It may be time to give your smart home an update, because Amazon has announced a new and improved lineup of Echo devices and a smarter version of Alexa. The Echo devices are available for pre-order now and Alexa updates are rolling out to Alexa devices in the next few months. Here's what to expect.
Better sound and sleeker looks for Echo devices
The Echo smart speaker has gotten a complete makeover: the Echo and Echo Dot are now both spheres with a subtle sci-fi look. All of the updated Echos have better speakers with an upward firing woofer and two tweeters for listening to music, audiobooks or just chatting with Alexa, but the larger Echo also has a built-in smart home hub that supports Zigbee, Bluetooth Low Energy and Amazon Sidewalk to help tie your smart home together.
But the updated Echo Show 10 is arguably more impressive product in the lineup. Amazon is clearly trying to set the standard for video calls, and the Echo Show 10 is mounted on a base that lets the screen turn to face you, always keeping the action in center screen. While the Facebook Portal has a camera that pans and zooms to keep you in focus, the Echo Show 10 physically moves, making it easier to participate in and watch video calls without being stuck in your desk chair. The Echo Show 10 also supports Zoom so it can now be used for most video calling and it can finally run Netflix.
Alexa will be better at helping the old and young
Alexa updates come alongside these new Echo models, but they'll be available on all Alexa devices in the coming months. Alexa Guard, which turns your smart speakers into a home security system by listening for sounds of break-ins, is getting an upgrade. By subscribing to Guard Plus ($4.99/month), adds an emergency line that will connect you to professional emergency assistance who can put you in touch with the police or fire department, or one of your emergency contacts. It's a reassuring hands-free convenience that will let anyone in the house get the help they need even if they can't get to the phone. Guard Plus will also be able to detect more sounds — like doors opening or footsteps — to catch a break-in, and it can play a deterring sound, like dogs barking, if it detects someone snooping around. While it's basic as far as home security systems are concerned, $4.99 per month is a reasonable price for easy access to emergency services with the smart home devices you already have.
Another reassuring new Alexas feature is the Care Hub, which lets you to monitor the high-level activity of another Alexa account. It's designed for eldercare, letting children monitor their parents' Alexa activity to ensure they're still active and healthy. If, for example, there's no activity before a certain time, Alexa can send you an alert so you know to check in. The feature also lets them easily call you just by saying "Alexa, call for help."
The Echo Dot Kids Edition makes the most of the new Echo design with prints that make the speaker look like a panda or a tiger — perfect for a child's bedroom. As with all Kids Edition devices, the Echo Dot Kids Edition comes with a year of Amazon Kids+ (formerly Freetime Unlimited), which provides access to tons of books, videos, and apps, and a 2-year worry-free guarantee. There are also some great kid-friendly Alexa features coming. Alexa will be able to specifically detect kids' voices — parents will need to set up a voice profile first — and automatically switch to a kid-friendly persona. A new feature called Reading Sidekick, for tablets and smart screens, will help young readers by reading books with them. While your child reads, Alexa will help and encourage them.
You can pre-order now
All of this is coming soon. The new Echo devices are all available for pre-order today and will ship later this year. There's no firm date for Alexa updates, but Amazon promises they'll roll out over the next few months.
Ready to pre-order? Here's the whole product lineup:
- Echo Show 10 for $249.99 (coming soon)
- Echo for $99.99 (regularly $129.99), shipping October 22
- Echo Dot for $49.99, shipping October 22
- Echo Dot with clock for $59.99, shipping November 5
- Echo Dot Kids Edition for $59.99, shipping October 22
[Image credits: Amazon]