Yesterday, Amazon hosted its fall hardware event and, as usual, it was jam-packed with hardware announcements. This year was a little different from others though: rather than hosting the event in the company’s Seattle headquarters, the pandemic meant that this year’s line up was announced over a live stream, to a small number of media invitees.
That being said, the line up itself was just as impressive as usual, with a number of new Echo announcements, an Alexa update, a new Fire TV Stick, new Ring security devices and a brand new, highly anticipated announcement that may or may not have something to do with games. If you’re looking to smarten up your home, after some Christmas list staples or having a pre-emptive Black Friday browse, here’s the rundown.
New Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Dot with Clock, and Echo Dot Kids
The Amazon Echo and its many variants are, arguably, the staples of any good smart home. Yesterday, Amazon announced an all-new Echo with a brand new design – and it’s spherical. Yep, priced at $99 and releasing on October 22, the new model is shaped like a sphere and comes in three different colorways (charcoal, glacier white, and twilight blue).
The new Echo Dot model is spherical too and so is the Echo Dot with Clock, which will be able to preorder straight away from $49.99 and $59.99 respectively. Amazon also brought the new design to the Echo Dot Kids Edition along with some cute new fabric overlays, including a tiger and a panda.
The new Echo has much of the same features as the Echo Plus as well as compatibility with Amazon Sidewalk, Bluetooth Low Energy, and Zigbee for its smart home hub. The speaker features a 3inch subwoofer and can tune itself to any room it’s in, through machine learning, to produce the perfect audio experience.
On top of all this, the company says the new models are made of 100 percent post-consumer recycled fabric and 100 percent recycled die-cast aluminum, a product of, probably, Amazon’s commitment to going carbon neutral by 2040. In the same vein, the wall-powered devices will have a low power mode, in order to save on energy.
New Ring Security Devices
Amazon’s home security gadget brand, Ring, has produced some new products to keep your home safe. The new products include a car alarm, a car cam, and a home security drone.
Let’s start with the most exciting (albeit controversial) product: the Always Home Cam. This new tool is an autonomous home surveillance device that can patrol your home via specifically programmed flight paths and feed everything back to you via a live feed. When its battery is about to drain, the Always Home Cam directs itself back to the charging dock, where the camera is obscured. You can’t control the drone in real-time, though.
This device does raise a few questions, which Ring attempted to answer during the announcement. To let people know the device is recording – and avoid obstructing anyone’s privacy – the drone makes an audible sound to let people know it’s filming. The company says the device is designed to be used to check simple things, like whether or not you left your hair straighteners plugged in or the window open. It does sound fairly handy, but it is ambitious. Priced at $249.99 and set to release in 2021, it will be interesting to see how it works.
The Ring Car Alarm, priced at $59.99, plugs into your OBD port and sends push notifications to your phone. According to Amazon, “the Ring Car Alarm monitors for impacts, break-ins, tows, and more”. The Ring Car Cam is a little pricier at $199.99 and will allow drivers to watch and monitor footage, letting them know of any break-ins or other incidents. Additionally, the Car Cam will use voice controls so you can turn it on at any time (like when you’re being pulled over, for instance) and has an Emergency Crash Assist feature, which will automatically call for help if it detects a crash.
Ring also plans to offer end-to-end encryption for all users, for free, by the end of the year.
New Fire TV Sticks and Fire TV UI
Amazon announced two new Fire TV Stick models and provided some updates to the UI.
Firstly, the Fire TV Stick is the replacement for the 2nd generation model and features the inclusion of HDR support and Dolby Atmos sound. The new model comes with a new processor, making it 50% faster than the previous model. It comes with the Alexa remote and costs $39.99. Alongside this new model is the slightly cheaper Fire TV Stick Lite, which has full HDR and HD as well as an Alexa Voice Remote Lite. This one comes in at $29.99.
Amazon also announced some updates to its Fire TV UI, including six user profiles. Both the Fire TV Stick and Fire TV Stick Lite have low power modes, like the new Echo devices.
Eero 6 and Eero Pro 6
Also announced at the event were two new models of Amazon’s home WiFi router: the Eero 6 ($129.99) and Eero Pro 6 ($229.99). The routers include two Ethernet ports and a USB-C port for charging your devices and the Eero Pro supports WiFi 6, can handle up to 75 devices at once, and can cover up to 2000 square feet per router. The Eero 6 covers up to 1500 square feet per router. Both are backwards compatible with older Eero networking gear.
New Echo Show
Amazon announced an updated version of the Echo Show 10, its voice-controlled smart display. The new device has a 10-inch screen and a 13-megapixel camera. It will also silently turn to face users in order to keep the screen in view, while the device is being used. Creepy or efficient? We’ll let you be the judge of that one. Along with Amazon Prime and Hulu, the Echo Show 10 will now have access to Netflix. Finally!
It’s unclear when exactly the Echo Show 10 will be available, but you can preorder it now for $249.99.
Cloud Gaming Service, Luna
A competitor for Google’s Stadia, Amazon announced Luna, the company’s cloud gaming service. Luna has been rumored since last year, so this announcement was highly anticipated, though it’s unclear when it will become available to the masses. When it does, though, it will initially be available on PC, Mac, Fire TV, and iPhone and iPad (via web apps), with an Android version planned for after launch. It comes with Twitch integration and has a starting price of $5.99 a month.
According to Amazon, cloud gaming will eventually be up to 4K and 60fps and will come with 50 games and the option to purchase their low-latency, Alexa-enabled controller. The games which will be available include Resident Evil 7, Control, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, and more, with more titles being added over time.
Guard Plus Subscription
Finally, Amazon announced an Alexa service for home security: Guard Plus.
Guard Plus is an upgrade of the Alexa Guard service and will detect “signs of danger” when you’re out of the house. It will send you alerts if it detects anything unusual and play warning sounds to deter any potential criminals. Alexa will also be able to contact 34/7 support staff who can contact the emergency services on your behalf, if necessary.
The service will cost $4.99 a month or $49 a year and will be launching this fall. It will be free for Ring Protect Plus Customers.
Whew, so there we go. I said it was jam-packed, didn’t I? Not only was the lineup full of new gadgets and software updates, but it was also nothing short of eclectic. From home security, to gaming, to a tablet that follows you so you never lose sight of the show you’re watching, this event really did have it all. Many of the new products were equally ambitious and interesting, while others were just plain useful, so we’re excited to see how they fare in reality.