The Amazon Echo universe is expanding again. In the face of the emergence of a veritable panacea of smart home speakers from competitors, Amazon is stepping up to the plate and taking on the challenge. In September, the company announced a series of new products, including a new Amazon Echo, an Amazon Echo Plus, a brand new device called the Echo Connect, an alarm clock-like device called as the Echo Spot, and Echo buttons geared towards gamers that will sell for $20 a pair. Amazon also announced a new Fire TV as well as an Alexa integration with BMW cars coming in 2018.
Amazon Echo Second Generation
First up, the new and improved Amazon Echo. The second-generation smart speaker comes with a dedicated bass tweeter and a rather unfamiliar design. About half the size of its older sibling, this new Echo has different shells to choose from, including charcoal, sandstone, heather gray, oak veneer, walnut veneer, and silver (showing, perhaps, the influence of Google Home and its fabric base). At $99, it’s slightly cheaper than the original Echo, which retails at $129. Apparently, shaving off some height also meant a lower price tag. Amazon says the device features better wake word processing and enhanced noise cancellation.
Additionally, Amazon is offering the second generation Echo in a three-pack, which allows for multi-room audio. If you purchase in multiples of three, you’ll save 50 percent, as each device will cost just $50.
It’s no wonder that Amazon is now focusing on multi-room audio. It recently announced that its Echo devices would support music playback across a number of rooms, and being able to stream content to multiple devices has been a long-standing request among users. The new Echo is available for pre-orders now and will begin shipping next month.
Amazon Echo Plus
As for the Echo Plus, as the name suggests, it’s quite a big taller (and thinner) than the second generation Echo. The device promises to be an easy-to-use smart home hub (it comes with Zigbee built in) that can compete more directly with Google Home and the Apple AirPod. As soon as you take the Echo Plus out of the box, it’ll start finding connected devices, like the Philips Hue smart bulb that comes with every order. Amazon Alexa will automatically name these devices too for easier setup. Just say, “Alexa, discover my devices,” and Echo Plus will automatically discover and set up compatible lights, locks, plugs, switches, and more without the need for additional hubs or apps.
The Echo Plus starts at $150. Pre-order here and get one next month.
Amazon Echo Connect
Then, there’s the $35 Echo Connect. This will allow you to make phone calls using Amazon’s Alexa. Think of it as a 21st century landline. In essence, it’ll allow you to make phone calls through your Echo by way of your phone number. That means that you’ll be able to tell Alexa to call someone, or have Alexa tell you who’s calling. While you could previously have one Echo call another Echo, this is the first time that you can actually dial a phone number. Plus, you’ll be able to call 911, the most important number of all. The Echo Connect is slated to ship sometime in the fourth quarter of 2017.
Amazon Echo Spot
Finally, there’s the Echo Spot, a tiny little futuristic-looking thing with a 2.5-inch circular display. The Spot looks like a modern alarm clock. Effectively a miniaturized Echo Show, the Spot will allow you to watch video content and even take video calls, though the screen is a bit too small to be comfortable. You can preorder the Spot now for $130, and shipment in the United States is currently confirmed to arrive by December 22. However, this wasn’t made official until quite recently, given a recent mixup in terms of dates. Folks who pre-ordered the Amazon alarm clock were notified via email that “unfortunately, the release date for the item listed below has changed,” and were then given a new delivery estimate. However, the Echo Spot website maintained the original December 19 release date.
To make things more confusing, the Twitter account for Amazon’s customer support team informed folks that their Echo Spots would arrive on December 24, and when the TechCrunch team attempted to preorder an Echo Spot themselves, the order was rejected altogether. Luckily, it appears this issue has been resolved. Amazon noted that the original emails suggesting shipment delays were sent in error, stating, “The emails sent to customers claiming Echo Spot would be delivered on December 25 or later are inaccurate. We can confirm all customers who have ordered an Echo Spot to date will receive their order no later than December 22, before Christmas. We apologize for the inconvenience.”
Update: Despite an email mixup, rest assured that if you preordered the Echo Spot, you’ll receive it by December 22.