The Amazon Kindle is by far and away the most popular device Amazon has made, and has become famous as a verb for e-book readers. Today Amazon announced their next big product is about to hit Australia with the launch of three Amazon Echo devices.
The Amazon Echo, Echo Plus and Echo Dot are available as of today to order, with deliveries due in February, though EFTM understands that will most likely be January 31 for the first orders.
With prices ranging from $79 up to $229 there is a huge price competitiveness in Amazon’s devices as they hit Australia just a month after the internet giant launched their local shopping service, and perhaps more importantly – just a few months after their “voice assistant” rival Google Home launched here.
Importantly, it’s not just the devices launching. There has been extensive local “skills” created to ensure we have things to ask our new Alexa assistants, and the company has also launched their music streaming service Amazon Music Unlimited.
All three devices are a cylinder shape with the standard Echo standing around 15cm tall. This is the second generation Echo and features a vastly improved sound over the original – though that was never sold here in Australia.
Amazon Echo Plus
The Echo Plus adds smart-home integration directly. Amazon engineers have included a smart-home hub with all the connectivity you’d need to control your smart home. It’s taller too, at around 23cm.
Amazon Echo Dot
This is the real gem in my view – sitting just 3.5cm tall, it’s made to give you the power of Alexa, but into your existing stereo or bluetooth speaker. Any Bluetooth device can be paired with Echo Dot while a 3.5mm output allows your audio requests to feed directly into another speaker you have
Amazon is quick to point out the transparency of it’s devices internet connectivity. When the ring around the device is off, there’s no information being sent to the Amazon Cloud. When the ring is glowing blue it is listening and sending your speech to the cloud to be interpreted. And when you press the microphone mute button all microphones are disabled on board and the unit becomes dumb.
This is miles ahead of Google’s Home – which also offers the microphone mute button, however it’s always listening out for the keyword still as it can prompt you to turn on the microphone.
Additionally, within their Amazon account you can delete phrases you uttered – or your entire history online.
During my brief demonstration and test of the device today I noted that it was remarkably fast – many times faster than Google home in my view – that’s still to be tested, but when you consider a command can be sent to the cloud, transcribed and analysed within two seconds – it’s really quite amazing.
Local Aussie stuff…
Amazon are boasting about their big Aussie wins, and there are plenty of localised content offering. There is content available from Ten News, Sky News Australia, SBS and Fox Sports, in addition to local weather and of course sports.
Ask Alexa who her favourite footy player is and she’ll be all about the brownlow for you.
Just as Google did with their “What sound does a Kookaburra make” commercials, Amazon has kicked off with a set of Aussie phrases and utterances to make it feel local:
“How long is the Sydney Harbour Bridge?” or “Alexa, what’s a sausage sizzle?” Or, ask Alexa for a joke by saying “Alexa, tell me a joke.”
Organisations like Coastalwatch, Westpac, NAB and Qantas have created “skills” for Alexa who can then interact with their account quite seamlessly.
Echo, Echo Plus, and Echo Dot are available for preorder beginning today at Amazon
As an introductory offer the prices have been cut by $30 – and there is strong interest from JB HiFi and Harvey Norman.
Trev is a Technology Commentator, Dad, Speaker and Rev Head.
He produces and hosts two popular podcasts, EFTM and Two Blokes Talking Tech. He also appears on over 50 radio stations across Australia weekly, and is the resident Tech Expert on Channel 9’s Today Show each day and appears regularly on A Current Affair.
Father of three, he is often found down in his Man Cave.