Amazon is finally turning its Echo Show into a proper digital photo frame, but you have to pay extra for the privilege. Announced at its fall hardware event this week, the new Echo Show 8 Photos Edition costs $10 more than the standard edition of the new smart display but lets you make your photos the “primary home screen content.”
The Show 8 Photos Edition is coming this Fall for $159.99 and has all the same features as the new Echo Show 8 (third-gen). But for the extra $10, you get a six-month subscription to Amazon’s new PhotosPlus service, which enables this new “enhanced photo mode.”
PhotosPlus enables Photo Mode, making personal memories and photos shared by family and friends the primary content you see on the Echo Show 8 Photos Edition home screen, a 30-second slideshow rotation speed that lets pictures make a lasting impact displayed throughout your home, and 25 GB of photo and video storage from Amazon Photos. Prime members receive unlimited photo storage and 5 GB of video storage with their membership and can use this additional storage to back-up videos.
After six months, you must pay $1.99 a month to keep Photo Mode. You can cancel at any time, but when you do, your Echo Show 8 Photos Edition reverts to a standard Echo Show 8, Amazon spokesperson Courtney Ramirez confirmed to The Verge via email.
Despite it apparently being the same hardware, the standard Show 8 can’t take advantage of the new Photo Mode. “The photo-forward mode is exclusive to Echo Show 8 Photos Edition,” Ramirez says.
A common complaint about the Echo Show devices is the lack of a real photo frame feature — especially compared to the excellent way Google’s Nest Hub devices handle photos (although that’s increasingly the only thing Google’s smart displays are good for now).
Currently, you can activate a photo frame mode on Echo Show displays, but it goes away after three hours and returns to the rotating display that often shows ads and promotions unless you dig down in menus and disable it all.
Photo Mode will get rid of most of the cruft on current Show screens and will stay on, Ramirez confirmed. “Photos will be the primary content you see indefinitely,” says Ramirez. The UI brings your photos to the forefront, and information like weather and time will be more in the background, she says. “While you can still see the clock and weather information on your home screen, the text will be smaller so you can see more of your photos. In addition, occasional small text overlays provide the photo dates of the photos displaying on the Home screen.”
The word “primary” still leaves some wiggle room, and Ramirez confirmed that “Occasionally, Alexa will provide content suggestions based on a customer’s interest. However, photos will remain the primary content.”
Paying a subscription for a digital photo frame is not new; some digital frames make you pay to upload or offer extra features for a fee. I’ve been testing out the Skylight Calendar — a digital calendar with a $39 yearly optional fee to add a photo frame feature. The company also has a Skylight Frame, which doesn’t require any fee to upload photos, but you can pay $39 a year for extra features such as cloud backup and albums.
The popular Aura Frame similarly doesn’t have a fee and costs $10 less than Amazon’s new “photo-forward” Show. But it doesn’t have other smart display features — no Alexa voice assistant, smart home controls, or streaming video and audio content.
This move feels a lot like the Show’s version of the ad-free Kindle, and I can see this appealing to those who enjoy much of the Show’s functionality but dislike the rotating homescreen cruft that, no matter how much you tweak in Settings, still manages to push crap at you. The Echo Show in my kitchen has “shown” me repeatedly over the last six months that I can create a story with my child on the Show. My 15-year-old is not interested, Amazon.
The Echo Show needs a real digital photo frame mode, but with competitors like Google offering it for free, this will be a tough sell. However, if that $2 a month would also let me disable Alexa’s deeply annoying “By the way” feature, that gets a lot more interesting.
Correction, Friday, September 29th, 10:55 AM: An earlier version of this article stated the Skylight Frame had a calendar feature. The Skylight Frame is a separate product from the Skylight Calendar. We regret the error.