It’s time for Amazon to take the wraps off of its latest batch of hardware. The company will host an event on Wednesday, September 25th, at its Seattle headquarters where it will announce a bunch of new products.
We expect to see a refreshed Amazon Echo smart speaker that sounds good enough to push people to sign up for the new Amazon Music HD tier that streams lossless audio. Alexa-enabled earbuds are also likely. You can read everything my colleague Dan Seifert has to say about what to expect from Amazon’s big event. There should be at least a few surprises — or potentially many.
We’ll be adding all of the latest news and big announcements from the event below, so stay tuned.
Sep 27, 2019
The week on The Vergecast, we covered two events that happened simultaneously on Wednesday: Amazon’s fall Alexa and Echo product event and Facebook’s Oculus Connect virtual reality developer conference.Read Article >
Amazon had 80 announcements at its event in Seattle, Washington, so Nilay Patel, Dieter Bohn, Adi Robertson, Ashley Carman, and Paul Miller run through the gadgets and what we know about them. Dieter was able to attend the event, so he talks about his experiences with products like the Echo Buds and the Echo Loop ring.
Sep 26, 2019
At Wednesday’s hardware event, Amazon wanted to make sure you knew it valued your privacy. “We’re investing in privacy across the board,” hardware and services chief Dave Limp told the crowd. “Privacy cannot be an afterthought when it comes to the devices and services we offer our customers. It has to be foundational and built in from the beginning for every piece of hardware, software, and service that we create.”Read Article >
To prove the point, the company rolled out a new set of privacy features, each one giving users slightly more control. A new camera shutter will electronically disconnect the camera on the Echo Show 5. A separate feature lets you set “privacy zones,” in which a particular part of the camera’s view will be impossible to record or view live. Another setting, due in November, stops the Ring camera from recording while you’re at home. A host of new Alexa skills will let you monitor recordings directly, and even set rolling deletion. It’s a serious run of features, meant to convince you that Amazon is thinking hard about the privacy implications of its smart speakers and cameras.
Amazon introduced two new smart speakers in the avalanche of announcements at its 2019 fall hardware event this week: a third-generation Echo and what it claims is its best-sounding speaker yet, the Echo Studio. Pioneered by Amazon with the original Echo, the smart speaker market now has a bevy of competitors to choose from. But how do Amazon’s new models compare?Read Article >
If you want the best Echo speaker for music, the $199.99 Echo Studio is the one Amazon wants you to buy. It’s got five drivers — a 1-inch tweeter, three 2-inch midrange speakers, and a 5.25-inch woofer — which should be able to show off Amazon Music HD, Amazon’s new music streaming tier that offers lossless streaming. It also supports “3D audio” for the few tracks that support it, utilizing formats like Dolby Atmos and Sony 360 Reality Audio. New to the Echo lineup (but not Amazon’s competitors) is the Echo Studio’s ability to automatically tune its output for the room it’s in. Like the regular Echo, the Echo Studio can play music from most of the popular music services.
Sep 25, 2019
It’s obvious that Amazon is trying to make its Alexa personal assistant as ubiquitous as possible. At today’s marathon product introduction, the company debuted a wide variety of its Echo-branded Alexa-powered products, both for the home and for the outdoors.Read Article >
But that presents the problem: with all these new and upgraded Echo devices, which should you get? What follows is a rundown of the basic specs, prices, and availability of the most interesting products introduced today. Take a look, and see if any strike your fancy.
A new competitor has entered the streaming wars: the Food Network.Read Article >
Discovery is launching a streaming service in partnership with Amazon called Food Network Kitchen, which will cost $6.99 a month (or $59.99 annually) and feature live cooking classes taught by chefs like Martha Stewart, Bobby Flay, and Guy Fieri. Subscribers will be able to attend up to 25 live cooking classes a week, and get access to more than 800 on-demand cooking classes and 3,000 step-by-step tutorial videos. Food Network Kitchen will also feature a curated selection of shows like Good Eats, Barefoot Contessa, and The Pioneer Woman. The service will launch late October, and be available for Android and iOS devices.
