Amazon has a host of new Echo and Alexa devices to smarten up your home (and car)
In an announcement-packed press show that seems to be becoming an annual event for Amazon, the company has unveiled a host of different Echo-branded and Alexa-powered devices for 2018, including redesigned speakers and a smart microwave. We've got the details on everything that's new.
Leading the Echo charge is an upgraded Echo Show, which is basically the Echo with a screen attached. The 2018 version has a 10-inch display, more fabric in its design, and (apparently) better-sounding speakers – from a first glance it certainly looks more aesthetically appealing than its predecessor from last year. It'll set you back US$249.99.
Alexa is going on the road too, with the Echo Auto: The $49.99 devices sits on your dashboard and connects to your car stereo via a cable or Bluetooth. The idea is obviously to be able to speak out Alexa commands while you're driving, and for a data connection it'll hook up to your phone. This device will be invite-only until next year.
The funky new Echo Dot is yours for $49.99, and like the full-sized Echo before it, has been given a cuter, more fabric-led redesign. The number of internal microphones are down from seven to four, but Amazon says audio output has been improved here as well – you might even be able to bear listening to music on it now.
Speaking of audio output, the 100W Echo Sub is designed to work alongside the regular Amazon smart speakers to add a bit of extra bass richness for your tunes. The $129.99 add-on seems like a worthwhile upgrade if you're going to use your Echo devices as a serious music system (so watch out Sonos).
We also have the Echo Input, a $34.99 accessory that adds Alexa smarts to any speaker via a cabled or wireless connection (it has no speaker of its own). Previously you could do that with an Echo Dot, but this is even more compact, and will come bundled with some third-party speaker systems, Amazon says.
Next, there's also a $199.99 Echo Link and a $299.99 Echo Link Amp for connecting up high-end speakers and audio equipment and adding the power of Alexa at the same time. They both have multiple input and output options, but they don't have built-in microphones – the idea is you hook them up to your other Echos for the voice control part of the equation.
Amazon also had time to show off an Echo Wall Clock – useful for displaying those Alexa timers as well as the actual hour of the day – and an AmazonBasics Microwave with Alexa on board, so you can tell it what you want cooking and for how long instead of having to fiddle around with buttons and dials.
Meanwhile, the $149.99 smart-home-controlling Echo Plus is getting an improved design and temperature-sensing capabilities, as well as Dolby-powered speakers inside. Amazon has also introduced a $24.99 Alexa-powered Smart Plug for remote control of any dumb devices left around the home.
On the software side, Amazon says Alexa can now speak in a whisper if your kids (or parents) are asleep, and it's also flicking the switch on the developer side to enable third-party Alexa-enabled speakers to be set up in a multi-room system. Alexa Guard is a new software feature that can turn your Echos into a security system.
Finally, there's Alexa Hunches, rolling out later this year. It's a way for Alexa to be more proactive, so you might (for example) get a reminder that you've left the porch light on. It'll use neural networks and your past behavior to try and work out if you're going to need something ahead of time.
Even by the standards of 2018, it was a breathless launch event from Amazon, emphasizing its ambition to put Alexa into just about everything you do in your life. Google is holding an event itself on October 9, and we might just see a riposte from Google Assistant devices.
Product pages: Amazon