Amazon announced 6 new products today, the Echo Buttons that cost $20 a pair (not available in the UK yet), the $35 Echo Connect that you can ask Alexa to call anyone using your existing landline, again not
available in the UK as of the date of writing this article, a £69 Fire TV capable of 4K.
And then there’s the new £89 cloth-covered Echo, then our favourite the $130 Echo Spot alarm clock and lastly the £139 Echo Plus, which sports all the goods from the original Echo plus a smart home hub and comes with a Philips Hue bulb.
Amazon also now offer bundles that pair an Echo with a Fire TV model for as little as $60 (yup UK users will have to wait again on this bundle) so owners can experience smart home commands right out of the box. Since August Amazon announced that Fire TV users can control your Fire TV from your Amazon Echo device.
The company announced that it’s officially rolling out the ability to pair Echo devices with Fire TVs, so users can tell Alexa to “show me an action movie,” or “open Netflix.” Alexa can launch apps, play shows or movies by title / genre /actor , and control video playback.
At the top of the line is the $199 Echo Look and $229 Echo Show. Both were announced earlier this year but round out a huge product line. There are now 8 different types of Amazon Echos available for purchase, not all in the UK as of yet.Google just announced updates to its Google Home line including an Echo Dot-like smaller Google Home. Google was already playing catch-up and now it’s nearly inconceivable Google or Apple will be able to catch Amazon.
Alexa is no longer just a layer of voice controls that supplements other smart home systems such as Samsung SmartThings, Nest, Philips Hue.Instead, it’s becoming a full-blown smart-home platform, replacing many of the functions that those other systems provide, with the Echo plus having a built in smart hub. It has the same design as the original Echo, but adds a ZigBee radio inside.
Although ZigBee isn’t as well known in the UK, its energy efficiency and long range have made it a popular wireless protocol for smart lights, switches, sensors, cameras, and locks. Not sure why Amazon didn’t add functionality for the Z-Wave protocol as it much more widely used over ZigBee which you mostly find in Chinese products.
A very cool change is support for routines that trigger several actions at once. This allows a user to say “Alexa, goodnight,” and have the system lock the doors, turn off the lights, and lower the thermostat, these features have been available in other home hubs like the Z-Wave Vera where they are call scenes. The Alexa show can serve as a central dashboard, where users can monitor and control their devices.
Amazon’s competitors have been reluctant to build support for specific protocols into their devices. Apple has avoided building a HomeKit hub, content to let users deal with third-party bridges instead. And while Google’s OnHub and Wi-Fi routers both include ZigBee radios, they can only control Philips Hue bulbs through a smartphone app. Google hasn’t used those protocols to build a broader smart-home hub.
Let’s talk about our favourite the Echo Spot, lets face it the Echo Spot is cute; a little alarm clock that’s designed to sit on your bed beside table or even in the kitchen or elsewhere.It’s also a camera that will probably be pointing directly at your bed, will people feel comfortable with this?
The ball-shaped device is about the size of a tennis ball, it features a colour touchscreen 2.5-inches in diameter, a camera for video calling and speaker in the base. There’s Bluetooth and an audio line out for those wanting to hook-up to other devices. Like other Echo devices, the Spot has Alexa built-in and can be seen as a merging of the company’s Echo Show and Echo Dot for this all-new form.