Amazon has just announced a total of 15 new products, and while the Echo Buds, Echo Frames, and Echo Studio are the main attractions, it also refreshed or released new products across its Echo and Ring product lines.Read Article >
One of those new products is the Echo Dot Clock, which is a third-gen Echo Dot with a simple LED clock in the front of it. Amazon says it built this product because people constantly ask Alexa for the time, and now they won’t have to.
Sep 25, 2019
Amazon took a whole damn Echo speaker and put it into a ring and called it the Echo Loop. It’s part of a program Amazon is calling “Day1,” which is code for “here are a bunch of products that are not really ready for mass sales, but we want to put them out there anyway.” The first two are the smart eyeglass frames and this little ring.Read Article >
It works, but the audio is not very loud. That is probably a combination of design and necessity, as the idea here is you don’t want everybody to know what you’re doing. There is a small button on the inside, and you reach in and press it with your thumb. When you do, there’s a tiny vibration that confirms that Alexa is listening.
In an attempt to make the smart home simpler, smarter, and safer, Amazon is announcing a new “Certified for Humans” program, which is designed to make it easier to set up new smart home devices. The program builds upon the “frustration-free setup” initiative that Amazon announced last year, which stored user’s Wi-Fi details to share them with compatible smart home devices.Read Article >
Amazon says that any device that carries this new certification will be designed to cut down the number of steps required to get them connected to Alexa. A developer page for the program lists further requirements for devices, which range from technical requirements like supporting automatic firmware updates, to another which says that certified devices must have a “high average customer review rating on Amazon.” In total, the company says that certified devices have to meet over a dozen requirements to get certified.
Amazon is taking Alexa’s show on the road with its new Echo Buds, truly wireless headphones that pair with a connected smartphone and promise to offer the full Alexa experience.Read Article >
I have tried them on and can report that they are comfortable in my ears. But as they are in the noise-isolating style, they might not in yours — especially if you have small ears. Basically, if you’ve used the Jabra 65t headphones, you will know.
We’ve just gotten some brief time with Amazon’s first smart eyeglasses, the Echo Frames, at the company’s Seattle headquarters. Amazon is positioning the glasses as the ultimate take-Alexa-everywhere product, but it’s also trying to balance that pitch with privacy: there’s a button on the glasses to disable its microphones, and the Echo Frames lack any kind of camera. As the company considers these a “day one” product for tech enthusiasts, they’ll eventually be available on an invitational basis for $179.99. Amazon says customers will be able to get them with prescription lenses or even sunglass lenses. But it’s on you to get those from your local optician. The Frames can’t be ordered as prescription from Amazon.Read Article >
The Echo Frames are designed to be discreet and to look like your basic pair of thick-framed eyeglasses from straight on. The stems on each side are noticeably very thick, however. Even so, they feel very light and comfortable when on your head. Amazon says the Echo Frames weigh 31 grams. They’re constructed from “TR-90, carbon fiber, and titanium,” according to Amazon, with acetate tips that can be adjusted by opticians.
Sep 25, 2019
At its fall event today, Amazon announced two new versions of its Ring Stick Up security cameras and showed off a way for Alexa to have conversations with people who come to your door via a Ring doorbell.Read Article >
Amazon refreshed the Stick Up Cam at last year’s event, but it’s giving it another refresh this year. The new Stick Up Cam is sold in wired, battery-powered, or solar-powered versions. It also has 1080p video, motion detection, and night vision like the previous version, but Amazon says this year’s Stick Up Cam is 30 percent cheaper at $99. Amazon says it’s available to preorder today and will ship on October 23rd. It also announced a $199 Ring Stick Up Cam Elite, which is powered over Ethernet for a more reliable connection, but there’s no release date for it yet.
