Amazon’s Echo has recently met some competition thanks to Google Home, however the company now looks to be upping their game a bit in the world of home assistants with a new, upgraded Echo device that could launch as soon as Q1 2017. According to Bloomberg, the company will integrate a 7-inch display that’s “tilted upwards” on top of the Echo that’ll display information such as weather and news feeds based on various inquiries processed by Alexa, the voice assistant powering the Echo.
Amazon.com Inc. is developing a premium Echo-like speaker with a screen, a sign the world’s largest online retailer is trying to capitalize on the surprise success of its voice-controlled home gadgets and fend off competition from Google and Apple Inc.
The new device will have a touchscreen measuring about seven inches, a major departure from Amazon’s existing cylindrical home devices that are controlled and respond mostly through the company’s voice-based Alexa digital assistant, according to two people familiar with the matter. This will make it easier to access content such as weather forecasts, calendar appointments, and news, the people said. They asked not to be identified speaking about a product that has yet to be announced.
The latest Amazon speaker will be larger and tilt upwards so the screen can be seen when it sits on a counter and the user is standing, one of the people said.
It’s said that this new device will run Fire OS, Amazon’s Android-based operating system that’s currently found on the company’s lineup of Fire tablets. If this is so, the integrated display would basically be a Fire tablet attached to the Echo.
If you recall, last month when Alexa began rolling out to the Fire tablets, Amazon enabled a feature whereby connecting your Fire tablet to your Echo, you could have Alexa display information-based cards on the tablet’s screen that corresponded with commands processed by the voice assistant. This is the exact same function the rumored, upcoming Echo hardware will feature. Of course, the new Echo won’t allow you to read books or play games on its display, but rather using a secondary device, Amazon will integrate the perks of having a Fire tablet and an Echo into one giant chunk of hardware. Heck, the thing’ll even run Fire OS. How much more resemblance could there be?
The upcoming Echo will also reportedly feature better speakers, possibly positioned underneath this mysterious touch screen.
Some reviewers panned the current Echo for poor audio quality, which is partly due to Amazon designing it to sound better at moderate volume levels, according to one of the people. The new speaker will play high-quality audio at all volume levels, this person said. At least one prototype version of the device places the speakers below and behind the screen, they added.
In addition, a higher price tag than the current Echo’s $180 will likely be assigned to this new device as well. Regarding exact specifications of the upcoming hardware, details remain scarce other than what’s already been shared here. Of course, with the rumored Q1 2017 release date, we likely don’t have much longer to wait for more information on this product, so stay tuned.