Amazon Unveils New Echo Plus and More Alexa Devices

Amazon is introducing a handful of new Alexa-enabled gadgets.

The new entries include a fresh Fire TV streaming media player, three Alexa-powered Echo speakers, and two completely new Echo accessories called Echo Buttons and Echo Connect. In addition, Amazon has announced that Alexa will be built into new BMWs.

The expanded lineup, announced Wednesday, could help Amazon ward off increased competition from Google Home, along with similar products from Apple, Microsoft, and even home-audio company Sonos.

Here’s What’s New

The new products expand the roster enough to fill out a baseball team, or more.

Here’s the lineup of new players:

First comes the star of the show, the new version of the original Echo. This speaker is shorter than the original and has swappable exterior “shells” in finishes such as charcoal and oak veneer. The new Echo also packs improved microphones and speakers, according to Amazon, to help Alexa hear you more clearly and play music with better audio quality.

If you’re shopping for your first Echo, the most appealing feature of the revamped model could be the price: Amazon is selling the new Echo for just £89.99 less than the original.

Next is the Echo Show:

Echo Show brings you everything you love about Alexa, and now she can show you things. Watch video flash briefings, Amazon Video, see music lyrics, security cameras, photos, weather forecasts, to-do and shopping lists, browse and listen to Audible audiobooks, and more. All hands-free-just ask. It also comes in white.

Make hands-free video calls to friends and family who have an Echo Show or the Alexa App, and make voice calls to anyone who has an Echo device or the Alexa App.

Powerful, room-filling speakers with Dolby processing for crisp vocals and extended bass response. Play your music simultaneously across multiple Echo devices in separate rooms with multi-room music (available for Amazon Music, TuneIn and Spotify [coming soon]. Bluetooth not supported).

Ask Alexa to show you the front door or monitor the baby’s room with compatible cameras from Ring and more. Turn on lights, control thermostats and more with WeMo, Philips Hue, Hive, and other compatible smart home devices.

With eight microphones, beam-forming technology and noise cancellation, Echo Show hears you from any direction-even while music is playing. at £199.99 it’s a pretty handy tool to include in your daily life routines.

Next comes the Echo Plus. It looks identical to the first-generation Echo but comes with several improvements, the most important being the ability to act as a smart-home hub. This could make it the most interesting of the new products.

The original Echo could control connected gadgets if you downloaded that product’s “skill”—Amazon-ese for “app”—and created an account with the manufacturer. That inconvenience discouraged some users from accessing more than a few smart devices. (CR has an available skill on the Amazon Alexa platform, enabling consumers to ask about pricing, performance, and recalls over a range of home and child products.)

Things should be easier with the Echo Plus, which costs £139.99 Amazon says you’ll be able to control compatible smart-home devices such as smart locks and lights just by saying something like, “Alexa, find new devices.” We’ll be looking forward to seeing how well this works once we get the product into our labs.

All-new Fire TV with 4K Ultra HD and HDR support in a compact and portable form factor.

Experience true-to-life picture quality and sound with access to vivid 4K Ultra HD up to 60 fps, HDR and Dolby Atmos audio.

10,000+ channels, apps and Alexa skills with access to over 200,000 movies and TV episodes from the BBC, Prime Video, Netflix, YouTube, ITV, Curzon, UKTV Play, and more. Additional charges may apply.

Launch apps and control content with the included Alexa Voice Remote. Simply say “Launch ITV Hub” or “Skip ahead 5 minutes” and Alexa responds.

Do more with Alexa by playing music, ordering a pizza and controlling compatible lights or other smart-home devices-just ask. For £69.99 it’s pretty tempting.

Prime membership unlocks thousands of movies and TV episodes, including Amazon Original Series, Amazon Channels and ad-free listening to millions of songs with Prime Music. Channels are available as individual subscriptions so you only pay for the TV channels you want.

Simply plug into an HDTV and start streaming in minutes. With an ultra-fast processor and 802.11ac Wi-Fi, you can rely on smooth and responsive performance.

One is the Echo Connect, a neat idea with potential safety benefits. It’s a box that connects to your home phone line and can turn any Echo speaker into a speaker phone, complete with your dedicated home phone number. That means you should be able to tell Alexa to call 911 if you can’t get to a phone.

Finally, Echo Buttons are small, wireless buttons that can be used with games played through an Echo speaker. For instance, the buttons can light up or vibrate when you guess an answer to a trivia question. Amazon says this is the first product in a new category called Alexa Gadgets. Details are scarce on what other devices could be introduced, what it would be like to play a game with the Buttons, or what innovations third-party developers will come up with.

Whew. That’s it for Echo-branded products.

All the new devices, except for the Echo Connect and Echo Buttons, are now available for preorder and will start shipping in about a month. Amazon says the Echo Connect and Echo Buttons will go on sale before the end of the year.

 

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