Amazon is releasing a new Echo device today because apparently the 50-plus Alexa announcements it made last September weren’t enough. This new device is the Echo Show 5, which is essentially a much smaller, cuter Echo Show. It has a rectangular 5.5-inch screen, a camera, and a speaker that’s likely better than an Echo Dot, but not by a huge margin. The most important feature, though, is probably the price: it starts at $89.99. That’s less expensive than most smart speakers with a display.
It will come in two colors — “charcoal” and “sandstone” — and Amazon will also sell a $19.99 magnetic stand that will allow you to tilt the device, which will make it easier to show kids things in the kitchen who can’t quite reach the counter. But it’s more likely you’ll use it as an alarm clock or desk accessory. I got the chance to briefly listen to a song on the device, and while it seemed good for its small size, it confirmed for me that you’re more likely to want this in your office or bedroom than your kitchen.
Then again, people get justifiably nervous about putting anything with a camera in their bedroom. To assuage those concerns, Amazon put a physical, visible shutter switch on the device. The visible part really does matter. You can just see that the camera is covered and off directly. Other devices may physically disable the camera with a switch, but you have to look at the screen to know whether it’s been disabled.
The tiny smart display space is getting awfully crowded. The Google Nest Home Hub isn’t much bigger than the Echo Show 5, and it retails for $129. Amazon has been selling the Echo Spot for a while, too. That Echo Spot, a device that is nearly identical to the new Echo Show 5 in its functionality, costs $129.99, which apparently goes to show that round screens aren’t cheap. Lenovo is about to ship its Google-enabled alarm clock, which is just $79.
The Echo Show 5 competes most directly with smart displays featuring Google Assistant, obviously. That’s not as easy as it seems, though. The best feature for these gadgets is their ability to show family photos, and a lot more people use Google Photos than Amazon’s rival service.
Alongside this product announcement, Amazon is also promising to offer more information on how it uses your personal data. To that end, it’s announcing a couple of new Alexa commands today. The first is available now: you can tell Alexa to “delete everything I said today,” and it will erase your history of queries and saved utterances. The second is “delete what I just said.”
Both clearly seem to be reactions to the more widespread realization that Amazon stores your Alexa requests or maybe to a larger-than-you-probably-realized group of Amazon employees and contractors who listen to anonymized Alexa queries to improve its accuracy. Amazon also sent 1,700 voice recordings to the wrong user last year in a GDPR mix-up. People may not want their voices stored on Amazon’s servers for very long — or at all — and these features will help. (It would be more helpful if you could automate these deletions.)
The company is also announcing a new “Alexa Privacy Hub,” which looks like an expansion of work it has done in Europe to comply with GDPR rules. The new Privacy Hub will be on the web and in the Alexa app. It will have quick access to privacy settings and “educational videos about how Alexa works, guidance on various privacy controls, easy access to privacy settings, responses to frequently asked questions, and more,” according to Amazon.
Preorders for the Echo Show 5 are up today, and it will ship in June.
Correction: the first version of this article incorrectly said the Echo Show 5 would ship in July. It will ship in June. We regret the error.
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