Amazon hosts a surprise hardware event today to unveil its new range of Alexa enabled more advanced device.
A new Amazon Echo
Amazon debuts a second-gen Echo for $99 which goes on sale today. A three-pack is offered for $250, that has a smaller physical size and an increased focus on sound quality.
The new device offers much better sound than the original Amazon Echo, thanks to support for Dolby Audio, which means it’ll compete more directly with products such as the Sonos Play:1 and even Apple’s upcoming HomePod, the latter of which is due out before the holidays.
The new Echo is built out of metal and sports cloth around the entire body, though different shells, which can be swapped on, will be available for purchase.
The new Echo includes Dolby Audio and a dedicated bass tweeter to help the device compete with the higher-end, audio-focused speakers from Sonos and the forthcoming Apple HomePod.
Amazon also introduced Echo Connect, which is a $35 box that will allow you to place phone calls to landlines using your existing Amazon Echo units. The Echo already supports calling between Echos, but that acts more like an intercom system. Pre-orders for the Echo Connect begin today. Calls from the US to other parts of North America will be free.
The device will launch in Q4 in the US and early 2018 in the UK and Germany.
Alexa in BMW cars
Amazon also announced that its smart voice assistant Alexa will be coming to BMW cars starting next year. This should give users full access to Alexa right from their dashboards no matter where they are.
Amazon Echo Buttons
Amazon also unveiled tiny “Echo Button” devices that can be configured to work and control an Amazon Echo. In one instance, Amazon showed how a family might play a game like Trivial Pursuit using the buttons to chime in for answers. The buttons will cost $19.99 each.
Amazon Echo Plus
The Amazon Echo Plus looks like the original Echo (a tall cylindrical unit) but will double as a hub for the smart home. Amazon said it will work with 100 smart home products out of the box. This means, instead of having to buy an Apple TV or a SmartThings hub, you should just be able to buy the Echo Plus as the foundation for controlling your home’s lights, locks, cameras and more. The Echo Plus is priced at $149.
New Fire TV with 4K, HDR and Dolby Atmos support
Amazon also unveiled a new Fire TV dongle that plugs into the back of a TV (it uses HDMI). It will support 4K content and high-dynamic range video (otherwise known as HDR, it allows movies and TV shows to look more as they were intended to and creates deeper blacks and brighter bright colors) and Dolby Atmos audio support.
The Amazon Echo Spot was also announced. It’s a round version of the Echo Show and has its own 2.5-inch display that can provide visual information (such as the weather or a clock face). It also provides access to Alexa and supports optional video-calling support. The Echo Spot will cost $129 when it ships in December.