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Amazon revealed that global purchases of Alexa-enabled devices surpassed 500 million while showcasing the newest slate of Echo smart devices on Wednesday. Amazon debuted a new, hemispherical smart speaker called the Echo Pop in tandem with upgraded versions of the Echo Show 5 and Echo Show 5 Kids smart displays and a new iteration of the Echo Buds earbuds. The company also announced a wider release of the Echo Auto vehicular Alexa device to eight new countries. The voice assistant saw its own rapid rise in popularity last year, when usage jumped 35% last year, according to the tech giant.
Echo Pop Shows
“Customers around the world love Alexa as their trusted, personal AI. These new devices give customers more options and more utility at incredible value,” Amazon senior vice president and head of Alexa Rohit Prasad enthused. “And as with every Echo device we’ve shipped, they will only continue to get better as we add even more generative AI powered experiences for Alexa throughout the year.”
Amazon claims the Echo Show 5 is its most popular smart display and didn’t tinker too much with its look while upgrading it, though the $90 smart display it’s slightly more compact, and the screen is supposed to be easier to see at night than its predecessor, which is only $5 cheaper on Amazon at the moment. Internally, the redesigned speaker system is supposed to enhance deeper sounds and voice clarity and there’s an additional microphone included to boost Alexa’s response sensitivity. The redesigned speaker and microphone systems are incorporated in the new Echo Show 5 Kids. The $100 kid-friendly smart display only comes in a space-themed wrap design, much like its earlier edition, which is currently maintaining the $95 price tag it had at launch. The $10 difference is likely due to the child-centric smart display including a year’s subscription to Amazon Kids+ and doubling the year-long warranty of the adult edition.
“We did a lot of customer opinion research and learned that sound is one of the most important elements of this kind of device,” said Christina Cao, senior product manager at Amazon. “So we took that customer feedback and delivered our best-sounding and fastest Echo Show 5.”
The Echo Pop stands out as a new kind of Amazon smart speaker, curated for better audio and shaped like a smaller Echo Dot sphere cut in half. The Pop features a front-facing directional speaker and Eero Built-in, which can extend Eero WiFi networks by up to 1,000 square feet. The $40 Pop is $10 cheaper than the Echo Dot and is available in Lavender Bloom or Midnight Teal as well as the standard black and white.
“It was a big challenge to imagine and deliver a powerful smart speaker at this price,” Echo Pop principal product manager Rajesh Parthasarathy said. “We designed a unique form factor and added two new color options—we think customers are going to love it.”
The lack of other new smart speakers suggests the Pop might be a replacement for the Echo Dot, but the fifth generation of the Echo Dot came out less than a year ago and is still as available on Amazon as it was last week. The Echo Pop might be more of a supplement for homes with other Echo devices. On the other hand, the fourth generation of the larger Echo smart speaker came out in 2020. If Amazon launches a new version this year, any bundle sales with the Echo Pop could diminish the Dot.
The latest version of the Echo Buds is the third generation of the Alex-enabled hearables but marks a strategic shift away from the higher-end earbud technology in favor of reducing the price. The Echo Buds from 2021 are in some ways more advanced than the new semi-in-ear design, which leaves out the in-ear tips and active noise cancellation added last time. The microphone count has been cut from three to two in each bud despite their larger size. The new Echo Buds only come in black, and the case requires a USB-C cable to charge, eliminating the white and magnetic charging case options. On the other hand, the case can hold 20 hours of charge, five more than the older model. Most crucially, third-generation Echo Buds are $50, reduced to $40 as an introductory price, while the second generation is priced at $120 or $140 for the magnetic charging case.
“These new Echo Buds deliver high-quality audio, long-lasting battery life, and premium features at an unbelievable price,” Amazon Echo senior product manager Anuj Dron said. “They give customers easy access to audio content and Alexa anywhere they might be.”
The Echo Auto expansion doesn’t update the version released in September, but that was a total revamp of the 2019 edition. The upgraded Echo Auto is smaller and lighter, with five instead of eight microphones and adhesive mounting, though Alexa maintained its use of car speakers to respond. The hands-free Alexa device for cars is now available in eight additional countries, namely Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Until now, the Echo Auto was only available in the U.S. and India.
Amazon also announced that Echo Auto, which brings the convenience of Alexa to your vehicle, is now available for customers in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and Japan. This generation of Echo Auto comes in a slim design with an adhesive mount for increased placement flexibility in the car. It’s also built with five microphones, so you can keep your eyes on the road and easily listen to music, make calls, and add items to your calendar or to-do list with Alexa.
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