Amazon Echo 2: what we want to seeIt’s been a couple of years since the Amazon Echo was first released in the US, and it makes sense that Amazon would have started to prepare a follow-up.
Sure enough, we’ve heard reports of the company doing just that. According to a source, Amazon is preparing to release the new speaker later on in 2017, handily beating Apple’s own smart speaker, the HomePod, to market.
Details are scarce on the new speaker, but we’ve collected everything we know together on this page, which we’ll be constantly updating as new information becomes available.
Cut to the chase
What is it? A follow up to 2014’s Amazon Echo
When is it out? ‘Fall’ – that’s roughly September to December for non-US folks
What will it cost? Likely similer to the current Echo’s $179.99/£149.99 price point
What will it be called?
We’re going to be really boring here and predict that the new Amazon Echo will be called the Amazon Echo once more or, at a push, the Amazon Echo (2nd Generation).
Our reasons for this have to do with how Amazon has handled the naming of its TV streaming boxes. The Amazon Fire was first released in 2014, and the hardware was upgraded to offer 4K in 2015. However despite this upgrade, the hardware was still sold under the name ‘Amazon Fire’.
Amazon has also done the same thing with the Amazon Fire Stick, whose name has remained consistent despite the addition of the Alexa remote and the upgrading of its internals.
However, the speaker might end up being called the Amazon Echo (2nd generation) because this is the name scheme that’s been followed by the Amazon Echo Dot, which received a hardware upgrade that added a couple of extra buttons to its top.
What features will it have?
According to Engadget, the 2nd Gen Echo will feature a number of acoustic upgrades. While the original Echo had just one tweeter and one woofer, the new speaker will have multiple tweeters, which should provide a decent boost to its audio quality if they’re well implemented.
Its microphones will allegedly also see improvements, although it’s not yet clear whether these will be achieved through hardware or software upgrades.
The focus of these improvements around audio quality suggest that Amazon has been rattled by the sonic chops of Apple’s recently announced HomePod.
What will it look like?
According to Engadget’s source the speaker will ditch the black plastic outer shell that can be found on both the existing Echo and Echo Dot in favor of a cloth design more similar to the HomePod.
The speaker will allegedly also be shorter and slimmer than its predecessor, and will have a size similar to “three or four Echo Dots stacked on top of each other”.
When the Google Home launched, Google made the speaker’s appearance customisable with removable speaker grills. It would be great if Amazon adopted a similar approach, which would allow us to make our own choice about the speaker’s color.
What we’d like to see
The Amazon Echo speaker is a great piece of kit, but that doesn’t mean it’s perfect.
Here are all the improments we’d like a second generation of the speaker to make.
Better connectivity with external speakers
Until recently, the biggest advantage Google Home had over the Amazon Echo was its ability to show content on nearby TVs and stereos through its Chromecast integration.
However, recently similar functionality was added to the Amazon Echo to allow it to control playback on Amazon Fire devices.
That said, the Amazon Echo could still use similar functionality when it comes to playing music on external speakers. At the moment you can connect the Echo to external Bluetooth speakers, but once you’ve done so the speaker plays all its audio through the external speaker.
We’d like this functionality to be more versatile. It would be great to have the option of only playing music through the external speaker, with Alexa’s voice only being played through the speaker itself.
Giving Alexa the ability to ask follow-up questions
Although this would require an update to Alexa rather than the hardware it lives on we’d also like to see the voice assistant get better at asking clarification questions. Too often we find that Alexa will get confused if we don’t say an entire command correctly; in the future it would be great if it was able to clarify words that it didn’t hear.
On a related note, our own Echo is now connected to a number of devices with similar names. It would be great if Alexa were better at telling the difference between them, so that we don’t have to resort to increasingly complex names for our smart home gadgets.
Better skills that are easier to find
Amazon has done a good job at building up the amount of Alexa skills on its store, but many of the skills are clunky and badly designed.
Worse still, it’s very difficult to find the skills that are actually any good because the store isn’t very easy to navigate.
For future Echo’s, Amazon should re-think how it approaches the skills store. A redesign feels necessary to allow good skills to be more easily located, and it might even be worth Amazon allowing developers to charge for skills, to make it more profitable for developers to invest in developing high quality skills.
With rumors of a second generation of the Echo launching later in 2017, here’s what we want out of the new device.