Today Amazon held a hardware event that was loaded with new product announcements. We got new Echo speakers, a new Echo Show, and even a microwave.
In many ways, the sprawling event was a showcase of how far Alexa has come in the four years since Amazon’s voice assistant was first introduced in 2014. The technology has evolved far beyond its early capabilities on the original Echo speaker.
Here are all the biggest announcements:
New Echo Dot
Amazon says it “went back to the drawing board” when designing the new Echo Dot. The company says it features a larger 1.6-inch driver, is 70 percent louder than the previous model, and much clearer sounding. It retains both Bluetooth and aux output if you want to hook it up to a bigger speaker you’ve already got.
The new Echo Dot costs the same $49.99. Preorders start today, and it ships in October.
Amazon says it has built the ultimate portable device for taking Alexa on the road. The Echo Auto will be available to start on an invite basis for $24.99 before expanding to all customers and jumping in price to $49.99.
The Echo Auto connects to Alexa through your phone and plays over your car’s speakers. It features eight microphones that the company says can make out your voice even over road noise and music. You can do all the usual Alexa commands, and when you ask for directions, the Echo Auto will send you to Google Maps, Apple Maps, Waze, or whatever your preferred navigation app is.
The new, tiny Echo Input is meant to be plugged into speakers you already own; there’s not one built in. It contains a far-field microphone array for Alexa commands, but in a sleeker, put-it-anywhere form factor than even the Dot. The Echo Input is just 12.5mm tall. It’s coming later this year for $34.99.
Second-generation Echo Plus with local voice control
The revamped Echo Plus looks much closer in design to the standard, cloth-covered Echo for a friendlier appearance in your living room. It’s got better sound and, like last year’s model, can act as a hub for your smart home gadgets. There’s also an integrated temperature sensor that can trigger Alexa routines based on a room’s temperature. Priced at the same $149.99, the Echo Plus goes up for preorder today and ships in October.
Amazon also demonstrated new local voice controls that are debuting with the Echo Plus; if your internet goes out, you’ll still be able to control the smart home devices with this speaker. Amazon is starting with “some of the most-used controls like lights” and will expand local voice controls to other devices over time.
If there’s one thing Echo speakers typically lack, it’s bass. To help solve for that, Amazon is introducing the $129.99 Echo Sub. When paired together with an Echo or Echo Plus, the Echo Sub will fill out the low end, making your music sound much fuller.
Second-generation Echo Show
Amazon’s smart display has been improved with a larger screen — now 10 inches — and better sound. And similar to the Echo Plus, it can serve as the hub to a smart home. It’s also the best Alexa device when it comes to hearing your voice; Amazon says the eight-microphone array in the new Echo Show is the best mic system it has ever shipped.
Amazon is adding web browsers (including its own Silk browser and Firefox) to the Echo Show. And the company announced a Skype app for the device that will allow users to make video calls directly on the Show — in addition to offering the same “drop-in” video chat capabilities as last year.
The second-gen Echo Show will retail for $229.99. Preorders start today and it’ll be available in October.
Amazon is slowly moving into home security with Alexa Guard. The new feature “integrates Echo devices, smart lights, and security service providers to help customers protect their homes while they’re away.”
When Guard is on, Alexa can send you Smart Alerts with audio clips when specific sounds are detected, including breaking glass or smoke or CO2 alarms. Just set your Echo device to away mode when you’re heading out by saying, “Alexa, I’m leaving,” and Alexa will let you know if your Echo devices detects an unusual sound.”
Alexa Guard also has an Away Lighting mode that uses machine learning to turn your smart lights on and off “in patterns that seem natural” to deter break-ins and robberies.
Amazon’s own AmazonBasics brand is putting out a new microwave that takes advantage of the new Alexa Connect Kit, which will also be made available to third-party device makers. The kit “includes a Wi-Fi and Bluetooth LE module that contains software — written and managed by Amazon — that automatically and securely connects to Amazon-managed cloud services.” There’s no actual microphone in here; the microwave connects to your Echo devices over Bluetooth.
So how does this make a kitchen appliance better, you ask? The AmazonBasics Microwave includes “dozens of quick-cook voice presets, so you can cook just by asking Alexa.” There’s a built-in Ask Alexa button that you can press and say simple commands like “two minutes and 30 seconds on medium” to speed up the process of heating up your food.
The microwave will cost $59.99 when it ships later this year, and you can preorder beginning today.
Echo Wall Clock
Amazon’s new wall clock is similar to the microwave — I know, that sounds weird — in that it connects to your Echo speakers over Bluetooth. The big pitch here is that you can set timers, alarms, and change the time using your voice and Alexa commands.
Amazon goes after Sonos with improved multi-room audio and Echo Link / Link Amp
Sonos and Amazon are partners of sorts; Alexa is the voice assistant on the Sonos One and Sonos Beam. But today, Amazon made clear that it wants to make its own multi-room audio functionality much more powerful. Third-party speakers with Alexa will soon be able to be grouped into a whole-home setup — much like the Echo speakers can do today.
The Echo Link (above) is “designed to connect to a receiver or amplifier, with multiple digital and analog inputs and outputs for compatibility with your existing stereo equipment.” There are no mics built in here; instead, the Echo Link serves only to “let you control music selection, volume, and multi-room playback on your stereo with your Echo or the Alexa app.”
If you have passive speakers, the Echo Link Amp adds “a built-in 60W 2-channel amplifier” to the equation. These two products are similar in concept to the Sonos Connect and recently-announced Sonos Amp.
Fire TV Recast brings over-the-air channels (ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC) to Fire TV
If streaming apps aren’t enough to satisfy your video streaming needs, Amazon’s new Fire TV Recast will add OTA channels to the mix — and a DVR for recording them. It’s essentially a super-powered Slingbox designed for Amazon’s ecosystem, letting you “watch, record, and replay free over-the-air programming to any Fire TV, Echo Show, and on compatible Fire tablet and mobile devices.” There’s an antenna in this thing, and Amazon says it will help customers find the best place to put it (for optimal channel reception) during setup.
A two-tuner model will let you record two shows at once and includes 500GB of DVR space for $229.99. A four-tuner version with 1TB of storage is also coming.
Fire TV Recast’s channels are integrated right into the Fire TV channel guide. You can schedule and delete recordings using Alexa, as well. It’s scheduled to ship before the holidays.
Frustration Free Setup with Wi-Fi Simple Setup
Amazon announced what it describes as “a multi-year journey to make setting up all types of electronic devices as easy as plugging them into the wall.” The effort is dubbed Frustration Free Setup. The biggest new aspect of this announced today is what Amazon calls Wi-Fi Simple Setup.
Now, compatible devices will be able to access the Wi-Fi credentials stored on your Amazon products so that they can automatically connect to the internet within seconds of being plugged in. Amazon says its customers have already securely stored more than 100 million Wi-Fi credentials in the “locker.”
Amazon Smart Plug
This new $24.99 product is exactly what the name suggests: it’s a plug that goes into an outlet and is compatible with Alexa. So you can tell Alexa to turn on or turn off whatever’s plugged into the Smart Plug from wherever you are. And it supports the automatic Wi-Fi setup mentioned above. Preorders kick off today, and the $24.99 Smart Plug will be available in October.
Ring Stick Up Cam
The Ring Stick Up Cam will be offered in both wired and battery-powered configurations — both for $179.99. The Stick Up Cam can be used both indoors and out, according to Amazon, and can integrate with Ring Alarm when used inside the house. It’s coming later this year.
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