It’s 6 a.m. here in Seattle, and we’re a couple of hours away from a previously unannounced event at Amazon HQ. The agenda for the day?
“We will debut some new features and products related to the Amazon devices business,” reads the invitation in my inbox. (I’ll be liveblogging the event with my Techhnews News colleague Ben Fox Rubin and trusty photo/video ninja Tyler Lizenby.) Surprise!
Well, the predictable kind of surprise, at least. Last September, Amazon unveiledalong with , including the touchscreen alarm clock and the smart-home hub, as well as the Alexa-equipped . The September before that saw .
Less predictable is what, exactly, we should expect to see today, because it sounds like we might see a lot. CNBC already reports that Amazon has— everything from to (that “Echo Sub” briefly popped up , as well, along with an Alexa smart plug for good measure). On top of that, we’ve seen that Amazon is reportedly cooking up, too.
Will all of these rumored devices make their debut? I’m guessing that at least a couple aren’t past the prototype stage yet, but then again, Amazon has made a recent habit of throwing multiple ideas at the wall at once to see what sticks. Anything is possible when you’re, I suppose.
One prediction: Today’s event will try to shore up some of Alexa’s potential vulnerabilities in what has quickly become. Amazon has to be at least slightly concerned with Google’s growing presence in the rear-view mirror after the search giant overtook Amazon in smart speaker sales during the first quarter of the year.
The momentum hasn’t slowed since, with new Google Assistant-powered touchscreen devices such as theand the proving more compelling than Alexa’s touchscreen-equipped ever has. More of those are on the way, including the and perhaps even , each of which could challenge the Echo lineup on the sound quality front, just as the king-sized and sweet-spot-hitting already have.
Meanwhile, Apple has skin in the smart speaker game thanks to, and Samsung’s voice assistant Bixby .
With so much new competition coming for Alexa’s crown, it certainly wouldn’t be the worst time for Amazon to play some defense with a shiny new crop of Echo devices just in time for the holidays. Whatever Amazon has planned, we’ll be there in the room to share it with you in just a few hours. For now, here’s a quick rundown of what we might see outside of those other rumors.
Echo Dot 3.0?
At $50,is Amazon’s bestselling Alexa gadget, and that makes it the most important piece of the Alexa lineup. But last year, the full-size, second-gen Echo ditched the black and white plastic in favor of a fabric-bodied build that’s more in line with the and smart speakers — that left the Echo Dot feeling a bit dated by comparison.
That’s one reason why I thinksuggesting that Amazon is working on a third-gen, fabric-bodied Dot is probably legit. Those leaks also suggest that the new Dot would offer improved sound quality, which would help it better compete with the likable Home Mini. My question: If a new Echo Dot really is coming soon, can Amazon get the cost down any lower than $50?
Chance we see it today: 85 percent
A new-and-improved Echo Show?
Let’s face facts: The touchscreen-equippedwasn’t the home run Amazon probably hoped it would be. The most expensive Alexa gadget Amazon’s ever released, the Show was positioned as the Alexa lineup’s showstopper, and interest in the device seemed high as . But the visual interface felt underwhelming (and still does), and limited a lot of its initial appeal, too. A little over a year later, you’ll regularly find the Echo Show , something we haven’t seen with any of Amazon’s other Alexa gadgets.
Is Amazon cleaning house ahead of an update? I’d give it slightly better than average odds, especially given what we’ve seen from compelling new Google Assistant-powered competitors such as the. If those prove popular and the smart display category takes off, then Amazon will want something compelling of its own capable of coming along for the ride. The first-gen Echo Show just doesn’t feel like that device anymore, and there aren’t any third-party Alexa touchscreens that fit the bill, either. That means that the timing is right for Show 2.0 — or at the very least, some significant updates to the existing model’s user interface.
It wouldn’t be the first time Amazon revamped an Alexa gadget in short order. The original Echo Dot debuted— the second-gen model arrived at half the cost and helped Amazon blunt the debut of the . Time will tell if Amazon has something similar in mind for the Echo Show today, but with Alexa’s touchscreen a step or two behind the curve at this point, I’d say the odds are decent.
Chance we see it today: 60 percent
A new Echo, too?
Themade its debut last September — roughly three years after the introduction of . If you think that makes for slim odds of seeing a third-gen Echo this morning, I’d say you’re probably right. With the interchangeable fabric shells and all of Alexa’s features on board, the Echo still feels current to what smart speaker shoppers are looking for — and at $100, the price still feels more or less right, too.
That said, I wouldn’t rule it out altogether. If the third-gen Echo Dot leak mentioned earlier is accurate, then it looks like Amazon’s made some tweaks to the overall Echo aesthetic. Releasing a new Echo with similar design tweaks could help keep things consistent (and keep the current Echo from feeling stale by comparison).
I could also envision Amazon releasing an updated Echo with a new hardware trick or two to help stymie Google’s momentum. Thefelt overpriced to me at $150, but its addition of a Zigbee radio for connecting with and without an extra hub is a nice feature. It would make plenty of sense in a third-gen Echo at that $100 price, particularly as Amazon shifts more of its focus to and . Other unique additions like a built-in motion sensor capable of turning the room’s lights on automatically when you walk in could help keep the Echo ahead, too.
Chance we see it today: 40 percent
The Tap strikes back?
Announced along with the Echo Dot back in 2016,never quite felt like a full-blooded member of Alexa’s family of devices. (The fact that it’s called the “Tap” and not “Echo Tap” certainly didn’t help matters.) But even as something of an Alexa offshoot, it still held a fair deal of appeal for folks looking for flexibility from their smart speaker, and the ability to take it with them around the house, or outside even.
The appeal of portability aside, Amazon is no longer making the Tap — instead, it’s selling off existing, refurbished stock. With lots of battery-powered competition, as well as , Amazon might simply be sunsetting the speaker, but I also think there’s a chance that a new version is on the way. Better battery life and sound quality, or even a waterproof design that can stand up to the weather or to your pool would be nice upgrades. And finally calling it the Echo Tap would give it the pedigree it deserves as one of Amazon’s oldest Alexa gadgets.
Chance we see it today: 10 percent
Other potential surprises
All projections aside, the odds are good that Amazon’s event this morning will include at least a surprise or two (). After all, remember Echo Buttons and the phone-replacing ? Both debuted last September, and no one saw either one coming.
I’m also curious to see whether Amazon has any new plans for theor the new , which in spite of the fact that . I’ve also long wondered whether or not Amazon will ever release its own Amazon Basics-type line of low-cost smart bulbs and other smart-home gadgets designed specifically for Alexa, though such a move would certainly frustrate the third-party retailers . With high-end, high-fidelity competition from the and the challenging Alexa on the sound-quality front, could a better-sounding “Echo Max” be in the mix, too? Seems likely that that’s precisely what is all about.
Beyond Alexa, there’s also room for Amazon to introduce a new Fire TV streaming device, or perhaps an update to the Kindle or Fire tablet lineups. After all, Amazon’s invitation to the event only promises “new features and products related to the Amazon devices business.” Note that you don’t see the words “Echo” or “Alexa” anywhere in there.
Heck, we’ve even heard whispers that Amazon is interested in taking a second shot at the Fire phone — though I’d peg the odds of seeing anything on that front today at less than 1 percent.
Amazon doesn’t comment on speculation about new products, but we won’t have to wait much longer until they show us the goods. Stick with Techhnews for up-to-the-minute updates live from Amazon HQ, with our liveblog coverage beginning at 10:00 a.m. PT.
Originally published Sept. 8.
Update, Sept. 20: September event confirmed.