Amazon Focuses on Alexa with New Echos

As voice control technology spreads like wildfire throughout the AV world, Amazon is looking to keep its lead over the competition with redesigned Echo and Echo Plus smart speakers, new Alexa features, and a new family member, the Echo Spot.

The updated Echo ($100) and Echo Plus ($150) sound better than their predecessors and incorporate improved far-field voice-recognition technology, according to Amazon; the Plus also now includes a built-in smart home hub. Both will be available October 31 and are available for pre-order now.

The orb-like Echo Spot ($130) is compact like the Echo Dot and has a video display like Echo Show but in a different form factor. The device begins shipping in December but is available for pre-order now.

A Smaller Echo
Sporting a more compact design than its predecessor, the updated Echo employs Amazon’s second generation far-field technology, which helps the Alexa voice-control system detect its wake word from across noisy rooms and enhanced noise cancellation, according to Amazon. It’s also equipped with Dolby processing, said to deliver 360-degree sound with improved clarity and bass, and has a new speaker configuration with a dedicated tweeter and a 2.5-inch down-firing woofer.

Supported apps include Amazon Music, Pandora, Spotify, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, NPR News, and Uber. With Amazon Music, you can search for music by lyrics or time-period, or let Alexa pick the music for you.

The Echo comes in three standard finishes — charcoal, gray fabric, or sandstone fabric — with a trio of $20 upgrade options: silver, oak veneer, or walnut veneer.

A Smarter Echo Plus
The heart of the updated Echo Plus is a smart home hub designed to make connecting with compatible smart devices easy. Say, “Alexa, discover my devices,” and the Plus will automatically discover and set up compatible lights, locks, plugs, switches, and more without the need for additional hubs or apps, according to Amazon.

The system works with a variety of Zigbee-enabled devices from Philips Hue, GE, Kwikset, and others. Like the Echo, the Plus incorporates Dolby processing and Amazon’s updated voice recognition in addition to supporting Amazon music and a variety of apps.

While supplies last, Amazon is giving a free Philips Hue smart lightbulb to those who purchase an Echo Plus.

Amazon Marks the Spot
Available in black or white, the new Echo Spot is designed to fit into any room. The size and viewing angle of the screen make it ideal for use on a nightstand or desk as a smart alarm clock that can also display video, control lights and show your calendar or commute time. In the kitchen, the Spot can be used to set timers, make calls, consult shopping lists, and more.

Like the updated Echo and Echo Plus, the Echo Spot features updated voice recognition and noise cancellation and provides access to Pandora and other music streaming apps. It has a built-in speaker and supports Amazon’s new multiroom feature as well as Bluetooth for streaming to other speakers or it can be connected using a 3.5mm stereo cable.

Alexa Gets an Upgrade, Too
Amazon is also adding new functionality for Alexa-enabled devices, including previous generation models. A new feature called Routines allows you to automate a series of customizable actions using a user-selected voice command. For example, the system could be programmed to turn off the lights and TV and lock the door when you say, “Good night Alexa.” Routines can also be linked to a time of day so you can have a command turn on the kitchen lights, start the coffee maker, and read the weather forecast every day at 6 a.m., for example.

Other improvements include the ability to group smart home devices so when you walk into a room, for example, you can simply say “Alexa, turn on the lights” instead of naming a specific lamp.

When Amazon introduced Alexa calling and messaging a few months ago, millions of consumers started using the feature, the company said, so it has expanded the feature to support free outbound calling to the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The feature is available for Echo, Echo Dot, and Echo Show users in the U.S.

New accessories are also on tap from Amazon. Echo Connect, a Wi-Fi-based system that turns the Echo into a hands-free speakerphone for your existing land-line or VoIP phone service, will be available later this year for $35. Echo Buttons, which will be available in time for the holidays in a $20 two-pack, can be pressed to trigger a variety of multiplayer and interactive game experiences, including Trivial Pursuit, Fourth Down Football Trivia with Philip Rivers, and more.

For more information on the Echo, Echo Plus, and Echo Spot, visit

Jackblues's picture

Do you know whether the Bluetooth will work better with these new models over the previous ones? Specifically the Echo Plus as compared with the original.