Amazon has announced a new secure wireless standard called Amazon Sidewalk, a low-bandwidth protocol that’s designed to power ultra-low power devices and connect them over long distances. The first device to use this new standard is a device that’s designed to connect to your pet’s collar from Amazon called Ring Fetch, which is designed to let you to track your dog, allowing you to geofence your yard and get an alert when it leaves.Read Article >
Fetch uses Amazon’s new Sidewalk networking standard. Sidewalk uses 900MHz spectrum, and Amazon says it works over distances up to 500m and even as far as a mile using a network of access points. Amazon says it handed out 700 of the devices to its employees, friends, and family and had the LA Basin completely covered by the network in three weeks.
Amazon is experimenting with putting Alexa everywhere, and its latest experiment might be the wildest yet: a new smart ring called the Echo Loop that puts Alexa on your finger.Read Article >
The Echo Loop is essentially an entire Echo in miniature: inside the titanium frame are two microphones and what Amazon says is “the smallest speaker ever on an Echo device.” It pairs with your phone for a data connection (both iOS or Android will work) through the Alexa app, and activates with a small button (instead of the usual wake word).
Last year, Amazon introduced the world to the AmazonBasics Microwave, its first real kitchen appliance, which offered the ability to be controlled with Alexa. And now the company is following that up with a new appliance, the $249.99 Alexa Smart Oven: a combination microwave, convection cooker, air fryer, and food warmer.Read Article >
Like the Alexa microwave, the Alexa Smart Oven doesn’t offer Echo hardware on board — there’s no microphone or speaker — but rather is controlled through a separate Alexa device.
Amazon just announced its first foray into the headphone space with the Echo Buds, a pair of truly wireless earbuds that also work with Alexa, featuring Bose technology for noise reduction.Read Article >
The Echo Buds will work just like any other Alexa device — say the “Alexa” wake word, and you’ll be able to ask any questions, just like a regular Echo. The big difference here, of course, is that they’ll work outside of your house, too (relying on a tethered smartphone for an internet connection).
Amazon has announced the new Echo Studio, the first high-end smart speaker from the company. The Studio was built specifically to provide Echo customers with a way to listen to lossless music through Amazon’s new Amazon Music HD streaming service. It’s also the first smart speaker to support 3D audio, with both Dolby Atmos and Sony’s 360 Reality Audio codecs on board. The Echo Studio is available for preorder starting today, September 25th, for $199, and it will be available later this year.Read Article >
I had a chance to get an early demo of the Echo Studio ahead of its announcement, and I walked away suitably impressed. The Studio is larger and more imposing than prior Echo speakers (I’d estimate its size to be between the Echo Plus and the Echo Sub), but it’s also significantly better-sounding, with the ability to fill a room with music that’s clear, punchy, and enjoyable to listen to. It’s the kind of thing that should make Sonos worry, especially at the Studio’s price point.
Amazon is introducing another way to get Alexa into your home, the Echo Flex. It’s a tiny speaker that you plug directly into a wall outlet, so you can get Alexa in every room of your house more easily. Amazon has built a full-sized USB port into the bottom of the $24.99 Echo Flex, so you can use it by your nightstand and still charge your phone, or even plug additional accessories into the Echo Flex.Read Article >
Amazon is announcing two Echo Flex accessories that you’ll be able to slot into the bottom, a motion sensor and a night light. Both will be priced at $14.99, and since the Flex is clearly modular we’ll likely see a lot more accessories in the future. Amazon is even building an API for software developers, and will share the specs for accessories in the future so others can build for the Flex. The first accessories are made by a company called Thirdreality.
Sep 25, 2019
Alexa is coming to America’s largest carmaker. On Wednesday, General Motors announced its plan to integrate Amazon’s popular voice assistant into millions of its vehicles starting in 2020. Any 2018 Cadillac, GMC, and Chevrolet vehicle or newer will be eligible for the upgrade, the automaker said.Read Article >
GM is the latest company to partner with Jeff Bezos’ tech giant. Only a few — Toyota, BMW, Ford, and, most recently, Audi — have announced direct Alexa integration with their infotainment systems, and not all of them struck deals for every model. It’s a risky bet for car companies, which have struggled to develop their own in-car voice assistants that can live up to the standards set by Amazon.
