In what’s quickly becoming a new fall tradition, Amazon’s unveiled a revamped, refreshed lineup of products just in time for consumers to start planning their holiday shopping. With updates and new additions to its Echo, Ring, and Alexa lines, Amazon is clearly trying to extend its reach into new territories.
Here’s what’s new.
Ring in the Holidays
Amazon actually owns more than one home security and smart home brand, but today’s event focused on the Ring lineup, including new camera options and an intriguing upgrade kit for existing systems.
The Ring Retrofit Alarm Kit is aimed at homeowners with older, existing security systems in place. The idea being: Maybe you’ve moved into a house where the previous owner had a wired security system. The Retrofit Alarm Kit ($199, or bundled with the Ring Alarm Hub for $375) lets you reuse that framework for a new, Ring-based security setup. That bundled cost slots in between the list prices for Ring’s 10- and 14-piece home security kits.
Later this year, the Ring Doorbell Elites will learn some new tricks, care of Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant. Soon, the smart doorbells will be able to respond to visitors and make requests, like asking delivery services to leave packages at the door, or offering to take a message when you’re not home.
The company also announced a pair of new security camera options available starting today: the Ring Stick Up Cam ($100) and the Indoor Cam ($60). The former can be placed in a variety of spots, integrates with Ring doorbells, and can run off batteries or solar if a wired connection isn’t available. The Indoor Cam is meant for, wait for it … indoor settings and Amazon pointed out it only records footage when you’re not home.
An Echo for Every Room
The Echo line of smart devices adds several new form factors — some more traditional than others.
On the traditional side of things: There’s the upcoming Echo Dot with Clock, which unsurprisingly looks an Echo Dot with a clock ($60). An updated, standard Echo smart speaker is also on the way this holiday season, with looks borrowed from last year’s Echo Plus and a price of $100.
Image courtesy Amazon
There’s also a new smart display option in the Echo Show 8, which boasts an 8-inch screen that slots in neatly between the existing Echo Show’s 10.1-inch display and the Echo 5’s 5-incher. Demos of live and on-demand Food Network content suggested this new option would be a good fit in the kitchen.
The $24.99 Echo Flex plugs directly into power outlets and accepts accessories like night lights and motion sensors, making it a good option for augmenting an existing home security setup.
Images courtesy Amazon
In the premium audio category, Amazon appears to be aiming for Sonos and Apple with its Echo Studio smart speaker. The compact unit houses several drivers, including a downward-facing bass driver, and supports 3D audio. At $200, it significantly undercuts Apple’s $299 HomePod and the $499 Sonos Play 5. Speaking of challenging Apple, the Echo Buds are coming for the holidays to compete with the AirPods and other wireless headphones. The in-ear units boast noise-reduction tech from Bose and a $129 price that compares well with Apple’s AirPods, which start at $159 and don’t have a noise-reduction feature.
On the more adventurous, quirky end of the spectrum, there’s the Echo Glow, a tabletop light-up orb that can change colors and intensity. While some might scoff at its usefulness, its $30 price might put it in, “Yeah sure, why not?” territory with shoppers.
Image courtesy Amazon
And then there are the Echo Frame and Echo Loop: a mic-equipped pair of prescription eyeglasses and ring, respectively. If those sound a bit outside the mainstream, the invite-only availability should confirm these are more on the experimental side, as Amazon continues to tinker with adding voice-controlled smarts to everyday items.
Alexa, What’s New with You?
Amazon’s popular voice assistant will also learn some new tricks this holiday season, but the company is stressing the importance of privacy in particular — no doubt in response to recent concerns about various voice assistant services relying on actual humans to listen in on conversations.
To that end, you’ll soon be able to say, “Alexa, tell me what you heard,” to review what the voice assistant picked up and, if needed, you can delete those recordings.
The company is also promising a more natural voice, in line with similar promises from Apple and its Siri assistant. You can also purchase celebrity voices like Samuel L. Jackson for $1 if you want to add a little Hollywood to your home.
Alexa Communications for Kids offers parental controls to limit who children can talk to on, say, their Echo Dot Kids Edition. Support for services like Canvas and Coursera mean Alexa could potentially update parents on their kids’ progress at school.
Image courtesy Amazon
Amazon’s also trying to expand Alexa’s reach in the kitchen. Last year saw the release of a $60 microwave with Alexa support and the company is following that up with a Smart Oven that combines a microwave, convection oven, air fryer, and food warmer into a voice-controlled $250 appliance.
What Else did Amazon Discuss?
Amazon also announced a new program called Certified for Humans, where products are deemed worthy if a panel of actual humans can confirm setup, installation, and (if needed) updating are struggle-free.
The company also teased an upcoming pet tracker called Fetch. The device supports geofencing, allowing you to set up invisible boundaries and receive alerts if your furry friend ventures beyond those lines. Amazon said it will try to make Fetch happen next year.
Proceeding to Checkout
In a lot of cases, Amazon’s aggressively priced products are more like gateways to its services. What’s a Fire TV without Prime Video, after all? And if its monthly plans aren’t strictly required for products to function, the company tries to make adding a subscription service fairly enticing. Ring Protect Plus, for example, adds 24/7 monitoring to your Ring home security system for $10 a month.
But whether Amazon’s trying to hook you into monthly payments or just selling you an oven, the onslaught of products is about embedding the brand further into our everyday lives.
For better and worse, Amazon prides itself on the sheer volume of choices it offers. The company’s evolved far, far beyond its relatively humble beginnings as an online book retailer and this year’s product lineup is just the next step in the company’s relentless expansion. And as we march toward the holiday season, Amazon would likely love for us to deck the halls, kitchens, bedrooms, and entryways with its gear.
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