Sequel to Amazon Echo could take design hints from Apple's HomePod

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Amazon's current Echo
When Amazon first released the Echo more than two years ago, it jump-started competitors to release their own form of voice-activated, virtual assistant speakers. Since then, Amazon has added three additional models to the Echo line, but the company has never gone back to improve the original. According to Engadget sources, that will change later this year.

The next Echo will be shorter and slimmer than the original, those anonymous sources claim. That’s to be expected of an upgrade. Specifically, they say it’s the size of three or four Echo Dots stacked on top of each other. With this new iteration, Amazon will also soften the edges a bit: Instead of the current plastic shell and flat ends, the new model will have rounded edges with a cloth-like covering.

Looks aren’t the only thing getting an upgrade. Amazon’s next Echo device will contain much-needed improvements to the speakers. Instead of one large tweeter and a woofer, the upgrade houses several additional tweeters. For comparison, Apple’s HomePod contains seven tweeters.

Other additions include improved microphone technology — the sources aren’t clear how the tech is changing, however. The current model uses seven far-field mics compared to the HomePod’s six and Google Home’s two. One possible improvement is to the software and acoustic modeling. This same technique permits Google’s speaker to pick up voice commands with fewer microphones.

The original Echo was influential when it first released, but a lot of advances have been made in two short years. Both Apple and Google’s alternatives are smaller and sleeker. The HomePod even packs in extra technology not found in the Echo. However, at $350, consumers pay for that premium quality. Still, Google Home is currently $50 cheaper than the Echo (or $80 with its current sale price).

Engadget’s sources say they saw a working unit that appeared to be in near-final form. If Amazon plans to release this fall, it is unlikely there would be many changes.

Amazon has yet to confirm anything about the next Echo. We have reached out to Amazon for a statement and will update the article when we hear back.

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