Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) practically owned the smart speaker market for the first few years, and used its surprise-hit Echo smart speaker to sneak Alexa into millions of homes. It was a canny strategy that boosted Alexa adoption, even though Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) Siri and Google Assistant from Alphabet’s (NASDAQ:GOOG, NASDAQ:GOOGL) Google division enjoyed a huge smartphone integration advantage.
However, Amazon’s smart speaker lead has begun to slip as Google and Apple ramp up their efforts. And that means its position as a smart home hub is also slipping. While the Echo line had nearly 76% of the global smart speaker line in Q2 2017, by Q2 2018 that had slipped to an estimated 41% share.
AMZN held a surprise Alexa event on Sept. 20, and unleashed a barrage of new Alexa devices and services. Some are upgrades to existing products, some address complaints about what Amazon already offers (like the poor audio performance of Echo smart speakers) and others are an attempt to get Alexa into everything in the home.
Amazon says there were a total of 70 new devices, features and developer tools, announced on Wednesday. We’ve put together a list of the biggest reveals. Most products are coming in October, with pre-orders starting now for many.
New Amazon Echo Dot, Echo Plus and Echo Input
Amazon updated its top-selling Echo smart speakers, while keeping prices the same. The Echo Dot gets a brand new look and new capabilities. The cheapest Echo speaker is now ringed in mesh fabric, with both Bluetooth and line-in connectivity.
The new version of the Echo Plus gets a temperature sensor, so it can trigger smart home devices and alerts based on room temperature. AMZN says it also gets a larger, 3-inch woofer for improved audio.
If you already have a speaker system and you’d like to add Alexa on the cheap, the new Echo Input is a $34.99 Google Chromecast Audio-like dongle that plugs into a 3.5mm audio jack, or connects via Bluetooth. It has its own four microphone arrays to pick up voice commands.
Amazon Echo Sub
Apple’s HomePod and the Google Home Max are big, expensive, multi-driver smart speakers that make Amazon’s Echo lineup sound decidedly tinny and underwhelming.
While AMZN is releasing new versions of its smart speakers that sound better, it’s addressing the issue of premium sound by releasing a subwoofer, the Amazon Echo Sub.
Priced at $129.99, the Echo Sub has 100W of power driving a 6-inch downward firing woofer. Pair it wirelessly with a single Echo speaker for serious oomph. Or connect two Echo smart speakers for true 2.1 channel stereo.
New Echo Show
The new Echo Show was considered a big enough deal to warrant its own press release … rumors that Google is preparing to launch a Google Home competitor with a built-in display may have something to do with that.
Like the original version, the price remains at $229.99, but there are numerous upgrades, including improved audio and Dolby, a much larger 10-inch HD display and a new slimmer look with fabric covering. As part of its ongoing battle with Google, there is still no integrated YouTube support, but with Firefox and Amazon’s Silk web browsers it is possible to access YouTube — just not as convenient.
Amazon Echo Link and Echo Link Amp
Amazon decided to one-up Google and Apple — and take on Sonos (NASDAQ:SONO) — with the all-new Echo Link and Echo Link Amp.
The $199 Echo Link is a component designed to connect to an existing stereo system or powered speakers, delivering high quality streaming music via an Echo speaker or the Alexa app. For $299, the Echo Link Amp (coming in 2019) adds an integrated 60W per channel amplifier with digital and analog inputs so you can connect speakers and other audio sources directly to it.
These two products promise Alexa capability and streaming audio for audiophiles.
The Echo Auto brings Alexa to virtually any vehicle, for under $50.
The small device features eight integrated microphones. It’s powered by the vehicle’s 12V adapter, connects to the audio system with Bluetooth or 3.5mm audio jack and relies on the driver’s smartphone and Alexa app to bring voice control to navigation, voice calling and music playback. It also supports other Alexa features, including automations, reminders and shopping lists.
Amazon Echo Wall Clock and Amazon Smart Plugs
Not content with having Alexa in smart speakers, Amazon is pushing integration with its voice assistant into other devices.
The Echo Wall Clock is a battery-powered, 10-inch analog clock that shows the time … like all clocks do. But this one connects to an Echo smart speaker via Bluetooth and when you set a timer or a reminder, a ring of 60 LEDs around the edge of the clock face start counting down for a visual of the remaining time.
Stick a $24.99 Amazon Smart Plug in a power outlet then connect it to your Wi-Fi network. Plug in a device or appliance light a light or coffee maker, and you can turn it on and off using an Echo device, or Alexa on your smartphone.
AmazonBasics Microwave With Alexa
Amazon took Alexa to extremes, even adding Alexa connectivity to a new $59.99 AmazonBasics microwave.
The microwave can operate based on voice instructions using an Echo smart speaker. It even has an “Ask Alexa” button that automatically wakes a nearby Echo. It also offers “auto popcorn replenishment” so the microwave can track your popcorn-making activities and automatically order more (from Amazon) when it decides your supply is running low.
Alexa Guard Mode and Ring Stick Up Cam
Not a standalone product per-se, but AMZN announced a big new capability for Alexa that furthers the company’s presence in the lucrative home security market.
Alexa Guard Mode can be activated for Echo smart speakers when you leave the house. If the sound of breaking glass or an alarm (from a smoke detector, for example) is detected, Alexa will send an alert to your smartphone with a clip of the sound. It can also send the alert to participating home security companies, including Amazon’s own Ring.
Speaking of Ring, there was a product announcement from AMZN’s recently acquired security division. The Ring Stick Up Cam (starting at $179.99) is an indoor/outdoor update of the previous version, with 1080p video. It will be available in both wired and battery-powered versions.
Fire TV Recast
Also deserving of its own press release was the Fire TV Recast.
With this new device, AMZN is getting into the DVR game … sort of. Fire TV Recast can record live over-the-air TV — antenna required — (at home or remotely) using Alexa. It’s not for cable TV; however, there are no fees and the content can be watched locally or remotely (using the Fire TV app).
There are two models available. The $229.99 model has two tuners (record two shows at once) with 500GB of storage that holds 75 hours of HD video. The $279.99 version has four tuners (record four shows at once) with 1TB of storage for 150 hours of HD video storage.
Hitting the Competition…
All of these new Alexa devices and capabilities come just weeks before Google is expected to unveil new Google Home products. And they will arrive just in time for the holiday shopping season to kick off, so expect AMZN to feature them prominently on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
The market has already begun to react to the impact some of these new Alexa devices will have on other companies.
Sonos stock closed down 3.1% as investors realized Amazon has the premium wireless speaker manufacturer in its sights with the Echo Sub, Echo Link and Echo Link Amp. TiVo (NASDAQ:TIVO) also slid over 1% after news of the Fire TV Recast broke.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.