A Verizon branded filing with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) suggests an interesting bit of hardware is just around the corner. The FCC listing, first spotted by Protocol, reveals that the company is working on an Echo Show style smart screen with a modified version of Alexa built in.
Rather than using the usual “Alexa” wake word, the smart screen will apparently be woken by a person saying “Hi Verizon” instead. That means that Verizon is likely using Amazon’s Alexa Custom Assistant program that was first unveiled in January, which not only allows custom wake words, but a different voice and set of skills too.
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How far the device will diverge from smart screens like the Echo Show and Nest Hub remains to be seen, but the key specs are there on the listings for all to see. The device will sport an 8-inch 1280 x 800 display with front-facing camera that can be blocked via a switch on top of the device for privacy. So, its closest competitor looks to be the Echo Show 8.
Pictures of the bottom of the device show the name “Verizon Smart Display”, and a large Dolby Audio logo. Curiously, there’s a USB port next to the power jack, and it’ll have 4GB RAM, 16GB of internal storage and support Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and 4G connections according to the manual.
The manual also mentions the BlueJeans video conferencing service which was acquired by Verizon last year. At the time, the company said that BlueJeans would be “deeply integrated into Verizon’s 5G product roadmap” with a particular focus on “high growth areas such as telemedicine, distance learning and field service work.”
While the smart screen only mentions 4G rather than 5G, that alone is a curious inclusion. Smart screens typically make use of Wi-Fi only, because they’re generally not intended to move from place to place. The inclusion of LTE connectivity indicates that Verizon sees this as a weakness to the existing devices out there, and perhaps there is a market for a more portable dedicated screen for video conferencing, avoiding the need to multitask via laptop webcam.
At the time of writing, just two smart screens make it into our list of the best smart speakers: the Google Nest Hub Max and the Echo Show 8, with the list dominated by dedicated speakers without displays. It will be interesting to see if the Verizon Smart Screen brings anything new to the table that makes a built-in screen a must-have feature in the future.
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