Amazon just formally revealed the Echo Show, its newest Alexa-infused product that, for the first time, adds a screen to the mix. But in the flood of information about the new device, chances are you might have missed a few of the more interesting details about the screen touting virtual assistant.
Alexa skills, not apps
Despite the seven-inch touchscreen on the Echo Show, it’s strictly not a tablet. The Echo Show is built to run Alexa skills, the same as the audio-only Echo speakers. (Developers will be able to add visual components and direct video links to existing skills.) So you wont be able to run Amazon’s own Fire OS apps, much less anything from the Google Play Store. And while Amazon’s hardware chief Dave Limp confirmed to Wired that “there’s no reason” services like Netflix or Hulu couldn’t build skills to work with the Echo Show, it doesn’t seem like you’ll be able to do that out of the box.
While the Echo Show is capable of voice calls and direct messages between Echo devices and the Alexa app, there’s also the slightly unsettling Drop In feature, which allows you to white-list individual contacts who’ll be able to pop up and start a video chat on your Echo Show unannounced. As USA Today notes, when someone Drops In on you, they’ll be presented with a “frosted-glass” view for 10 seconds before the video automatically starts, during which time you’ll be able to reject the video call entirely or switch to an audio-only mode. I personally cannot imagine ever letting my friends have this power, but maybe that’s just me.
Single user only
Amazon is still sticking to a mainly single-user system for the Echo Show. So while the device has improved functionality in the form of calendars and taking calls, if you have multiple Echo Shows and Echo speakers, it’s still an all-or-nothing proposition when it comes to accessing content (while Amazon will allow you to add multiple users to an Echo, once added all Echo’s attached to the primary account will have access.) So when someone calls you over the Alexa messaging system, all your devices will ring and anyone in your house will have access to your shopping list.
Bluetooth is still here
It’s certainly not the primary purpose of it, and it’s definitely odd to think of a speaker with a screen, but the Echo Show still functions as a Bluetooth speaker that you can stream music to from a connected device. It also supports Bluetooth for streaming from the Echo Show to another speaker, should you prefer.
Amazon is offering $100 off if you buy two Echo Shows for a limited time, which is certainly nice if you’re planning on buying a second one.
Correction: Clarified multi-account support on Echo devices.