Amazon announces the Echo Show

Amazon has unveiled its upcoming Echo model with video capacity. The device, called the Echo Show, featuries a 7-inch touchscreen with new video oriented features. It also has a microphone and camera that can be turned off.

According to the announcement, the device can:

  • Watch video flash briefings and YouTube
  • See music lyrics, security cameras, photos, weather forecasts, to-do and shopping lists, and more.
  • Works with smart devices
  • The device can make hands-free video calls to friends and family who have an Echo Show or the Alexa App, and make voice calls to anyone who has an Echo or Echo Dot.
  • See lyrics on-screen with Amazon Music.
  • Play a music and stream over Wi-Fi. You can also stream music on Pandora, Spotify, TuneIn, iHeartRadio, and more.

Rumors about the device have been floating around since the late 2016 and a leaked image of the device has been seen on various tech sites over the last week or so. Personally, I was surprised the the leaked picture actually turned out to be the actual device – I thought the design was a little dated and it reminded me a lot of the Sony Dash HIDC10 (a 7-inch touchscreen media device) but with a speaker on the bottom.

Here’s a picture of the Sony Dash HIDC10 from the Amazon’s product page:

I have used the Sony Dash as an alarm clock/media device for almost seven years. Year ago, Amazon had an app for the Dash that allowed you to watch Amazon Video on the device. The Dash video app was discontinued when Amazon came out with its own Fire Tablets. 😦 While the Dash has been discontinued, I still use mine and consider it one of my indispensable devices.

There is a lot that we still don’t know about the device. The questions are already starting to pop up on Amazon about what video services it will support, etc. I am curious as to why you can only make voice calls to someone who has an Echo or an Echo Dot. Given that the number of skills that have expanded the original Echo’s feature set, it will interesting to see what evolves with the video version.

The Echo Show will be released on June 28, 2017, will retail for $229.99 and is available in both black and white. You can find more information on the product page here. Amazon is also having an introductory Buy 2, Save $100 special if you want more than one or one for a friend or family member.

I just ordered one of these to check it out. What about you? Does this new Echo device sound interesting to you?

Amazon introduces camera-enabled Echo Look

Amazon has announced a new member of the Alexa Echo family, this time a device with a camera. Called the Echo Look, the device is being touted as a “hands-free camera and style assistant”.

The device allows you to take sharable 360 degree photos and videos with just your voice.It features built in LED lighting a a depth-sensing camera that allows you to blur the a photo’s background.

The Echo Look’s integrated app has some interesting features: You can create a personal lookbook. It also incorporates a feature called Style Assistant, which allows you to get a second opinion on your outfit. Submit two photos and the Look will tell which looks best.

The Echo Look does all the other things the Echo is known for. It plays music, reads audiobooks, gives you the weather forecast and so on. You can also add third-party skills to the device.

The Echo Look will retail for $199.99. Like they did with the original Echo, Amazon is initially making the Echo Look available by invitation only. You can request an invitation here.

So what do you think? Do you think Alexa needs a camera?

Amazon Echo comes to UK and Germany

echoukAmazon has announced that the Alexa, the Echo and the All-new Echo Dot are coming to the UK and Germany. The devices will be available in both black and white in the UK on September 28, 2016. The Echo will cost £149.99 and is now available for pre-order on the website. If you are a member of Amazon Prime in the UK you can pre-order until 5:00 PM on September 16 at the special price of £99.99. The Echo Dot sells for £49.99. There is more information at http://www.amazon.co.uk/echo.

In Germany, the Echo will sell for €179,99 and will be released on October 26, 2016. The Echo Dot retails for €59,99. According to the Amazon press release (via Google Translate), Prime members in Germany can request a €50 discount until September 16, 2016. There is more information on the Echo at http://www.amazon.de/echo.

Up until now, Echos have only been sold in the United States and been tied to US Amazon.com accounts. There has been quite a bit of discussion in the past about when these would be available internationally. No one is sure yet exactly how this is going to work in terms of devices sharing accounts between different countries, but it seems like a lot of people are going to be very excited to find out!

Amazon.co.uk Press Release

Amazon.de Press Release

The new Echo Dot: what’s changed from the original

bw_echoToday, Amazon confirmed yesterday’s rumors by releasing announcing a second generation Echo Dot. It is officially called the All-New Echo Dot (2nd Generation) and it retails for $49.99. Like the newly refreshed Amazon Echo, the new Dot will be available in both black and white and will be available on October 20, 2016.

The Dot is also being offered in a “Buy 5, get 1 free” six-pack and a ““Buy 10, get 2 free” twelve-pack” . The new Echo Dot will be released on October 20, 2016.

The last iteration of the Echo Dot was $90 and could only be ordered by Prime members using either an Amazon Echo or a Fire TV remote. This generation’s model can be ordered online by anyone. Previous purchasers of the Echo Dot can use Alexa to order and get a $10 credit (restrictions apply).

So what’s different about the new model besides the price and the method of ordering?

  • The new Dot is smaller. Both devices have a  3.3″ diameter but is the new one is 1.3″ tall vs 1.5″ height of the original.
  • The new Dot weighs a couple of ounces less.
  • Original Dot included a four foot long 3.5mm stereo audio cable. That cable is an optional purchase for the new Dot.
  • The new Dot has ESP (Echo Spatial Perception), which calculates the clarity of the voice. The idea is that when more than one Alexa-enabled device is present, the device nearest you will respond. It may also help in noisy environments.
  • The original Dot had a rotary volume dial like the full size Echo. The 2nd generation has volume buttons similar to the Amazon Tap.
  • There does not seem to be a power indicator light on the 2nd generation.
  • There appear to be minor cosmetic differences (slashes instead of circles for mic holes and a slightly glossier finish for the 2nd generation).
  • The original came with a 1 year warranty. The 2nd generation only comes with a 90 day warranty.

