Amazon goes spherical for its refreshed Echo smart speakers

Amazon announced a refresh to its smart speaker line on Thursday. Amazon Echo speakers arguably brought the smart home trend into the mainstream. The announcement brings an update to the series with four new devices, and more importantly, a dramatic design departure from what we know and are familiar with.

Amazon completely redesigned its flagship Echo speaker (4th Gen) into a spherical shape that comes in three colors — charcoal, glacier white, and twilight blue. The Echo (4th Gen) is covered in a fabric finish and will cost $100. Pre-orders start today and will ship later this year.

The New Echo promises better sound with a 3-inch subwoofer, dual firing tweeters, and Dolby processing.  The New Echo also carries the feature introduced by the Echo Studio, which analyzes the acoustics of the room and fine-tunes the audio playback for optimal results. It’s powered by a new AZ1 Neural Edge processor that can help shave milliseconds off of Alexa’s response times. Additionally, each Amazon Echo functions as a built-in smart home hub with Zigbee, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), and Amazon Sidewalk.

Moving right along, the Echo Dot (4th Gen) and Echo Dot with clock follow the same design elements with the same shape and colors as the new Echo (4th Gen), but at a more compact size. The prices for those will be $50 and $60, respectively. Both are available for pre-order today shipping later this year.

Both devices feature a 1.6-inch front-firing speaker. The LED Display on the Echo Dot with Clock can show you time, temperature, timers, and alarms. Plus, it adds a tap-to-snooze feature. The Echo Dot with Clock only comes in Glacier White and Twilight Blue.

For the kids, there’s the Echo Dot Kids Edition, which has the same spherical shape and comes in panda and tiger designs. Each also comes with a one-year Amazon Kids subscription. Those are also priced at $60. Pre-orders start today and ship later this year. Echo Dot Kids Edition comes with a new feature called Reading Sidekick. The feature will allow your child and Alexa to take turns reading from a supported book. Alexa will also listen for the quality of reading and offer encouragement or support depending on your child’s needs. Reading sidekick will be available in the coming months.

Soon, parents will be able to set up voice profiles for their children which will allow Alexa to recognize your child’s voice. When recognized, your Echo will automatically shift into Kids Alexa mode, regardless of the Echo to which your child is speaking.

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