Amazon has just announced a brand-new $99 Eero router at its big hardware event, marking the first new product from the mesh networking company since Amazon bought it earlier this year.Read Article >
The new router promises ease of use, with “set up in 10 minutes or less,” with a dual-band radio system and support for the Eero Secure and Eero Secure Plus premium subscription services.
Amazon is introducing a new Echo companion device today, Echo Glow. It’s a small bulbous lamp that you can tap to change the color, and it can even blink to do lights for an Alexa-powered dance party (yes, really). The Echo Glow is similar to Amazon’s Echo Buttons that the company launched for $20 two years ago, and this lamp is designed to complement Echo and Alexa devices.Read Article >
Alexa users will be able to ask the digital assistant for a flickering campfire light for kids, a sleep timer that will gradually dim the light at bedtime, and the dance party mode that kicks off music and lights. The Echo Glow will also cycle through rainbow colors. Echo Glow will be available for preorder in the US today, priced at $29.99.
Sep 25, 2019
After a string of industry-wide privacy scares, Amazon is rolling out a new set of tools designed to give users more control over the stored voice recordings from their Alexa device. Announced at Amazon’s fall 2019 hardware event, the new skills are part of a host of hardware and software upgrades for the company’s personal voice assistant.Read Article >
Onstage at the event, Amazon hardware and services chief Dave Limp announced a new push towards privacy, which began with a set of skills to let users monitor or delete recordings directly through the voice assistant. Beginning a few months ago, Alexa users have been able to delete specific recordings through commands like “Alexa, delete what I just said,” or “Alexa, delete everything I said today.” They can also check whether a given exchange was recorded by asking, “Alexa, tell me what you heard.”
Amazon has just unveiled yet another Alexa-enabled smart display. This one is called the Echo Show 8, and it slots in between the standard Echo Show (with a 10.1-inch screen) and the much smaller Echo Show 5. It’s priced at $129.99, with preorders starting today, September 25th, and a release coming “in time for the holidays.” Amazon now has three Echo Show devices at various sizes, plus the tiny bedside Echo Spot, which is more limited in functionality.Read Article >
The Echo Show 8 includes an “HD” display and a privacy shutter so you can cover the video chat camera when it’s not in use. Amazon says it offers similar speaker performance to the full-sized Echo Show.
Amazon announced its first high-end smart speaker at its annual hardware event today, called the Echo Studio. The Studio was created with Amazon’s new Music HD streaming service in mind, which lets customers listen to lossless music. The Studio also features 3D audio support, with Dolby Atmos. The built-in Alexa microphones will automatically calibrate based on the room it’s placed in.Read Article >
The Studio has five drivers to deliver powerful sound, including three midrange speakers, a tweeter, and a woofer. Amazon says it’s working with record labels like Sony, Universal, and Warner to get more tracks to support 3D audio.
All the new features coming to Alexa, including a new voice, frustration mode, and Samuel L. Jackson
Amazon just announced some big changes coming to Alexa: a new, more natural-sounding voice; support for simultaneous, bilingual requests; a new “frustration mode”; celebrity guest voices — starting with none other than Samuel L. Jackson — and more.Read Article >
The new voice is based on neural text-to-speech software that relies on deep learning techniques to make Alexa sound more like a real human being (the same approach that Apple took with Siri’s new voice earlier this year on iOS 13).
Amazon is introducing a new version of its main Echo smart speaker today. The third-generation Echo has upgraded sound quality thanks to neodymium drivers — taken from the existing Echo Plus — and a three-inch woofer. Amazon claims “the bass is stronger” and mids and highs are clearer. The fabric-covered design is familiar, but now comes in a new “twilight blue” color. The 2019 Echo costs the same $99.99 as before, and preorders begin today.Read Article >
Amazon hardware VP Dave Limp positioned the new Echo as a great way for listening to Amazon Music HD, the new lossless-quality streaming tier of the company’s subscription music service. But the regular Echo came alongside the announcement of a new, premium Echo Studio speaker with the best speaker performance that Amazon has ever offered.