When Amazon unveiled the Amazon Echo, a smart speaker that features Amazon’s virtual AI named “Alexa”, the idea caught on quickly. The Echo propelled the idea of a “smart home”, and at a reasonably affordable price to boot. Since then, Amazon has released the cheaper Echo Dot, and even Google joined in with the introduction of Google Home just last year.
Despite their apparent usefulness (controlling smart devices around the home by voice, the device’s ability to listen from far away, ordering food, reciting recipes, Bluetooth speaker, etc.) there was still something missing from these smart speakers: visuals. This absence, however, is no longer out of the question as Amazon revealed its third Echo device today, the Amazon Echo Show. The “Show”, of course, indicates that the device can “show” you what’s going on with the inclusion of a screen.
From my perspective, it feels as if this is what smart speakers have needed all along. I have yet to purchase a smart speaker, despite feeling that it could be a useful addition to my home. For the most part, I had trouble trusting the speaker’s ability to correctly handle voice commands. Paranoid perhaps, but for me, seeing is believing. I would be much more comfortable using a smart speaker if I had a visual confirmation to go along with it.
The Echo Show becomes much more than just a smart speaker with the addition of the 7-inch touchscreen. It is essentially a smart speaker, intercom, and dedicated Fire tablet all in one. The Echo Show can show calendar and weather information on the screen, show YouTube videos, show lyrics to a song, make phone and video calls, and flash news and briefings. The Echo Show also connects with some smart cameras to serve as a video monitor. Otherwise, the Echo Show appears to work exactly as the Echo or Echo Dot do by responding to Alexa voice commands, hands-free. The Echo Show can also connect to the Echo and Echo Dot – or anybody with an Alexa app – to make voice and/or video calls.
Personally, I think this is the feature that has me sold on the concept. My biggest concern regarding smart speakers are solved with this addition, and $229 isn’t too steep of a price. Additionally, if you pre-order two Echo Show devices, you can save $100 by using the code SHOW2PACK.
It will be interesting to see if this concept catches on. Although I don’t think that smart speakers will become irrelevant, I do think offering a screen will be a welcome option for many. I predict that a lot of people will spring for it, but it will require real-world usage and experience to judge its performance.
Amazon has been successful in the past at helping certain products succeed, such as e-readers and cheap-yet-functional tablets, and its plight to make smart speakers a common household gadget seems to be another one we can add to that list considering its strong lead over Google Home, taking an estimated 70% of the smart speaker market, while Google Home holds an estimated 24%. By being the first to offer a smart speaker with an interactive screen, Amazon may soon have an even stronger lead against competitors.