One of the quiet surprises of the IoT revolution has been the success of Amazon’s Echo speaker.
Despite receiving mixed reviews upon its launch in November 2014, the device has since vastly expanded its capabilities, notably making it possible to manage several consumer smart home systems from one location using its Alexa virtual assistant. As such, it has become arguably the leading player in off-the-shelf control for connected homes. The tech giant is now looking to expand its reach in this area with two new products — Dot and Tap — to further integrate its hardware as the central hub for controlling your life.
While on the surface it looks like a stripped-down version of the Echo, the Echo Dot is potentially a better fit for the connected home than its predecessor. With no built-in speaker, it must be connected to an audio system using Bluetooth or a 3.5mm wire.
At only 250g, it is significantly lighter than the Echo, yet this small profile belies the fact that it performs much the same role as its larger sister device. The seven-microphone voice recognition system and striking blue light ring are a match of the Echo, while it also supports the full range of Alexa-supported functions, from setting your lighting with Philips Hue and ordering a pizza from Dominoes.
Amazon, clearly envisioning a scenario where their technology sits in every room, has stated that the Dot will only be available to Prime customers that have previously bought an Echo. There is currently a work-around to this, although these loopholes are expected to be patched quickly.
The Echo Tap, meanwhile, supposedly meets market demand for a more portable version of its connected speaker. Despite Amazon’s pitch that it’s the modern day equivalent of the ghetto blaster, it’s hard to see exactly what needs this product intends to meet.
Unlike the others in the family, the Tap can be augmented with a brightly coloured cover reminiscent of the protective layer of the iPhone 5c, although this has to be bought as an extra. It’s nine-hour battery life means that it will likely face the smartphone problem of needing to be charged overnight, although the docking station seems to be an elegant solution to this.
According to Amazon, the Tap will need a Wi-Fi connection to interact with Alexa, which somewhat negates the purpose of adding this functionality to a portable speaker. Its Dolby dual-stereo speakers will still be able to access the music stored locally on your phone using Bluetooth, but this feels like an inconvenience compared to the relative ease of use that comes with the Echo itself.
The Dot is on sale in the United States for $89.99, with the Tap retailing for $129.99. As with the Echo itself, there are still no details as to when they are likely to be made available for UK and European customers.