Amazon has been doing rather well in the home hub department of late. The original Echo was a blockbuster hit, as was it’s smaller sibling, the Echo Dot. The recent release of the Echo look (a smart camera that gives you fashion advice) is yet to prove it’s worth in the market, but from what we have seen so far, it will probably carve out a niche for itself to some degree. The big news from Amazon this week, however, is the release of the Echo Show, which is basically an Echo with a screen built in. While this may sound a little pointless, there are many ways that a screen would compliment the original Echo when interacting with it, and Amazon has given us a detailed look at what we can expect from the new device, starting with their new core feature, video calls.
Most of us assumed we would be using video calls more than telephone calls by now, but perhaps surprisingly the average consumer still leans heavily towards audio calls. This is slowly changing with apps like Facetime, which have foregone the issues Skype seemed to have on mobile by being baked right into the operating system. The Echo Show is putting video calling front and centre of the new device, and the ease of use is something Amazon hope will encourage people to buy more than one of these devices at a time. The whole idea of the Echo ecosystem is that you can have one of these devices in each room, and now with the Show bringing video calling to the home in a simple hub, they are also hoping you might buy one of these devices for your extended family too.
One of the features touted by Amazon is something called “drop-in”. This basically allows you to watch a video feed that is attached to your account or has allowed access, without the recipient accepting the call. While this may sound a little creepy to some, it is worth bearing in mind Amazon really are pushing these devices for families, and the idea of being able to check up on the kids or elderly parents is something that may outweigh the ‘creep factor’ for many people. There is also an obligatory ten-second wait before the video link starts, so the recipient can tell their Echo Show not to accept the call, or only accept audio rather than video.
Echo at the centre
Besides from the screen, which we will get to in a minute, the Echo Show is basically an Amazon Echo. Inside, the Show has 8 microphones (Echo has 7), speakers, a webcam, and a 7-inch touchscreen. All the functionality that comes with the Echo is baked right in here, but thanks to the new screen, recipe steps can now be displayed and not just spoken, album artwork can be shown while listening to music, weather reports can be shown in more detail, and Youtube videos can be watched right there on the device. You can even display lyrics while you listen to your Amazon music collection, which will probably extend to Spotify at some point but no definitive word has been given on that yet.
Integrations such as the Ring Video doorbell are also available at launch, and more should follow pretty quickly, as Amazon tries to steal an even bigger lead on rivals Google Home. Expect more and more integrations after launch, but whether the Show will play nicely with the plethora of Google-backed smart home devices is yet to be seen. More likely is integrations with the Amazon Fire TV sticks and anything else in the Amazon ecosystem.
The Show is available for order now, starting at $229, and if you are interested in this device, there are currently deals for multi-packs, so head over to Amazon and place your order. If however, you are a Google Home user or even someone who is deeply entrenched in the Apple ecosystem, it may be worth waiting a couple of months as both Google and Apple are rumoured to soon be releasing similar devices with screens. The battle for the smart home is heating up rather nicely in 2017.