the new Amazon Echo products.

Amazon Echo Plus

Amazon Echo Plus features

The main change is that Amazon Echo Plus doesn’t run on Alexa Skills. On the existing Amazon Echo, and Amazon Echo 2, you have to install Alexa Skills via a connected smartphone and the choice is still a little limited (albeit growing all the time).

Instead, the Amazon Echo Plus has a built-in smart hub powered by ZigBee. ZigBee is effectively an alternative to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and creates a personal area, or zonal, network that connects low-powered devices. This makes it perfect for creating a simple network of smart-home products and it means products from different manufacturers can “talk” to each other without having to do so via an app or by having them on the same APIs. ZigBee monitors sensors and can be used to control lights, switches, thermostats and more.

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In an Amazon Echo Plus, this integration means the smart speaker can be used to control any ZigBee-compatible products you have connected to your Wi-Fi network, including those from Philips Hue, GE, Kwikset and more. To get started, each Amazon Echo Plus ships with a free Philips Hue smart lightbulb (while stocks last) and to set it all up, you simply say: “Alexa, discover my devices.” The Echo Plus will search for devices and assign names to each automatically. You can then use these designated names – such as ‘first light’ – to control them with your voice.

Additionally, Amazon’s new “smart home group” feature means you don’t need to remember specific names if you don’t want to. By placing them into a smart-home group, Alexa can respond more intelligently.

For example, when you walk into the kitchen, you can now say to your Echo “Alexa, turn on the lights” rather than “Alexa, turn on the kitchen overhead lamp.”

This isn’t unique to the Amazon Echo Plus, though. The feature will be available on the Amazon Echo 2, the previous-generation Echo, Echo Dot, and Echo Show from next month.

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Elsewhere, the Amazon Echo Plus comes with enhanced 360-degree omnidirectional audio, meaning you can speak to it from any direction and it can hear you. Dolby technology has been introduced to give deeper bass and “crisper high notes” for better audio clarity, according to Amazon. Plus, without having to install Alexa Skills, the Amazon Echo Plus automatically works with Amazon Music, Pandora, Spotify, iHeartRadio, TuneIn and more. You will need to sign in to any respective accounts on the Alexa app, though. And, like the new Amazon Echo 2, the Amazon Echo Plus features second-generation far-field technology for even better performance. Put simply, this makes it more accurate at listening and taking in ambient noise.

Amazon Echo Plus release date and price

The Amazon Echo Plus will be released on 31 October 2017 and its price is £140 plus delivery. Delivery is free for Prime members.

Amazon Echo Plus colours

The Amazon Echo Plus comes in silver, white and black.

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