Amazon has introduced the second generation Echo at a surprise hardware event at its headquarters in Seattle. The updated model is more compact than the original and also much cheaper; at $99, the company has one-upped its closest rival Google, whose Google Home costs $129.
There are changes to the device's design, as well. The all-new Echo is almost half the size of the original and is covered in cloth, with an option for wood veneer. Amazon is also selling a three pack for the device, offering a discount of $50 on the pack and dropping the price to $250; the new Echo comes with multi-room audio support, which puts it in direct competition with Sonos and, perhaps, the Nvidia Spot peripheral.
Additionally, it can make free calls to the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Amazon is also selling a separate device called Connect which can link up with landline phones and make calls to, among other places, 911. This will help push Alexa as a true all-in-one home assistant.
Amazon also announced Echo Plus, which will serve as the complete home hub for your house. It connects to various wireless protocols, such as Zigbee, to set up and control connected home gadgets and appliances. The device comes with the company's “second-generation far-field microphones," according to Dave Limp, Amazon’s senior vice president of devices. It also comes with the same 360-degree sound as the original Echo with one major addition: support for Dolby sound. This is all in line with what was reported back in July.
Limp said that no apps or skills were needed to set up smart home devices to the Echo Plus, adding that it “works out of the box as a smart home hub. In the cloud and locally, synchronization is going on”. Echo Plus is priced at $149 in the US. The device is also available to preorder in the UK and Germany, and ships with an included Philips Hue smart bulb.
Editor's Note: A previous version of this article stated that Amazon was offering a $50 discount per device on the purchase of three Echo devices. This information was false and has now been rectified. We apologize for the error.