On Wednesday, Amazon introduced a handful of new Echo smart speakers during an event at its Seattle skyscraper headquarters.
The funkiest of them all is the Echo Spot — a tiny, little $US129 gadget with a 2.5-inch touchscreen and a camera, shipping in December. It’s roughly the same size as the popular Amazon Echo Dot, but with the obvious addition of a screen.
The Spot’s primary purpose is to act as a smart alarm clock right at your bedside. But thanks to the Alexa voice assistant, the Spot can do a lot more.
And, after a short demo at Amazon’s headquarters following the announcement, it’s definitely the new Echo device I’m most excited to really put through its paces when it formally goes on sale.
In the hands-on demo Amazon gave reporters after the on-stage presentations, the Spot wasn’t taking Alexa voice commands, or playing music. Ostensibly, the user experience still has some wrinkles to work out ahead of the December ship date. Still, I got to swipe through a few different apps running on the Echo Spot, including checking a calendar, reading Yelp reviews, and displaying lyrics.
The Echo Spot is basically a tinier version of the Echo Show, Amazon’s $US229 voice-controlled tablet. Both gadgets can display lyrics, play movies from Amazon Prime Video, make video calls, and check feeds from supported video cameras. And like all other Echo devices, it can report the weather, set alarms, and turn on smart home gadgetry.
The difference is that the Echo Spot is way smaller: It’s about as wide as Amazon’s popular, tiny Echo Dot smart speaker, which retails for $US49, but it’s taller, to accommodate that screen. Like Amazon’s other devices, the build quality is very good, and the Echo Spot feels like a premium gadget.
Amazon tells me that the larger size means that the Spot boasts better speakers than the Dot, too. And if you’re into it, the Spot offers a standard auxiliary jack so you can plug in your higher-end speakers. Otherwise, true audiophiles should probably get the $US99 Echo or the $US149 Echo Plus.
The screen isn’t fabulous, but it works just fine for what it does. Text on the screen is crisp and clear. The default display is a clock face, with a few different designs to work through. Amazon assures me you’ll be able to dim the screen at night, so the light won’t keep you awake.
The built-in camera lets you make video calls. You can shut it off in the settings if you’re not keen on the idea of a video camera pointing at your bed. Of course, if you’re really paranoid you might want to put a piece of tape over the camera.
The really killer app, though, is its size. I liked the Amazon Echo Show in theory, when I tried it. Its large screen size, and its big base, made it a little unwieldy to fit into my life: If it sat on a shelf, I never really used the screen. If I had it on the counter, I kept having to move it out of the way.
An alarm clock, though…an alarm clock makes sense to me. Having all the smarts of Alexa next to my bed, in an alarm clock that can also be a little TV? That seems pretty nifty to me. Of course, that assumes you’re ok with having an Amazon video camera next to your bed, but that’s a personal preference.