Amazon has added five new Echo devices to its smart products line-up, all of which include Alexa voice control. They are a new version of the Echo, the Echo Flex, Echo Dot with clock, and Echo Show 8.
The new Echo features an updated fabric design and better sound but will remain available at the same price of $130. It comes in twilight blue, charcoal, heather grey, and sandstone finish options, and includes the same audio architecture as the Echo Plus, including a 3" woofer and increased back volume. Ask it a question, and responses will come through the small speaker that has been optimized for Alexa. It also has a built-in USB port for charging your smartphone and add an optional accessory like a Smart Night Light or Motion Sensor using the same outlet.
Echo Flex (shown above) replaces the Echo Dot as the most affordable way to add Alexa to a space in your home. The $35 device is a wireless plug-and-play smart speaker that plugs directly into a standard electrical outlet, making it ideal for the hallway, garage, or bathroom, for instance, where cords can be a hassle.
As the name implies, the new Echo Dot ($80) includes a bright LED display that shows the time, outdoor temperature, times, and alarms. Ideal for the nightstand or countertop, the display automatically adjusts based on the brightness of the room so you can easily see the time, ask to see the outdoor temperature, or set a morning alarm or cooking timer. Tap the top to snooze an alarm.
With an 8" display, the Echo Show 8 offers an 8" HD display and crisp sound via five directional speakers and adds a built-in camera shutter for those concerned about their privacy. It also includes room adaptation technology for immersive and effective sound, and a built-in smart home hub. Use the screen to play videos from Prime Video, catch up on the news using the CBC skill, or make video calls. It will sell for $260.
And finally, Echo Studio ($270) provides multidimensional audio, and pairs with Fire TV for audio playback. Also serving as a smart hub, it has five built-in directional speakers, a 5.25-inch woofer, and 330W of peak power, 1-inch tweeter, and three 2-inch midrange speakers. It can automatically sense the acoustics of your space and fine-tune audio playback to deliver optimal sound. It is also the first smart speaker to deliver a multidimensional audio experience using advanced processing from Dolby Atmos.
One or two Echo Studio devices can be paired with select Fire TV devices for audio playback with multi-channel sound and support for Dolby Atmos, Dolby Digital 5.1, and stereo audio. Echo Studio also has a built-in Zigbee smart home hub as well, which can be used to control compatible smart home devices.
"We love hearing feedback from customers about how they use Alexa throughout their day, whether that's listening to music, dropping in on a loved one or playing a game with the family," says Tom Taylor, Senior Vice President, Amazon Alexa. "We hope these new Echo devices will give customers even more ways to access Alexa, whether that's through the best-sounding Echo yet, Echo Studio, a reimagined Echo and Echo Dot, new designs like Echo Show 8 and Echo Flex."
Alongside a new lineup of Echo devices, Amazon announced new ways Alexa is getting smarter. She can now whisper via Whisper Mode, a new feature that allows you to whisper to Alexa, and she will whisper her response back to you, in case you don't want to wake your spouse or the baby, for example.
Starting next month, you can switch between English and Canadian French when talking to Alexa. If you ask for the weather in English, Alexa will reply in English, and if someone else in your household speaks French, Alexa will understand and respond in French. As well as English and Canadian French, multi-lingual mode will also be available in English and Hindi in India/ English and Spanish in the U.S. New language pairs will be added over time.
Alexa will soon offer two new voice-based features that provide more transparency over responses. If you are curious to understand what Alexa heard when you asked her to tell you the news or play a specific song, you can say, "Alexa, tell me what you heard" and Alexa will read back your most recent voice request. You will also be able to ask, "Alexa, why did you do that?" and Alexa will provide a short explanation about her response to your last voice request. This feature will be rolling out later this year.
Alexa and Echo devices are built with multiple layers of privacy protections. Earlier this year Amazon introduced the ability for customers to say, "Alexa, delete everything I said today," and "Alexa, delete what I just said" to make it easier to delete recordings. Auto-delete, available later this year, lets you choose to have your voice recordings older than three or 18 months automatically deleted on an ongoing basis. This feature will be available in addition to the ability to access and delete utterances individually, or all at once, which customers have today.
The new Echo devices are available for pre-order starting today and will start shipping later this year.