Amazon knows what time of year it is. With Apple, Samsung, and plenty others unleashing their holiday hopefuls, Amazon was by no means going to stand on the sidelines. At an event earlier today, they announced a ton of brand new hardware, including some major new updates to the Echo and Fire TV. Here’s everything you need to know!
If you thought the worst part about the original Echo was its ungainly looks, good news — Amazon has given their original smart home speaker a more stylish, compact design with a ton of shell options to choose from. They’ve got interior design-friendly choices like charcoal, sandstone, heather gray, oak veneer, walnut veneer, and silver, and with the shorter stature, that should make the Echo fit in way better with the decor.
It’s not just about the looks, though. Amazon has upgraded the speaker system inside. The Echo now houses a separate tweeter for mids and highs alongside a 2.5″ downward-firing woofer for bass. They’ve also added Dolby sound processing, so all together this 2nd gen echo should make tunes sound much better. Expect to be able to shout commands to Alexa from either farther away thanks to second generation far-field microphones, too.
The 2nd generation Echo can be ordered now for $100 and will ship sometime next month. And, as ever, Amazon has a pretty sweet package deal in tow — order three of the new Echo units and use the code ECHO3PACK, and you’ll get them all for $250.
Earlier this year, Amazon produced their first Alexa product with a display in the Echo Show. They’ve now shrunk that down into something shaped and sized like an alarm clock, called the Echo Spot. With a 2.5″ round display the Spot won’t be for watching videos like the Echo Show, but it will show information like time, date, and weather at a glance, and can take voice commands and make calls to other Alexa units like any other Alexa speaker. The Spot can be ordered now for $130, but won’t ship until December 19.
The Echo Plus looks more like the original Echo, but it’s got some of the goodies of the second generation Echo. No hot new looks or new speaker system, but it does get the updated far-field microphone array and Dolby audio processing. So, what’s with the Plus designation? Amazon wants this bigger unit to be a real smart home hub, in the same way Samsung SmartThings is — but made even easier. Amazon says you’ll be able to tell Alexa through the Plus to ‘discover my devices,’ which will not only detect all of your smart home products, but get them connected and set up to be used with Amazon automatically.
With the announcement today that Amazon will soon introduce a new update that enables the creation of recipes, it looks like Amazon really wants to cement Alexa’s role in the smart home. Recipes will let you control multiple devices with one command — you’d be able to set up a morning command that could raise the blinds, turn on the coffee maker, and turn on some music, for example.
The Echo Plus can be ordered now for $150 and is scheduled to ship on October 31, and Amazon is throwing in a Philips Hue smart light bulb with every purchase.
Next page: Amazon’s plans for the TV and the phone
This definitely doesn’t come as a surprise since Apple announced a 4K HDR Apple TV unit during their iPhone X event. Amazon now has a Fire TV streaming media device that supports the golden triad of TV right now — 4K resolution, HDR, and Dolby Atmos audio. For purists, the only thing missing is Dolby Vision HDR support — the new device only supports the HDR10 standard.
It’s not quite as small as the Fire TV Stick, but the dongle is still small enough to be hidden behind the TV (it still plugs into the HDMI port). The streaming TV stick comes with an Alexa remote, but can be controlled with any other Alexa speaker you might have in the home, too.
Preorders start today, with the Fire TV 4K HDR going for $70. $80 will get you the unit and an Echo Dot speaker, while $75 will get you the unit and an HD antenna, which should help you get over-the-air network TV for free. Whatever you choose, expect it to come in the mail on October 25.
Amazon really does want to replace everything — the Echo Connect is out for your landline phones! It was already possible to call other users’ Alexa speakers, but the Echo Connect makes it possible to use those speakers to call other phones. The Connect plugs into a telephone jack like any other phone, acting like a bridge unit that turns your home’s network of Alexa speakers into landline phones. Could save a lot of space by letting you get rid of those old landline phones! The Echo Connect will cost $35 and will ship on December 13, but it’s not available for preorder just yet.
These are the offbeat additions from today’s event. The light-up Echo Buttons will function as basic game controllers — think buzzers for trivia games. Incredibly non-essential, but they won’t be terribly expensive, either. Amazon will sell them in packs of two for $20, and while they’re not available yet, Amazon says they’ll have them out before the holidays.