Amazon announces new hardware products—here’s a rundown
All of the new gadgets are helping Amazon spread its Alexa voice assistant everywhere
By Todd Haselton
Amazon announced a bunch of new products that show Echo and Alexa are more important than ever.
While Amazon may have failed at the smartphone, it seems to have found incredible success with the Echo. It more than doubled down on Wednesday with five various Echo hardware products, showing the increasing importance the product has for Amazon, and its attempt to get Echos in as many households and rooms as possible.
Here’s a rundown of everything Amazon introduced:
A new Amazon Echo
Amazon said it offers much better sound than the original Amazon Echo, thanks to support for Dolby Audio, which means it’ll compete more directly with products such as the Sonos Play:1 and even Apple ‘s upcoming HomePod, the latter of which is due out before the holidays.
The new Echo is built out of metal and sports cloth around the entire body, though different shells, which can be swapped on, will be available for purchase. Google offers different coloured shells for the Google Home, so this is a similar approach.
The new Echo costs US$99.
Alexa in BMW cars
Amazon also announced that its smart voice assistant Alexa will be coming to BMW cars starting next year. This should give users full access to Alexa right from their dashboards no matter where they are.
Amazon Echo Buttons
Amazon also unveiled tiny “Echo Button” devices that can be configured to work and control an Amazon Echo. In one instance, Amazon showed how a family might play a game like “Trivial Pursuit” using the buttons to chime in for answers. The buttons will cost US$19.99 each.
The Echo Connect is a US$35 box that will allow you to place phone calls to landlines using your existing Amazon Echo units. The Echo already supports calling between Echos, but that acts more like an intercom system.
Amazon Echo Plus
The Amazon Echo Plus looks like the original Echo (a tall cylindrical unit) but will double as a hub for the smart home. Amazon said it will work with 100 smart home products out of the box. This means, instead of having to buy an Apple TV or a SmartThings hub, you should just be able to buy the Echo Plus as the foundation for controlling your home’s lights, locks, cameras and more. The Echo Plus is priced at US$149.
New Fire TV with 4K, HDR and Dolby Atmos support
Amazon also unveiled a new Fire TV dongle that plugs into the back of a TV (it uses HDMI). It will support 4K content and high-dynamic range video (otherwise known as HDR, it allows movies and TV shows to look more as they were intended to and creates deeper blacks and brighter bright colours) and Dolby Atmos audio support.
The Amazon Echo Spot was also announced. It’s a round version of the Echo Show and has its own 2.5-inch display that can provide visual information (such as the weather or a clock face). It also provides access to Alexa and supports optional video-calling support. The Echo Spot will cost US$129 when it ships in December.