Amazon’s Echo speakers — namely, the Echo Dot — has been Alexa’s vanguard, and the way Amazon has snuck its voice assistant into millions of homes. But, after four generations and one big design change, what else can Amazon do to make one of the best smart speakers smarter?
At today’s Amazon event, the company announced some improvements to the Echo Dot and the Echo Dot with Clock, as well as a firmware update to the Echo Studio that should provide more immersive sound. Here’s a summary of what’s new with Amazon’s Echo speakers.
Amazon Echo Dot and Echo Dot with Clock
Both of Amazon’s starter smart speakers have the same ball-like design that was introduced with the 4th-generation Echo Dot. However, both now have beefier speakers that Amazon says will deliver double the bass of the previous generation. We’re interested to hear the difference ourselves — while you don’t get the Echo Dot to provide entertainment for a party, any improvement in audio quality will be welcome.
As both the Echo Dot and the Echo Dot with Clock have the new AZ2 processor, it also enables a few new features. You can now hit the top of the device to pause and resume music, dismiss alarms and hang up calls. They also have new sensors that enable more smart home functionality; for example, you’ll be able to program Alexa to automatically turn on your smart fan when it gets too warm.
The Echo Dot with Clock — which we think is one of the best Alexa speakers — is also getting a brighter and higher resolution display (5 x 21 dots), which will allow it to show more information at a glance. For example, if you’re listening to music, it will scroll the name of the track and the artist’s name. You’ll also get more detailed weather information, calendar event times, and more. Ask it an equation, and it will even show you the answer.
For those looking to set up one of the best mesh routers on the cheap, both of the new Echo Dots now work as extenders for Eero mesh systems — a nice addition, and one that brings another one of the companies Amazon acquired further into its fold. However, this is Wi-Fi 5, not Wi-Fi 6, so don’t expect crazy throughput. Even better: If you have a 4th-gen Echo Dot, you’ll also get this feature starting Oct. 20.
The Echo Dot will cost $49.99 (AU$79), and the Echo Dot with Clock will cost $59.99 (AU$99); both are available for preorder and will ship next month.
Echo Dot Kids Edition
Amazon is also releasing two new Kids edition Echo Dots — an Owl and a Dragon model. In addition to being colored to look like those creatures, the Owl Dot will talk like an Owl, and the Dragon model will talk like a dragon — whatever that sounds like. It should be a hoot, though. (It's only for the U.S., though)
Like other Echo Dots for Kids, these models will be priced at $59.99 in the U.S., and come with a two-year replacement warranty and one year of Amazon Kids Plus. For now, the Owl and Dragon models are not scheduled to launch in Australia.
While the Echo Studio’s hardware isn’t getting an upgrade (aside from a new white version), Amazon is tweaking the software in its premium smart speaker with new spatial audio processing technology and a frequency range extension.
What this means for you is that you’ll get more immersive sound when listening to music and movies. Amazon didn’t provide a timetable for when the update would roll out, only that it would come in the next few months. However, you will be able to preorder the Glacier White model today for $199 (AU$329), and it will ship next month.
Echo Auto 2nd Generation
The second-generation Amazon Echo Auto has a new, slimmed down design and an adhesive mount so you can stick it in more places in your car. It will connect to your audio system via Bluetooth or an audio jack, and five microphones will be better able to isolate your voice from road noises.
In addition to the new hardware, Amazon is rolling out Roadside Assistance; if you hit a bump (literally), you can ask Alexa to call for on-demand support, such as if you run out of gas or get a flat tire.
The 2nd-gen Echo Auto will cost $54.99 in the US; Amazon hasn’t set a release date or preorder information, but you can sign up to get that info at Amazon. As for an Australian release of the 2nd-gen Echo Auto, we're still awaiting confirmation.