Amazon launches the brand-new Echo, Echo Plus and Echo Spot

Amzon Echo with Alexa

Amazon has introduced a slew of brand new Echo devices, expanding its range of AI-powered smart speakers.

At an event in its home base of Seattle, the company took the wraps off several new devices, as well as announcing UK availability for its touchscreen-enabled Echo Show device.

The range now starts with a new look Echo unit, which features a smaller and more compact design, available in a variety of different colours, materials and finishes in a similar manner to Google Home. In addition, it's also got improved speakers and a dedicated tweeter, and better microphone technology for improved voice recognition.

The original-flavour Echo is back, but it's had some upgrades, and it's now dubbed the 'Echo Plus'. It's got a built-in hub for smart home devices too - which means that you'll no longer need an external hub or bridge device to get your smart home products set up. Instead, the Echo Plus will directly connect to compatible plugs, bulbs and other devices from the likes of Philips Hue, Hive and others.

Like the entry-level Echo, the Echo Plus has had an upgrade in audio quality and includes Dolby audio processing and features second-generation far-field voice recognition. It's also now available in a snazzy silver finish.

It's not all about the hardware, though - Amazon hasn't forgotten the brain behind the Echo. Alexa has some new capabilities, including the addition of 'Routines', which allows you to trigger a series of customisable actions with your Echo and connected devices based on the time of day, or on a specific trigger word.

Smart home groups have also been tuned up, allowing users to designate certain rooms for certain Echo units and smart devices, which means that Alexa can make intelligent decisions about which devices to activate when you ask her to do something based on where you are.

Calling and messaging is also coming to Alexa, allowing you to swap voice calls and text messages with your Echo-owning friends and family via their Echo device or Alexa app. There's a new 'Drop In' feature as well, that basically lets two Echo units function like an intercom system.

One of the biggest announcements for businesses, however, is the Echo Connect - an accessory which lets you connect your Echo device to an existing landline or VoIP connection for making and receiving hands-free calls. Presumably, this means that companies will be able to use the Echo as a proper conference-calling and speakerphone solution, making it a much more attractive proposition.

Amazon also unveiled an entirely new product - the Echo Spot. This small, round device features a 2.5in circular display, Alexa functionality and support for making video calls and viewing feeds from security cameras. The Echo Spot feels like a smaller version of the Echo Show, much like how the Echo Dot is for the full-size Echo.

Speaking of the Echo Show, Amazon revealed that the Echo Show is coming to the UK. Priced at 200, the company's screen-based Echo device is available to order now, and will start shipping to customers on 16 November.

The Echo and Echo Plus - priced at 90 and 140, respectively - are also available for pre-order now, and will start being delivered to customers next month. The Echo Connect is coming to the UK early next year, as is the Echo Spot. UK pricing is still to be confirmed for both devices.

Picture credit: Amazon

Adam Shepherd

Adam Shepherd has been a technology journalist since 2015, covering everything from cloud storage and security, to smartphones and servers. Over the course of his career, he’s seen the spread of 5G, the growing ubiquity of wireless devices, and the start of the connected revolution. He’s also been to more trade shows and technology conferences than he cares to count.

Adam is an avid follower of the latest hardware innovations, and he is never happier than when tinkering with complex network configurations, or exploring a new Linux distro. He was also previously a co-host on the ITPro Podcast, where he was often found ranting about his love of strange gadgets, his disdain for Windows Mobile, and everything in between.

You can find Adam tweeting about enterprise technology (or more often bad jokes) @AdamShepherUK.