Amazon is working on a new Echo designed to compete directly with Apple’s HomePod, and it’s expected to ship this fall. The online retailer is giving the new Echo a more HomePod-like look, too, with a shorter body, rounded edges, and fabric instead of plastic covering its speakers.
Echo is Amazon’s virtual assistant appliance that uses Alexa to handle internet queries, control smart home devices, and of course order products.
Sources speaking with Engadget said the redesigned Echo will include seven built-in tweeters instead on one for better sound quality. It’ll also improve the already good microphone technology, although the sources aren’t saying what Amazon plans to do. Considering the Echo’s seven far-field mic setup already outshines its competitors Amazon must have something pretty impressive in store.
Apple showed off HomePod in early June at its Worldwide Developer Conference keynote in San Jose. HomePod has seven tweeters and a woofer, along with six microphones, and a Siri voice control interface. Apple is positioning HomePod as a music device that also has Siri support instead of a virtual assistant that also plays music.
The virtual assistant appliance market is moving quickly, which makes the two-year old Echo design seem a little dated. If Amazon wants to keep its lead in this space a new Echo could be just the ticket.
Amazon hasn’t confirmed the Echo is a real product yet, but the insider sources say they’ve seen it and that it’ll ship this fall. There isn’t any word on how much it’ll cost. Assuming the new Echo’s comes in around or below the current model model’s US$180—or at least below the HomePod’s $349—it’ll make for some interesting competition.