Meet the new Amazon Echo range of speakers and buttons
It’s been three years since Amazon first unveiled its Amazon Echo in the US (time flies when you’re asking Alexa for the weather) and now the company has revealed its next-generation smart speakers – a second Amazon Echo, Echo Plus, Echo Buttons, Echo Connect, a new 4K Fire TV Stick and the Echo Spot.
Rumours around the new Amazon speakers have been circulating for weeks, but they ramped up considerably when the original Amazon Echo appeared to be out of stock on Amazon UK. A message saying it was “currently unavailable” began showing on the official product page earlier this week.
The new Amazon Echo speakers were unveiled at an event in Seattle, led by Amazon’s senior VP of Amazon Devices and Services, Dave Limp.
New Amazon Echo range
Amazon Echo (2nd generation)
The new Amazon Echo – being dubbed Amazon Echo 2, Amazon Echo 2nd generation and Amazon Echo 2017 – is smaller and fatter than the original. It has a fabric case, similar to the Google Home, and comes with Dolby sound, as well as improved far-field microphones.
What’s more, the new Amazon Echo will let you make and receive calls from your landline for free – if you still have a landline, that is. This works with another product Amazon announced, the Echo Connect.
Amazon Echo (2nd generation) costs £89 in the UK for the Charcoal and Heather Grey models. The Oak, Sandstone, Silver and Walnut finishes cost £99. All models of the new Amazon Echo are on sale now.
Amazon Echo Connect
The Amazon Echo Connect is a strange-looking box that plugs directly into your landline and runs off the same number. By connecting straight to your landline port, the Echo Connect also lets you make and receive calls from other Echo devices around your home.
It goes on sale before the end of the year in the US and prices start at $35. Preorders are open now, but Amazon didn’t reveal an exact UK date. Instead, it just said it will come to Britain and Germany in 2018.
Amazon Echo Plus
The Amazon Echo Plus looks remarkably similar to the original Echo but is more aligned with being a control for the rest of your smart-home gadgets, rather than a standalone speaker.
The sound quality is improved, with better bass and treble than the Amazon Echo 2017, and has a smart home controller built in. This means it isn’t powered by Alexa Skills and instead works straight away because it has the Zigbee smart home hub built in.
The Amazon Echo Plus has a release date of 31 October and price of £139 in the UK. It comes in silver, white and black.
Amazon Echo buttons
Amazon threw a slight curveball at its Seattle event with the launch of Amazon Echo Buttons. The Bluetooth-connected, multicoloured pressure pads help you play games with Alexa. An example given was playing a quiz in which you have to “buzz” in with the answer.
It’s a left-field product, a bit like Amazon’s Dash buttons, and Amazon’s Echo Buttons will cost £20 in the UK for a set of two, $20 in the US.
Amazon Echo Spot
While we wait for the Amazon Echo Show to launch in the UK (a release date is now set for 16 November with a price of £200), Amazon used its event in Seattle to unveil the Echo Spot. It’s effectively the lovechild of the Echo Dot and Echo Show, with a 2.5in screen that can be used for basic tasks such as setting alarms, checking the weather and making video calls.
As you’d imagine, it comes with Alexa, but it can also be connected to other speakers via Bluetooth or cable. Prices start at $130 in the US making it $100 cheaper than its big brother, Echo Show. Preorders are open now and the Echo Spot will go on sale in December.
New 4K Amazon Fire TV stick
Designed to work alongside the current Amazon Fire TV Stick, not replace it, the more advanced Fire TV plugs straight into a receiver via HDMI cable in a similar way to the Google Chromecast.
The new Amazon Fire TV supports 4K HDR video at up to 60fps, powered by a 1.5GHz quad-core processor, and it supports Dolby Atmos surround sound and Alexa voice control through an Alexa Voice Remote, like the current Amazon Fire TV Stick.
The all-new Amazon Fire TV will cost £70 in the UK/$70 in the US and preorders are open now.
Although Amazon has taken three years to refresh its original speaker, it hasn’t felt like such a long gap due to the various products it’s announced in between. Of course, this gap feels a lot smaller in the UK because we only got our hands on the smart speaker in October last year.
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Earlier this year, the Seattle-based firm was awarded a patent for a pair of smart glasses that would effectively put Alexa on your face. Furthermore, Alexa has been integrated into even more products including Amazon Fire TV, Ecobee’s smart switches, Philips’ smart lights and even cars, from Ford and BMW.
This increase in products has expanded Alexa’s capabilities and there are now myriad apps that work using voice commands, from shopping services to dating sites and even murder-mystery games.