Amazon took the covers off of an absolute plethora of new devices at its annual hardware event – which took place in Seattle yesterday.
Most of the new stuff is already available to buy on Amazon and the digital storefront is populated with big splashes of the new kit.
However, if you’re still not sure about everything that was announced – fear not, because here’s a handy roundup of the full new lineup, along with some first-hand impressions from the tech press who managed to get their hands (and faces, but more of that in a bit) on the shiny new tech.
We expected a raft of new Alexa devices for the smart home – but what we didn’t know is that Amazon also had a trio of wearable devices up its sleeve, so you can take the digital assistant out and about with you.
Echo Frames are, according to Wareable’s Hugh Langley, “Smartglasses, in a sense, but more of a hearable.
“They come with Alexa built in and connect to your phone, meaning you can talk to Amazon’s assistant anywhere you go – and all responses are given through tiny speakers on the stems, above your ears.”
Echo Buds, which are Amazon’s answer to Apple’s AirPods; wireless earbuds that put Alexa right into your ear. However, Langley has his reservations.
“They certainly look less obnoxious than AirPods, but the biggest question is whether they’ll be as simple and seamless to use,” he wrote in his hands-on Echo Buds review.
“It’s that frictionless experience that have helped AirPods become so popular, and what Amazon will need to replicate if it wants a shot at getting Alexa in our ears.”
Echo Loop “might be Amazon’s weirdest product yet,” says Tech Radar’s David Lumb, “but one that might be the easiest sell thus far to bringing Alexa out of the home.”
“Instead of talking to Alexa through a smart speaker, you can just slip the Loop – a thick, speaker-filled ring – over your finger and chat with the voice assistant on the go, walkie-talkie style”
Echo smart speakers
Four new smart speakers were unveiled at the showcase – or five if you count a new design as a new model.
The 3rd-gen Echo smart speaker is the new mid-ranger from the range, coming in at $99.99.
Last refreshed in 2017, the 2019 model has been given a significant sound quality boost, with Neodymium drivers and a 3-inch woofer now on board. Buyers will have the chance to opt for an all-new Twilight Blue color, along with the usual Charcoal, Heather Grey and Sandstone coverings.
The new Echo Dot with Clock is exactly what you’d expect. The same(ish) design as the regular hockey puck style smart speaker, but with an LED clock on the side.
“Customers ask Echo over a billion times a year, ‘Alexa, what time is it?'” explained David Limp, senior VP of Amazon devices. So it makes sense.
There’s also a new color variant for the regular, non-clock, Dot; the brilliantly named Dot in Plumb.
Next up is the latest Echo speaker with a display, the Echo Show 8. Featuring an 8-inch display, Amazon now has three different sized Shows on offer: 5, 8 and 10-inch.
It has the same screen and sound capabilities of the original Echo Show, alongside the camera shutter and form factor of the Echo Show 5.
The Echo Studio is the most interesting new smart speaker from the launch event – and possibly the most interesting Echo speaker so far, full stop.
The smart home experts at The Ambient say: “The Studio is effectively Amazon’s answer to the Apple HomePod, the Google Home Max and the higher end of Sonos’ range. It produces 3D audio with support for Dolby Atmos and Sony’s 360 Reality Audio – and of course, Alexa is built right in.
“Combined with Amazon Music’s new HD music subscription tier, Amazon isn’t only matching its high-end music rivals, but punching above some of them. Throw in that Zigbee radio and Alexa, and you’ve got the most impressive Echo speaker yet.”
New Alexa gadgets
Echo Glow is Amazon’s first foray into the world of smart lighting. “This colorful smart light orb is clearly intended for kids,” explains PCMag’s man at the event.
“It doesn’t work with any Alexa skills, like adding ambient lighting to a bedtime story. It also can’t be set to flash or give any indication of you getting a message or alert. But for $30 it seems like a fine smart light for your kids’ rooms.”
Echo Flex is a small box you plug directly into a mains outlet, with a built-in speaker, which Alexa can answer your queries through.
There was a new $99 Eero Wi-Fi mesh router – Amazon bought Eero earlier this year.
Another Amazon acquisition brand, Ring, also had some new tech on show – most notably the Stick Up Cam, which can be powered by either a wall outlet, an internal battery, or through a solar accessory and works both indoor and out.
The other new Ring camera announced was the super cheap $60 Ring Indoor Cam.
Last, but by no means least, Amazon is going to put out a pet tracker called Ring Fetch. But it’s the tech behind this that’s the bigger story.
“Amazon its launching its own networking protocol,” explains Michael Calore on Wired.
“Amazon Sidewalk will use the free 900MHz band to connect various low-power outdoor internet of things gadgets. Tracking devices things like Tile, or the location-aware tags you attach to children and pets, which require only teensy amounts of bandwidth – are good candidates to use a network like this.”