The Most Important Hardware Announcements at Today’s Amazon Event
Amazon, wanting to have everything and everyone, whatever you do, integrate Alexa into it, today announced a buffet of new things . Some of them are interesting; some of them are just upgrades to the same smart home gear you already own. (Also interesting, don’t get me wrong, but you’re probably not likely to buy a new Echo Dot if you’re happy with the current setup.)
Here’s what seemed to me the most striking of today’s event:
If you want to use Alexa with your own speakers because your sound setup is so much better than anything a little Echo Dot can pull out, hook your system up to this flat cylinder and poof! Instant smart speaker. It’s like instant oatmeal or instant coffee, only better. Echo Input has its own microphone and connects to other speakers using a 3.5mm cable or Bluetooth.
Pre-order: Not yet
Price: $ 35
Echo Link and Echo Link amplifier
If you’re a bit more of an audiophile, you should try Echo Link or Echo Link Amp. These little amps don’t have built-in microphones, but they will work alongside other Echo devices in your home – just like you would use Alexa to send music to a smart speaker, for example. They come with a variety of inputs and outputs, including traditional speaker wire, RCA cables (for line in / out, subwoofers and coaxial connections), an Ethernet port, and optical inputs and outputs. They won’t be better than your home entertainment receiver, but they can be a good temporary alternative if you don’t want to set up some crazy 5.1 surround system in your home office but want something with more firepower than the Echo Input. …
Pre-order: Not yet
Price: $ 199 for the Echo Link, $ 299 for the Echo Link amplifier.
The most interesting thing about the Echo Plus is not its size or sound quality – there is nothing wrong with that. Rather, the Echo Plus comes with what Amazon calls “local voice control,” which allows you to control various other smart home devices via Alexa, even if your internet connection goes down. It’s not a feature that you will find very interesting until Comcast hits the night and you don’t get tired of getting up to turn lights on and off, or whatever else you use Alexa for.
Echo Plus also comes with a new temperature sensor that you can use to automatically turn on cooling systems (such as a room fan) that you previously connected to your smart home system.
Price: $ 150
This is a microwave oven. This is only interesting because Amazon has finally taken a page from the Book of Evidence and integrated Alexa functionality into the one you use to warm up the leftovers. And, as is customary at Amazon, you can also use your smart microwave – and I hate that phrase already – to reorder products through Amazon’s Dash restocking service. Hey, you can’t blame Amazon for trying.
Price: $ 60
And you thought Amazon’s crafty consumerism put an end to the microwave. Oh no. You will soon be able to buy a wall clock that can receive Alexa commands. Just in case it was too much use of your smartphone or one of your many Echo devices to set the timer, you can now visually see the timer counting down through the LED string on the bezel of the watch. This is in addition to the time you can tell by looking at your watch. Since this is essentially just a clock — one that automatically corrects for silly things like “jump forward” and “back off,” mind you — but a clock nonetheless.
Pre-order: Not yet
Price: $ 30
Fire TV Recast
If I were a real cable cutter, this device would interest me most of all that I have seen today. This large DVR allows you to record free-to-air programs through a connected antenna and even helps you find the best antenna spot in your home so you can get the best possible signal. You can then stream these recordings to any compatible device like Fire TV, Echo Show, or other tablets and smartphones.
Amazon wants to join the fight for your focus on driving, which is currently a three-way switch between other vehicles on the road, Google’s Android Auto and Apple’s CarPlay. It will connect to your smartphone via Bluetooth and use your smartphone’s data connection to send and receive information – for example, anything you tell Alexa to add to your shopping list. It also includes location-based skills, so you can turn on multiple devices when you arrive home (if you can’t already). Turn-by-turn routes currently work with Waze and Apple Maps. Sorry Google.
If you still drive a dumb car, it’s hard to turn down a smart assistant for just $ 25 … if you can take part in Amazon’s dedicated program.
Pre-order: today by invitation
Price: US $ 25 for “invitation” price, US $ 50 for regular service.
Bonus: Alexa Guard and easy Wi-Fi setup
It’s not hardware, but Amazon today announced the launch of a new “Alexa Guard” feature that you can activate by saying something like “Alexa, I’m leaving.” When you do, your various Echo devices will send you a notification if they hear certain sounds – an alarm going off, a broken window, etc. like in that movie with that guy who beat house robbers in winter.
As for simple Wi-Fi setup, it’s simple: if one device already has your Wi-Fi credentials saved, it will transfer them to other compatible smart devices when you connect them. This saves you the painstaking step of entering your giant Wi-Fi password whenever you want to plug in a new smart switch, for example.