Amazon unveils new and upgraded gadgets to compete against Apple, Google

In a new-product launch announced last-minute, Amazon has unveiled new and upgraded devices to compete against Apple and Google.

The company’s flagship home-assistant/speaker, the Echo, has been upgraded with “improved sound” and a new, smaller design. The Echo’s price has dropped to $100 from nearly double that, Amazon said. Launched in 2014, the Echo contains Amazon’s “Alexa” virtual assistant.

The new Echo can be pre-ordered, with shipping to start next month, Amazon said.

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To prod consumers into buying into the problem-plagued “internet of things” that connects users’ computing devices to “smart-home” devices and appliances, Amazon is offering a free “smart” lightbulb with the upgraded $150 “Echo Plus” virtual assistant that now features a built-in hub for operating smart-home devices.

Amazon gave the Echo Plus “more powerful audio,” the firm said.

“You can play music from Amazon Music, Pandora, Spotify, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, and more,” according to company promotional material.

With the Echo Plus, Amazon is “trying to make these gadgets, which have typically been adopted by a nerdier crowd, much easier to set up and install,” tech website The Verge reported Sept. 27.

“To do that, Amazon says you’ll be able to ask the Plus to discover nearby devices, and it’ll start looking across … three … wireless standards, theoretically making it really easy to get new products hooked up to Alexa.”

That device is available for pre-order, with shipping to start next month, Amazon said.

Brand new from Amazon on Sept. 27 was the “Echo Spot,” a screen- and speaker-equipped virtual-assistance device described by Amazon as “stylish” and “compact” and by The Verge as “adorably tiny.”

“Amazon is hoping customers will buy multiple Spots and scatter them around the house,” the website reported.

“Things you can do with your Spot include getting the weather, watching video news, setting alarms, or viewing your children through a connected smart camera.

“It can also control other elements of a smart home, such as connected lights or thermostats.”

But the adorably tiny product, according to another article in The Verge, “feels like the real push to get cameras inside your smart home.”

The website noted that Amazon’s promotional material for the Spot shows it at bedsides.

“The privacy concerns are obvious: an always-listening (for a keyword) microphone in your bedroom, and a camera pointing at your bed,” the site reported.

The Spot is to be available for pre-order for $130 and is expected to ship in December.

The diverse virtual-assistance products will likely bolster Amazon’s dominant position in the market for these devices, against Google’s $129 “Home,” and Apple’s $350 HomePod that is expected to become available in December.

Amazon also launched the $35 “Echo Connect,” which, when combined with an Echo, will allow the approximately half of U.S. households with landlines to make and receive calls via the devices.

Upgraded as well is “Fire TV” streaming video player, for $70, featuring 4K Ultra HD, High Dynamic Range (HDR), and Alexa Voice Remote, the latter of which enables users to control their TV service via voice.
Photo: Amazon’s new ‘Echo Spot’ (courtesy of Amazon)


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