Apparently “Looks” just aren’t enough anymore in the relationships of the smart speaker world. Hot off the heals of its release of the customer-invite only Echo Look, per Laura Stevens with The Wall Street Journal, Amazon is due to pull the wraps off a new Echo speaker that will utilize video calling capabilities, according to sources familiar with the matter.
Amazon’s new product, which is expected to be announced as soon as Tuesday, would give users the chance to make internet-based telephone calls, positioning the speaker to be the centerpiece for home communications.
The unit is expected to possess a 7-inch touch screen, visually obtain answers to verbal questions, and allow you to get information on your Amazon queries in a more easily able to read manner. The product has been in beta testing with Amazon employees for a few months, and after tomorrow’s expected announcement, could start shipping units to consumers as early as next month.
An Amazon spokeswoman had declined comment.
On the downside, it’s widely expected that the new speaker will price over $200. The current Echo device, which doesn’t have a touch screen, regularly sells for $180. Although, as perhaps a sign of things to come, or a Mother’s Day promotion, refurbished units can be had for great prices and new units are being discounted for a limited time as well.
Echo Speaker Wars
As mentioned earlier, the smart speaker competition is heating up with Alphabet Inc’s Google Home, and Microsoft Inc getting in to the fray as well with their Invoke speaker, that can make phone calls. The premise with smart speakers is that consumers can use the devices to turn off lights in their homes, close garage doors, lower the temperature, as is the case with the Echo, order products online. Rumors are afoot as well that Apple may announce their own offering as soon as next month at their annual WWDC conference.
While it’s unknown why Amazon is planning on releasing this version of Echo so close to the release of its “Look” device, it could be due in part to the previously mentioned competition that seems to be increasing.
Amazon is planning to roll out the device’s calling capabilities in stages, perhaps starting as an intercom between Echo devices in a consumer’s home or even between Echo owners. Given that the device’s capabilities will be Internet based, there is no need for a SIM card or other cellular types of technology.