A week out from Google’s upcoming 10/4 event, Amazon hosted a surprise hardware event in Seattle. Alexa speakers and accessories took center stage with a new smaller and cheaper Echo, as well as an Echo Plus that doubles as a smart home hub.
The new Echo is shorter than its predecessor, but retains the cylindrical shape and top-mounted controls. However, it is now available in variety of exteriors, including fabric, wood, and a metal-like finish. Internally, this updated Echo has a dedicated 2.5-inch downward-firing woofer and .6-inch upward-firing tweeter powered by Dolby.
Software-wise, Amazon is playing catch up with the Google Home by adding free voice calls in the United States and Canada, as well as Mexico. Further boosting its phone capabilities is a $34.99 accessory known Echo Connect. It connects to your home phone line and allows the Echo to be used a speaker phone. Another accessory announced today is the Echo Button for playing audio games.
The Echo now comes in at $99.99 for the cloth-covered speakers and $119.99 for other materials. Amazon is currently running a promotion where you can buy three second-generation Echos for $50 off. This is specifically aimed at multi-room audio, similar to what’s possible on Google Cast.
Amazon also announced the Echo Plus which it touts the ability to work with more than 100 smart home devices. The key feature is an easy pairing process with appliances that works automatically via voice without the need for skills or apps.
It retains the original Echo’s look, while featuring second-generation far-field microphones. On the audio front, it has a similar set-up to the Echo, but with a .8-inch tweeter. The Echo Plus is also cheaper than the original at $149.99 and will be shipping on October 31st. A limited time-offer also sees a Philips Hue Bulb included in the package.
Meanwhile, Amazon today also launched an alarm clock that features a circular 2.5-inch display and Alexa. The face of the Echo Spot looks like a Nest Thermostat with a thick black ring around the display while the body is vaguely spherical.
Amazon calls it an evolution of the Echo Dot and Show, with the Spot featuring video calling capabilities and a line out jack to connect external speakers. Bluetooth pairing is also possible. It will cost $129.99, but is not shipping until December.
At next week’s event, Google is expected to announce a competitor to the Echo Dot that matches it on price, while we reported today that a Google Home Max is also in the works to target a more premium market.
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