Amazon has announced new versions of its Echo smart speakers that promise improved sound and voice recognition.
The basic model also allows its shell to be changed to give it different looks – a feature already offered by Google’s rival Home device.
A larger Echo Plus adds a “home hub”, letting it control smart light bulbs and other third-party products without a separate data-linking device.
And the Echo Spot has a screen, making video calls and camera feeds possible.
Amazon has never released sales figures for the earlier Echo line-up.
But researchers suggest it and its smaller sibling the Echo Dot have been the best selling devices of their kind.
The Echo family accounts for 75% of the US market for internet-connected speakers with built-in smart assistant functionality, estimated Consumer Intelligence Research Partners earlier this month. It suggested 15 million devices had been sold to date.
The new Echo is smaller than its predecessor and benefits from a dedicated bass tweeter.
It launches with a choice of six swappable shells that come in different materials.
It will cost £90/$100/100 euros – making it about 40% cheaper than the previous version, as well as undercutting the £129 Google Home.
The Echo Plus – which is compatible with the Zigbee smart home protocol – costs £140/$150/150 euros.
And the Echo Spot, with its 2.5-inch screen and built-in camera, has been priced at $130. It will launch in the US in December but has not yet been given a release date elsewhere.
“Amazon was first mover in this market, so it had an advantage over some of the others that entered the same space,” commented Blake Kozak from the IHS Technology consultancy.
“But it’s incredibly important for them to do this refresh – the original Echo came out in 2014 and the hardware hadn’t been updated since, although the software and back-end services have been improved continuously.
“Since then we’ve seen other more ‘premium’ systems get announced – with higher quality speakers – so, Amazon needed to be seen to match the competition.”
Many of those newer systems also feature Amazon’s Alexa assistant and will not be seen as a threat.
Amazon has previously said it sells its speakers for roughly the price it costs to produce them, since its ultimate goal is to use Alexa as a means to drive sales of other goods and services.
But at Berlin’s Ifa tech show earlier this month, several big name manufacturers – including Sony, Panasonic and JBL – launched systems powered by Google’s rival Assistant.