Amazon has announced the second-generation version of its Amazon Echo voice-activated assistant, as well as a suite of other Echo devices, though Canadian release dates for these products have not been revealed.
While the new Echo retains the same functionality as the original device, it features a dedicated bass tweeter and a more stout design that’s covered in fabric like its main competitor, the Google Home. Amazon also offers an Oak-coloured variant.
Further, the new Echo is about half the size of the original Echo and is set to go on sale now for $99 USD (about $123 CAD). Given the Echo already featured substantially better sound quality when compared to the Google’s Home, it looks like Amazon’s 2nd generation device is an effort to maintain this crown with Google’s high-end Home ‘Max’ speaker rumoured to be in-development.
The voice-activated assistant also supports multi-room audio, a feature Echo users have been asking for since its initial release back in 2015, as well as an attempt to take on Sonos. The new Amazon Echo features multi-room audio support, with Amazon even going so far as to sell a three-pack of Echo devices at $50 USD ($62 CAD) per device.
Along with multi-room audio, the Echo is now capable of making free calls to the United States, Canada and Mexico for the first time. Google rolled out a similar feature to the Google Home earlier this year.
This isn’t the first new version of the Echo, with Amazon releasing the Echo Dot, a small version of the voice-activated assistant that doesn’t include a built-in speaker, the Echo Show, a version of the device that features a built-in display, and the Echo Look, a camera-equipped iteration, over the last few years.
Unlike Google, however, Amazon has not revealed a plan for the release of its Echo devices in the Canadian market despite rampant rumours that the smart home assistant could be coming soon. Google launched its Google Home voice-activated assistant in Canada earlier this year, making it the only standalone voice-activated assistant device to be officially available here.
Along with the new Echo, Amazon also revealed a new $35 USD ($43 CAD) device called the Connect that’s capable of turning the Echo into a full-fledged landline phone replacement, and $20 USD ($24 CAD) Bluetooth-enabled Echo Buttons designed to control the voice-activated assistant.
The company also showed off the Echo Plus, a version of the voice-activated assistant that looks like its plastic-clad predecessor, only with improved sound and a built-in smart home hub. Amazon plans to bundle the Echo Plus with a Philips Hue smart lightbulb.
Finally, Amazon also revealed a $70 USD ($87 CAD) version of its Fire TV streaming dongle that supports both HDR and Dolby Atmos, along with the Echo Spot, a $130 USD ($162 CAD) version of the new Echo that features a 2.5-inch display. The latter device features the ability to make video calls and includes built-in speakers.
In terms of Canadian availability a representative from Amazon sent the below statement to MobileSyrup, indicating that a launch north of the U.S. border could come at some time in the future.
“We’re always looking to add new services and products for Canadian customers, but we’re currently unable to comment on the roadmap. I’ll be sure to keep you informed of any news or announcements going forward.”
Update 09/27/17: The story has been updated with comment from an Amazon Canada spokesperson.