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In just a short time, Amazon’s Echo product line has seen the kind of success that Google Home and Apple HomeKit can only dream of. Almost every Amazon Echo review, both from customers and experts, praises the genius behind these somewhat plain-looking devices.
They may not be as sleek and cool as Apple products but they get the job done.
Currently, Amazon has clinched a whopping 70% market share of voice-controlled smart speakers, leaving Google and other competitors trailing far behind.
On Wednesday, the company launched a slew of new devices and features for the Echo line, putting them even further ahead. The announcements included updates to Existing echo products and new entrants to the Echo series of smart speakers.
Here’s a quick lowdown on everything that was announced.
A New Echo
The biggest announcement was the launch of the 2nd generation Echo, an improved iteration of the original Echo speaker.
The most obvious change is the smaller height – 5.9 inches vs. 9.3 inches of the 1st gen Echo.
Another huge improvement is that you can get it in six different fabrics and finishes. So you can choose the one that best blends in with your home décor.
The six finishes are; charcoal fabric, heather gray fabric, oak finish, sandstone fabric, silver finish and walnut finish.
Amazon has also made a big improvement in the speaker, adding a more powerful 2.5-inch subwoofer and a dedicated 0.6-inch tweeter.
So despite its smaller size, you can expect the Echo to be pleasantly loud. The 360-degree speaker will have no trouble filling a room with sound whether you are listening to music, getting the weather report or making a call (yes, you can make phone calls now).
Alexa is still the brain inside the speaker so you can do everything the original Echo did. This includes access to thousands of Alexa skills that put the Echo to useful and sometimes wildly creative uses.
The new Echo is currently going for $119.99. You get a $50 discount if you buy 3.
Amazon is not calling the new Echo ‘Echo 2’ or ‘Echo 2nd Gen’. It’s simply ‘Echo’. So what happens to the original one?
Well, it has been updated. It’s now the Echo Plus.
It’s the same size as the 1st generation Echo but with some improved features. First, they have improved the sound, obviously the most important aspect.
The Echo Plus has a 0.8-inch tweeter and a 2.5-inch downward-firing subwoofer. Together, they produce richer, deeper and crisper sound that easily fills even a large room.
If you were hesitating about buying the Echo as a dedicated music speaker for your home, now’s the time to buy it. With the new multi-room audio playback, you can even rig several Echos together and have a party.
Amazon has also added new feature that makes connecting with other smart devices a breeze. All you have to do is say, ‘Alexa, discover my devices’. The Echo Plus will take it from there, discovering available smart devices such a bulb and automatically connecting to it.
No more tapping or using your phone to connect your smart home to Alexa.
The Echo plus has fewer aesthetic options. There are only three colors to choose from; black, silver and white.
It costs $149.99 and for a limited time, you can choose the Echo Plus along with a Philips Hue bulb for no additional cost. But you have to wait until October 31 when it will be released.
This was another exciting announcement that’s got everyone talking. It’s a brand new Echo that’s introduces yet another way to enjoy all the goodies from Alexa.
The Spot is a miniaturized version of the Echo Show, the desktop speaker Amazon launched a while back.
At just 4.1 inches in height, the Spot is basically a bedside alarm clock. It has a small 2.5-inch screen where you can watch news briefings, see weather updates, check the time and even video chat with friends.
Basically, anything the Echo Show can do the Echo Spot can too. This includes seeing live camera feeds, controlling smart devices and making calls.
It is Bluetooth enabled so you can stream music from your phone or computer.
The Spot’s screen can be personalized with unique clock faces or using pictures from Prime Photos.
The Echo Spot will cost $129.99 when it is released on December 19.
Previously, Echo speakers could only be used to place calls to other Echo speakers. Now, with the new Echo Connect, you can call or message any phone number for free.
The Echo Connect links with your Echo speaker, turning it into a speaker phone.
All you need to do is connect your home phone service with Echo Connect. Then just using your voice, you can tell Alexa to call any number in your contacts list. You contacts will be shown your number so they’ll still know it’s you calling.
Echo Connect can be used with all Echo Speakers, except the portable Echo Tap.
It will cost $34.99 when it’s released on December 13th.
This was the most unusual announcement at the launch event. Echo buttons are small colored thingies that can be used together with an Echo speaker to play games with family or friends.
They are basically buzzers that you press when playing a game. For instance there is a ‘Button Trivia’ that you use to buzz answers in a questions game.
Amazon didn’t say much about the buttons but we expect more details when they are released towards the end of the year. They’ll cost $20 for a pair.
So, which Echo are you planning to get?