In my Amazon Echo Show 15 review, which debuted in December of last year, I noted that one of my favorite features of the new Alexa-enabled smart display was its widget-based interface. These little windows let you control your smart home devices, look at your calendar, send and leave notes for family members, create shopping lists and more.
Plus, you can add widgets, remove them and resize them, so that the Echo Show 15's display is truly customized for your home. Back when I reviewed the device, there were about a dozen widgets with Amazon promising to release more, and open it up for developers to create third-party widgets. Well, here it is more than half a year later, and things haven't changed much.
Because of its high price — $249 — the Echo Show 15 is already a niche product among Amazon's smart displays. The $129 Echo Show 8 costs about half as much, and Amazon was practically giving away the $79 Echo Show 5 during Prime Day.
Having the biggest display isn't enough of a value proposition to make consumers opt for a much more expensive gadget; the widgets on the Echo Show 15 are a real differentiator, and one that makes it a much more personal device.
There's a number of neat things you can do with one of the best smart displays (here are the 10 coolest things the Echo Show can do), but it feels like there's an opportunity being wasted here.
To be fair, there is a little movement. Amazon has extended its API to third parties — Cookpad is one of the first such widgets — but it's a little surprising that so little has changed over so long a time.
Apple knows the value in getting third-party buy-in from day one, which is why you always see a few app developers touting the benefits of its latest software or hardware at an Apple event. Usually, there are some third-party apps that you can start to use right away, too.
I bet creating a widget for a smart display is a lot easier than developing a photo editor that works with a new operating system. Given that there are hundreds of thousands of Alexa skills, it's hard to believe there isn't similar interest in creating widgets for its smart display.
Amazon needs to stop thinking of the Echo Show 15 as a smart display, and start thinking of it as a platform. Otherwise, this iPad-like device for the smart home could end up more like Windows RT.
Next: I got the Echo Show 15 and it’s great — except for this one flaw.