Because the Echo Dot is designed to work with other devices, this morning, Amazon was offering some interesting bundles like an Echo Dot coupled with the Bose Soundlink Mini II. Interestingly, by this evening, those bundles were no longer being offered.

The lack of the 3.5mm cable surprised me. We use ours with a stereo that doesn’t have Bluetooth, so that cable for the AUX jack is really a necessity. And given the fact that some of the 1st generation Echo Dots had overheating problems, I would have much rather seen a 1 year warranty. Although, for $50, for some people, it may not matter.

Are you interested in one of the new devices?

Echo rumors: A new Echo Dot and a British Alexa

dot_aThe rumors have been flying for a bit that Amazon intends to release an UK version of the Amazon Echo tomorrow, September 14th.

The rumors were fueled by the fact that if you asked an Amazon Echo “What’s happening September 14th?”, Alexa would answer some variation on, “I promised I wouldn’t tell, but maybe I should start packing in case I get an invitation. A visit to London has always been on my bucket list”

A press conference has been scheduled for Wednesday, September 14, 2016 for the release of an unidentified device. Many believe that the topic will be the announcement of the UK version of an Echo device. To date, the Alexa-enabled devices have only been released in the United States.

More rumors flew yesterday when Amazon Twitter account tweeted “Introducing the all-new Echo Dot. Add Alexa to any room — now for just $49.99.” The tweet, which was immediately deleted, linked to the old Echo Dot page here. The original Echo Dot sold for $89.99. It could only be ordered through the Amazon Echo or the Fire TV and was constantly sold out. The item was apparently discontinued in at the end of July (there are conflicting stories about that: some customers were told it was discontinued; CNET and other customers were told it would be returning).

A lot of people were extremely upset at the unavailability of the Echo Dot. We use ours a lot and I personally would have bought another one if I could have gotten it before they stopped selling them. At $40 cheaper than the original, if the feature set remains the same or gets improved, this will be a big seller, especially if Amazon opens up the orders to all customers.

I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings!

 

Amazon announces new Echo devices: The Tap and Echo Dot

echo_dotToday, Amazon announced two additions to the Amazon Echo family:  The Amazon Tap and the Echo Dot.

The Amazon Tap is a smaller, portable device that is similar to the Echo, but with some big differences. The Tap is considered to be an Alexa enabled device. Alexa devices are always on. With the Tap, you must turn the device on to access the Alexa features. This feature is a bonus if you are someone (like me) that has privacy concerns and does not want an always on device.

It is smaller that the Echo (6.2 inches to the Echo’s 9 inch height). Unlike the Echo, the Tap can connect to wi-fi hot spots using the Alexa app. While the original Echo was designed to be used at home, the lack of wi-fi connectivity for the had been a problem for some users trying to use it while traveling. Like the Echo, the Tap requires the Alexa app for settings and connecting to the Internet or wi-fi networks.

Since it is designed to be portable, the Amazon Tap comes with a specially designed charging cradle and retails for $129.99. The device will ship March 31, 2016. The optional sling is $19.99.  You can find out more information or order the Tap here.

The Echo Dot is currently available in limited quantities and is only being offered to Amazon Prime members. The item also can only be ordered through Alexa Voice Shopping. It can only be ordered through the Echo or the Amazon Fire TV.

The dot is a small (1.5″ x 3.3″ x 3.3″) device that can be connected to other speakers, making its most obvious purpose the ability to add voice controls to “dumb” speakers . It is only being offered to to those already using the Alexa system, although it seems to have many of the same capabilities (playing music, controlling smart lights, etc.). It does have a small built in speakers. It is bluetooth capable, although not with systems which require a pin for pairing. Like the Echo, this device is must be plugged in and is designed for use with a home wi-fi system. The device retails for $89.99. You can read more about it here.

I am seriously thinking about giving the Tap a try. I did notice in the video on Amazon that everyone seems to be picking the Tap up and using it like a microphone, while people always seem to talk to the Echo from across the room. I wonder if there is a difference in the microphone technology between the two devices?

How about you? Do either of these look interesting? If you have an Echo and would like to share any thoughts, I’d love to hear what you think. 🙂

Amazon Echo now available to all

echoThe Amazon Echo is now available to all customers. Previously, the voice-activated system was only available by invitation only. The always-on system features Alexa, Amazon’s answer to Siri and Cortana and allows hands-free access to music, including Amazon Music, Prime Music, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn. The device also can retrieve information from Wikipedia or the web, tell you the weather, set timers and alarms, relay the latest news, and compile shopping/to-do lists.

Over the past few months, Amazon has added a number of new features to the system. It can now:

  • Work with connected home systems
  • Play Pandora radio
  • Read Audible books aloud
  • Access Google Calendar
  • Use IFTT
  • Re-order Prime items
  • Relay sports scores and schedules
  • Give you traffic reports, including routes and travel times
  • Allow you to customize news.

Amazon Echo retails for $179.99 and starts shipping on July 14, 2015. You can learn more about the device or order one here.