Amazon’s Alexa blitz
Amazon surprised everyone last week when they held a private event and announced 13 — thirteen — new products in the Alexa ecosystem, plus some new service features like Alexa Guard (which we’ll cover in a separate post).
That’s a lot of hardware, and since I don’t have my hands on any of it yet this will be just a quick rundown of what to expect. Ready? Deep breath…
Echo Auto: an Echo for the car
This device plugs into your car’s audio system and…Alexa-ifies it. It uses your phone for internet access, and you can ask for directions, traffic reports, play music, make calls…shop…all the usual Alexa stuff. Drop In (Alexa’s intercom system) is supported too, and so is Routines — meaning you could potentially have lights turn on, etc, as you roll into your neighborhood. Available for $25 to select early adopters by invite only (I’ve applied), or $50 for normal people.
Echo Sub: Baby got bass
You can pair this subwoofer with an Echo (or two for full stereo) and get room-filling sound. For $130, if it sounds decent, this could be an easy to way to have a clean, all-in-one audio and voice assistant setup. But we’ll have to wait to hear how it really performs before making a final value judgement.
Fire TV recast: TiVo for cord cutters
This new Fire TV box connects to your HDTV antenna and records TV broadcast signals, making the last bastion of “live” TV part of the on-demand smorgasbord of video content at our fingertips. You can sling your recorded TV to any device — phone, tablet, Fire TV — on your own schedule. There are no monthly fees (*cough* TIVO *cough), and it includes two to four tuners with 75 to 150 hours of recording time. Pricing starts at $230.
Echo Input: the ChromeCast audio for Alexa lovers
If you already have a great speaker system and want to add Alexa to it, now you can for $35. The little black puck has microphones but no speakers — just a 3.5mm audio jack and bluetooth.
Echo Link and Link Amp
This is a strange one, and apparently targeted at audiophiles. These two boxes are designed to hook into existing stereo systems and deliver high quality audio. The Link ($199) just has audio output (for an amp), while the Link Amp ($299) has a 60W two-channel amp built into it. Neither of the devices have microphones, so you would be controlling them via other Alexa devices. I’m not quite sure why you would pick either of these over just adding the Echo Input to your existing speaker setup, but once they’re available the use cases may be more clear.
Alexa microwave: huh?
One of the stranger announcements was an Amazon Basics microwave with Alexa built in. It will allow you to use an Echo (a separate device — no voice controls built in) to set cooking times and power levels. It also has Dash button functionality, so you can order more snacks if you’re running low. It’s only $60, so I may try it just to see how microwaving the future really feels.
If all that wasn’t enough, Amazon also announced some less interesting but still notable things:
- A new Echo Dot, with much louder speakers
- An updated Echo and Echo Plus, with better sound, rounded corners and offline mode for the Plus’ smart home hub
- An Alexa Clock that shows you your timers…on a clock
- A new Echo Show that has a bigger screen and better sound
- An Alexa-branded smart plug ($25)
- A new Ring camera (Amazon bought Ring earlier this year)
Phew! Tired yet? I bet the Amazon hardware product team is.
If anyone had any doubts that Amazon was serious about Alexa being in every part of your life, I would expect those doubts erased. Expect reviews in the coming months on some of the new Alexa lineup.